The Week That Was: Relative Ambition

17/06/2012 00:18 BST | Updated 16/08/2012 10:12 BST

Who'd be a 13-year-old girl, today? Clothing choices dictated to you, the media berating you for being too fator too thin, and the world and its mother (your mother, too, probably) worried about you getting knocked up.

Added to this there's the small matter that you're the generation expected to break all the glass ceilings your mother's still chipping away at.

And now, if all that wasn't enough, you need to start worrying about marrying the right kind of man (if indeed it's a man you want to marry rather than a woman, in which case, hopefully by the time you're all grown-up the government might have stopped arguing and made that a possibility).

I think when I was 13, what concerned me most was the fact my mum was still forcing me to wear shoes from Clarks (major embarrassment), and how to smuggle blue mascara into school so I could paste it on at lunchtime.

I thought back then I was going to marry Paul Nicholls, whose picture took pride of place on the underside of my desk lid (I'm old enough that we still had wooden desks then, complete with 'I heart XXX' carved into the tops with our compasses).

However, if Girls' Day School Trust CEO Helen Fraser has her way, rather than poster clipping and desk stencilling, what today's young girls will be doing during break-time will be plotting marriage strategies instead.

Speaking at the annual GDST conference, Helen said women in the workplace are being stopped in their tracks by the "nappy wall" and it was important that girls were encouraged to find ambitious husbands in the same way they are encouraged to apply to good universities.

A lot of what Helen has to say makes total sense to me: get young girls focused on their studies and their career ambitions. Anything in fact to distract them from nurturing desires to follow in the stripper-heeled footsteps of the England WAGs or Katie Price (yes, yes, I know Katie Price is described in some circles as a hard-nosed businesswoman and she's made all her own money, but I don't count getting your kit off as a career ambition, no matter how much cash it brings you).

Helen's not the first to moot the idea that if women indeed 'want it all' they need to marry the right kind of person. In a speech last year, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg claimed that, "The most important career choice you'll make is who you marry."

I certainly prefer Sheryl and Helen's advice to the conclusions of a 'study' from the University of Texas earlier this year, which claimed the less attractive a woman is, the more driven she'll be when it comes to her career. In essence, ugly girls worry no-one will want to marry them, so concentrate on providing for themselves instead. There is no rational counter-argument to this, over and above 'aggghhhhhh'.

I entirely agree with the premise of the advice that if women want to 'have it all', a supportive partner will be a distinct advantage, but then I think that goes both ways.

Here's an idea, let's teach the boys about ambitious women who'll make their lives far more enriching both at work and home, and the girls can stop worrying about the men at home who might hold them back, and focus on how they're going to leap-frog the ones at work instead.