Millennial women send out a powerful message
Organizations should take note of Millennial women!
There has been a lot of media hype recently centered around research which has suggested that Millennial women don't want the top jobs. Findings produced by the PR firm Zeno Group is hardly definitive benchmark sampling to hallmark a global generation, although it does make for good copy. The study was based on a survey of 1,000 American women ages 21-33, graduates of four-year college or university programmes.
However limited this survey was, the results can't be ignored totally, because they coincide with research carried out by 3Plus in 2010-2011.
The report suggests that "only 15 percent of women between the ages of 21 and 33 have the desire to lead a "large or prominent organization." Why? They aren't willing to make the personal compromises that they believe that senior women leaders (in some cases their mothers) have been forced to, or been prepared to make. A further 90% indicated that they believe that women have to make greater compromises than their male counterparts.
Today, we are seeing a generation of women who want something different from their mothers. When I was 21, if someone had asked me if I wanted to lead a prominent organisation I would have had no idea at all what that would have entailed. So it doesn't surprise me that only 15% answered in the affirmative. In those days with the ink barely dry on equal pay and anti-discrimination statutes, women were simply delighted to have the opportunity to be allowed access to careers which had hitherto been the preserve of the men. We also thought (somewhat foolishly with 20/20 hindsight) that we would get equal pay! Simply by being graduates we had already broken through not so much a glass ceiling, as a glass door. We were now in the room.
GenY women are not saying they don't want the top jobs. They are in their twenties for heaven's sakes. What they are indicating loud and clear to organizations is that the Ts & Cs for senior roles as they currently exist, do not appear attractive to them.
So organisations need to take note.
What Millennial women want
60% of graduates in many developed economies are women. They are the most highly educated generation of women in history and governments and corporations would be just plain foolish to overlook that fact. They have very different expectations to previous generations.
They are tapped into technology and are highly capable of blending and balancing their professional and personal lives. They will resent, and ultimately reject presenteeism cultures and linear career paths demanded by many organisations.
They will not be prepared to work themselves to the bone to the detriment of their personal relationships and overall well being like their parents. They will take career breaks and see that as part of their longer term strategy. They will not attempt to "have it all", seeing that as misguided foolishness because it's really "managing it all." They will expect their partners to share parenting and household chores and will be looking to adopt congruent career strategies. They will happily outsource low value household work and will campaign for better child care options and tax breaks on same when they succeed. They will definitely not want to stuff mushrooms.
Organizations are going to have to think carefully about how they are going to tap into this talent. Governments will have to reflect on ways to maximise their investment in the education of a whole generation of women or see it under utliized.
And culturally we will need re-frame our notion of success.
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