10/28/2013 05:28 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

What the Feminist Zeitgeist Means for the Future: A Millennial Perspective

In the midst of the Sheryl Sandberg, Anne-Marie Slaughter debate on the future of feminism and women in the workplace, one voice has been conspicuously absent: that of the millennial woman.

This absence strikes me as particularly ironic given that millennial women, myself included, will ultimately determine whether we can overcome gender inequity at home and in the workplace.

Of course, one reason for this absence is that most millennial women are still too new to the job market to feel they can speak with authority on what's right, what's wrong, and what's challenging about being a young woman in the workplace -- let alone what that means for the future.

Nevertheless, I find that my fellow female millennials are bringing increasingly fascinating and impactful contributions to the evolving discussion about gender equity in informal settings such as blogs, workplace women's support groups, and social gatherings. While I cannot presume to speak for all of these women, I have gleaned three very promising trends from peer discussions regarding the future of millennial women. Though these trends are largely based on anecdotal evidence, I believe they are prevalent enough to merit sharing:

First, millennial women are, in fact, beginning to "lean in" in the workplace. Building on the wisdom of trailblazers like Ms. Sandberg and Ms. Slaughter, we are deliberately educating ourselves on the pitfalls and perceptions gaps from which we often suffer in everyday communication and work tasks. We are just as deliberately taking steps to recognize and address these pitfalls early in our professional careers. To me, this trend portends the evolution of a thoughtful, effective, and self-aware female work force prepared to face the challenges of leadership in a man's world.

Second, millennial women are being honest with themselves and with each other about the challenges they will face as career women trying to "have it all." In contrast with the largely idealistic women's lib generation of feminists, we are engaging in open discussions about the profound challenges that parenthood and workplace leadership will likely bring for us. Though honest conversations like these may not resolve the difficulty of "having it all," they are at minimum pushing us to carefully plan out our careers paths and pick supportive partners in our friendships and our romantic lives.

Third, and perhaps most important, millennial women are taking advantage of the fact that the Sheryl Sandbergs and Anne-Marie Slaughters of the world have altered the modern-day face of feminism, making it sexy for the first time in our adult lives. This emerging trend has made it easier to engage both male and female skeptics about the barriers that gender presents for women professionally and personally.

Slowly, person-by-person, I believe these conversations are making our generation more attuned to the latent but pernicious biases that often represent larger hurdles to gender equity than outright discrimination.

While these three trends may not mean we will achieve a utopian world of gender equity within a generation, they do give me hope for millennial women's readiness to face the barriers that trumped our female predecessors in the workplace and at home.

What do you think? Have you noticed these trends as well? Please continue the discussion in the comment section, on Facebook, or on Twitter.

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