Millennial Women face the biological clock

by | Apr 14, 2016

It's decision time for Millennial Women

More than ever, young millennial women are planning their families around their careers and deferring becoming pregnant, waiting for the right moment to start their families or add to them. An increasing number of millennial women are even opting to stay single. Read Flying solo. Why Millennials staying singleThey don't ncessarily want it all, but they do want more and better.

Millennial women

Decision time for Millennial Women

Ticking clocks

We forget that many millennial women are now in their 30s, a key time to consider next steps professionally and personally. "Having it all" was a pipe dream created by their grandmothers and pursued by their mothers.

They are the most highly educated generation of women in history, but view the options on offer with concern as they realise the shortcomings of a male structured hierarchy.

With their biological clocks ticking increasingly loudly, and fertility levels falling, they are starting to define success differently. They see work life balance as something that shifts over time. These women are strategizing earlier and examining their expectations about corporate careers and even ruling them out.

Some see the lives their senior managers lead and want something different. They are rejecting the trail blazed by their mothers. The workplace should be easier for them than the women of previous generations to pursue careers, but they don't see it that way.

In the US employees are working longer and harder hours than ever before.  83% of workers say they’re stressed about their jobs. The level of employee engagement is at an all time 13% low as work life blurs into a  24/7 digital continuum. The modern work world is a “broken and antiquated system,”  says Anne-Marie Slaughter, author of Unfinished Business: Men Women Work Family. Presence and availability cultures are unappealing and have become an effective barrier to women pursuing corporate careers

Pew Research Center study  contends that “58% of working millennial mothers said being a working mother made it harder for them to get ahead in their careers, compared with 38% of older women”.

But whether they pause, opt in or opt out - each decision has different challenges. They don't want it all. They want more and different. But will they get it?

Opting out


Millie (34)  an Associate Director with an international consulting firm, has been identified as having Partner potential. This is a rigorous and competitive process lasting a year or more, where she will be expected to give 120%.  Few are chosen for this process and even fewer are successful. She is entitled to take 6 months maternity leave. Her boss has warned her that if she does take her full entitlement, she risks getting left behind in the competition for these sought after top slots. She has withdrawn from the process.

The New York Times suggests that "The surveys also revealed that some younger women believe today’s economy has made it harder to be a working parent. In the Harvard survey, fewer young women than older women said they expected to successfully combine work and family or have a career equal to that of their husband."

Violet (32)  has just invested in an MBA and finding the life-style offered by corporate employment unappealing and the demands on her time unreasonable, she has left her marketing job with a Fortune 500 company to start her own business or work freelance.  According to research from Wendy Kerr of Corporate Crossovers, women who leave the work place to join the gig economy earn 68% of their corporate salaries. Read: Freelancing is a female issue. This path presents longer term challenges related to financial security.

Setting goals should be one of the top priorities for anyone, particularly college graduates. Why? Because setting good and smart goals sets you up for success.

Opting in

But even those millennial women who do decide to pursue the corporate golden egg, the indications around discrimination faced by new mothers when returning to the workplace, cited in a report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission is disheartening. Around one in nine mothers (11%) reported that they were either dismissed; made compulsorily redundant, where others in their workplace were not; or treated so poorly they felt they had to leave their job; if scaled up to the general population this could mean as many as 54,000 mothers a year. Read: Left holding the baby maternity leave without a strategy

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Staff Writer: Career Contributor
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