The Difference in Defining Success Based on Gender

Grace Deer

Financial stability, owning property, an extensive family lineage, or achieving seemingly unachievable goals, are different ways that humans have defined success thus far. In our world today, it is possible for all genders to define (their) success in the ways stated above. However, success was not always viewed as achievable for all genders. 

Success is generally defined as, “the favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors; the accomplishment of one’s goals…the attainment of wealth, position, honors, or the like,” according to So, if that is the general definition of success, what is the gender-specific definition? 

“I believe that there are two sides to success; happiness and financial abundance,” said freshman Kelvin Perez. “I feel that it’s easier for men to be successful in a professional setting; whereas women aren’t taken seriously in today’s society and thus have to work harder,” concluded Perez. 

The phrases, ‘be a man,’ and, ‘man up,’ are often used when telling an individual to act or be tougher. “In the early 1940s, American society expected its men to adhere to specific characteristics that defined masculinity. In addition to courage and bravery, men strove to develop traits such as aggression, competition, stoicism, toughness, and independence, in order to prove to others that they were truly masculine,” stated the

“It is no wonder then that after the Great Depression—the greatest threat to one’s sense of manhood at the time because it threatened men’s positions as providers—World War II provided American soldiers with the opportunity to develop and prove their manhood to themselves and others,” concluded the 

Since the quotes above seem to be using the word ‘masculinity’ and ‘manhood’ as a way of measuring success, does this mean that success can only be obtained by those who are masculine or male? And where does that leave others, also yearning for success, but do not fit those characteristics?

From the early to mid 1900s, women in the workforce was not a commonly witnessed occurrence. Whereas today, it is expected that a woman will join the workforce and have an education. “In 1967, 49 percent of mothers were stay-at-home mothers. That proportion steadily dropped through the decades until 1999, when only 23 percent of moms stayed at home,” states 

 Since a woman’s role up until the mid 1900s was to be a homemaker, it’s clear to see why the ideology of success is primarily based around men and being the breadwinner. But success can be measured in a variety of ways, especially from the female perspective. 

“Success can be defined in a variety of ways and I personally, do not measure my success entirely on professional accomplishments. I feel that it is important to have a clear definition of what success means to you and to never use anyone else’s ruler to measure your own success,” said Patricia Deer, who has a Masters of Science in Management and is currently the Bariatric Coordinator with Bayhealth. 

“My profession, medicine, especially is constantly evolving and advancing; there is always room for growth. I like to think that my gender does not play a role in my success, I feel confident that my abilities have played a role in my success. However, being that I am a woman, there are professions that are more stereotypically designated for certain genders. Even in nursing, I sometimes feel that male nurses are more successful than the women nurses which almost seems backwards being that nursing is seen as a more feminine role. In this example, we can see how the Glass Escalator theory (which is the concept that men excel faster in female dominated fields than women do in those same fields) comes into play,” Deer concluded. 

The role that gender plays within the realm of success is not too different now than it was in the 1930s. Despite advances in equality, specific gender roles are referenced everywhere and are still easily identifiable. 

The attitudes of women in regard to gender limitations can be captured in the song Fetch the Bolt Cuttersby Fiona Apple:

“I grew up in the shoes they told me I could fill
Shoes that were not made for running up that hill
And I need to run up that hill
I need to run up that hill, I will, I will, I will, I will, I will.” 

Categories: Business, Culture, Features, Finance

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