Millennial Working Women
“Girls are made of sugar and spice and everything nice”
It would appear that some outdated gender characteristics might keep millennial women from succeeding in the workplace.
According to the Bentley Preparedness Survey, conducted by KRC Research for Bentley University, both short-term and long-term job success may be based on gender perceptions.
Results of the survey, which includes 3,000 respondents, are as follows: 59% consider women to be better prepared than men for success in their first jobs, however, 53% believe men are better prepared for success over their entire careers.
These perceptions may be based on the traits and skills that are assigned to each gender; for example: Women are perceived to have better communication, interpersonal and organizational skills – and this makes them good workers. But men are perceived as more likely to have leadership skills, which is critical to career advancement.
So what can be done to change the perception of millennial women in the workplace?
Unfortunately, there may be a certain level of truth in these gender perceptions. Linda Henman, Ph.D., owner of Chesterfield, Missouri-based The Henman Group, has spent more than 30 years working with executives and boards of numerous Fortune 500 companies, and she says that these perceptions will not change until reality changes.
“Women are graduating from college and graduate schools in large numbers, but they aren’t majoring in the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, math).”
As a result, Henman says her clients struggle to meet their diversity goals of hiring more women into high potential tracks like engineering and finance. “Most of the clients can’t even find a female CEO candidate from among their ranks or from outside the organization because not enough women have come into the workplace with a strong major, and many don’t stick around long enough to be promoted to the high echelons of the organization,” Henman explains.
But this is not the only obstacle millennial women face. Amelia Gandomi Lewis, M.S., CEC, Executive Coach, and founder and president of Advance Yourself in Chicago, Illinois, says, “I notice that millennial women seem to be more insecure than previous generations – not only because of the gender dynamics of power in the workplace, but also many of them were raised by parents who told them they could do anything and be anything they wanted.”
Lewis says that this led them to enter the workforce with high expectations and a tendency to internalize their disappointments and view them as personal failings. “Millennial women struggle with feelings of unworthiness and confidence because they see many of their male counterparts rising higher and faster than them.”
And Lewis says that gender bias in pay and position is very real, and creates the need for equalizing forces, such as:
“Anyone can be a mentor, but it is extremely powerful in this generation, which has a psychological need for a parent in the workplace to help steer them.” A mentor can help them access their strengths and abilities, and also manage their insecurities appropriately.
While it’s too late to re-parent millennial adults, we can choose to send different messages about leadership and power to upcoming generations. “When a girl takes control, she is often reprimanded as bossy, while a boy will receive a ‘Boys – what can you do?’ approach.” The societal pressure that females receive to be less assertive starts in childhood, so the changes must start in childhood.
At every level, educators must teach girls how to make their voices heard. “How can girls make requests, suggestions, and contribute ideas without being dismissed as bossy, opinionated and “bitchy?” Those who are in control in the classrooms have a powerful impact on how classmates are receiving females who do show leadership ability.”