Women & Ambition: Going For The Gold

Joanna Meyer

Carolyn McCulley, is unashamed of her ambitions. As an award-winning producer/director/editor at Citygate Films, a nonfiction film company she founded in 2009, she’s passionate about telling stories that lead to social change. She’s a woman on a mission, yet she understands how complicated it can be for women to navigate professional goals, relational commitments, and their personal lives.

Having grown up in the midst of the women’s liberation movement of the 1960s and 1970s, McCulley studied journalism and feminist women’s studies in college; but, her assumptions about being female changed when she became a Christian at age thirty. She became passionate about offering a fresh vision for the profit we gain from encouraging female ambition in the workplace, home, and community.

Her latest book, The Measure of Success, was a silver finalist in the ECPA 2015 Christian Book Awards and won an award of merit in Christianity Today’s 2015 Book Awards.

Recently, she shared thoughts about her book and why she’s passionate about discussing ambition with women.

Why do you think there’s so much tension surrounding the role work plays in women’s lives?

Carolyn McCulley: There’s always a new controversy erupting. As I was working on this book, one top technology executive was rounding the speaking circuit telling women how to be more ambitious. Another top technology executive built a nursery next to her office and returned to work after a mere two-week maternity leave. Then she ruffled the “sisterhood” by recalling the work-at-home privileges for her employees. A third woman, a successful professor, published an article seriously skewering the idea that women can have it all. Each time, factions from multiple perspectives fired warning shots into the blogosphere that these were untenable ideas. Individual skirmishes in the “Mommy Wars” always have collateral damage — wounding weary women who are trying to do the best they can with the resources, opportunities, and responsibilities that they have. We need perspective.

So you wrote this book as a way to offer some perspective…

Carolyn McCulley: Absolutely. I am passionate about calling out “facts” that don’t line up with the grace, mercy, and freedom offered to us in the gospel of Jesus Christ — especially for those who have never heard that good news! That’s why I wanted to write this book: to help women in all stages of life think clearly about the God-given gifts and opportunities they have, and how to invest those individual and specific situations in light of eternity. What we really need to know is the purpose of work or how to think about the multiple facets of productivity that make women’s work different from men’s. This isn’t a new idea. What we really need are timeless wisdom principles straight from Scripture.

For many, ambition is a negative word. But you think otherwise

Carolyn McCulley: We all want something. That’s the drive behind ambition. The truth is that we were actually created to be this way. God has made us to be people who have desires. Jesus knows we have desires. This is why He came to earth. Sin corrupted our drive and our desires. Jesus came to redeem that brokenness and to give us renewed desires. He doesn’t tell us to quit being ambitious. He just tells us to quit being fools amassing useless junk like those poor souls featured on a hoarders program. Go for the gold, Jesus says, the real gold.

(Author interview courtesy of McClure/Muntsinger Public Relations)


Joanna Meyer

Joanna serves as Denver Institute’s Director of Public Engagement, hosts the Faith & Work Podcast, and founded Women, Work, & Calling, a national initiative that disciples women for godly influence in public life. Prior to coming to the Institute, Joanna worked in global telecom, nonprofit consulting, and campus ministry with Cru. She served as associate faculty at Denver Seminary and as a sewing instructor at Fancy Tiger Crafts. A third-generation Coloradan, Joanna appreciates both the state’s innovative culture and its cowboy roots. She has an MA in Social Entrepreneurship from Bakke Graduate University and graduated magna cum laude from the University of Colorado, Boulder. She also completed a certificate of Women in Leadership through Cornell University.

She is the author of Women, Work, & Calling: Step Into Your Place in God’s World (IVP, Fall 2023) and is a contributor to the multi-author book, Women & Work: Bearing God’s Image and Joining in His Mission through our Work (B&H Publishing, Spring 2023).