Many advocates for gender equity focus on the aspect that women should start dreaming big. But the idea of dreaming big itself implies that people should be thinking in quantity (rather than quality), that women should be focused on big money or power (whatever might land them on a Forbes List). However, in Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us, American author and Vice President Al Gore’s former Chief Speechwriter Daniel H. Pink tells us that, for anything beyond physical labor, our motivations have to involve more than money. Numerous psychologists agree and advocate that rather than money, autonomy, mastery, and purpose are more effective incentives. In fact, once a task involves more than rudimentary cognitive function, people who are paid the most do the worst. Check out this RSA animation depicting Dan Pink’s thoughts on motivation:

Those who have the drive to succeed consider their own motivations and understand others’ motivations to further the efficiency and productivity of the overall companies. They identify what their dreams are, but often these dreams do not simply involve a cool-sounding executive title such as Chief Executive Officer or President. In turn, women are perhaps more likely to desire a successful balance of their careers, families, and so on. I am not offering an excuse for why women only currently hold 4.2 percent of Fortune 500 CEO positions and 4.6 percent of Fortune1000 CEO positions. Certainly, PepsiCo Chairman and CEO Indra Nooyi, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and 30 Rock Executive Producer Tina Fey are able to maintain high positions and their families. As Forbes-ranked world’s third most powerful mom, Indra Nooyi is raising two successful daughters. She even holds positions as member of the Foundation Board of the World Economic Forum, International Rescue Committee, Catalyst and the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, a member of the Board of Trustees of Eisenhower Fellowships, previous Chairperson of the U.S.-India Business Council, and Honorary Co-Chair for the World Justice Project. Undoubtedly, a more complex drive (or set of motivations) allows for more creative and holistic thinking. Without an open mind to motivations beyond money and power, women would not be able to imagine an immense realm of possibility. Yet I believe that they already do; when women want to balance their careers and family, they are dreaming big. Only the careers have changed.


Lena Wu

Babson College


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