A Woman in the White House, with education as her top priority. (What she doesn't? To take on the nation's top job herself.)
For Lifetime Television's original special "Spotlight 25" (airs Monday, March 26th, 8:00 PM, ET/PT) we spent a year taking a very detailed and very intimate look at the women of Generation Y as they hit the quarter-century mark. It's a time when young women are making decisions about jobs and careers, marriage and family, how they will live their lives, and how they plan to make their mark on the world. As a group they told me "25 is a real wake up call."
We spoke with, and listened very carefully to thousands of women in their twenties to find out what this generation is really all about.
One thing became quite clear- today's twenty-something women are extremely focused on the idea of "balance"- between their careers, families, and fulfilling personal lives. They look at the big picture in a very strategic way, and make choices and set priorities to achieve what they consider to be an 'equilibrium.' Many watched the "juggling act" of an earlier generation of working moms and believe they'll find a better way.
On the job, they are re-writing the rules of the game. They say they want "more than just a job," -- they want a career they are passionate about. They are highly ambitious, eager to have real impact, and they want to do it quickly. After all, these are the famously impatient children of the one-click internet era. If they don't move up fast enough, make no mistake they'll move on...but not out of the workforce entirely as some controversial headlines had suggested. In fact according to our data, 85% of Gen Y plans to be in the workforce after having children.
Today's young women value control and flexibility over climbing the corporate ladder. Even the vast majority of Columbia MBA students I spoke with last fall told me they'd rather NOT be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Why not? "Those women don't have families and children" they said. These next generation business leaders told us the pressure-cooker career that goes with the high powered title wasn't worth the sacrifice. They'll choose another career option even if it means forging a new path of their own.
They'd much rather be their own boss. They've got tremendous entrepreneurial spirit! Running their own business satisfies -- in theory at least -- their desire for a career they love with the kind of control, and flexibility that accommodate the demands of children and a very full personal life. It's that 'balance' thing again.
In our third, Lifetime Women's Pulse Poll (a telephone survey of 500 women aged 18-29 nationwide created by Kellyanne Conway of WomanTrend and Celinda Lake of Lake Research Partners) which focused on young women's political views and aspirations, that message came through loud and clear. These children of feminists overwhelmingly support the idea of a woman in the White House. But when asked if they like to be president, this group of women -- the best educated in history with the greatest amount of opportunity -- gives the nation's top job a resounding thumbs down.
NO MATTER HOW ELECTIVE OFFICE IS PEDDLED TO GEN Y WOMEN, THEY REPLY WITH A FIRM, "NO, THANK YOU."
When asked several different ways if they'd like to be Commander-in-chief one day, they emphatically say "No". A stunning 70% rated their chances of running for political office absolutely nil.
What they really want to be? Entrepreneurs
From a list of seven options, nearly half of all respondents said they would most like to be the owner of their own company (47%) - more than three-times the number who picked the next most popular selection, Nobel Prize Winner (14%). Moreover, self-employment received almost five-times as many votes as "president of a major corporation" (10%) - a position of equal prestige, but perhaps not comparable flexibility.
"Not For Me" - What's Keeping Today's Young Women from Politics
When asked to explain why more women don't toss their names into the proverbial ring and run for office, Gen Y women cited three chief explanations:
DISRUPTION: They believe it will disrupt their family 23%
DISCRIMINATION: Politics is mostly a man's world 23%
DESIRE: They do not want to 20%
An additional 11% posited that women don't run because they feel that they can contribute to politics in other ways. Gen Y generally dismissed a lack of qualification (8%) and difficulty raising money (6%) as significant roadblocks to women seeking office. They just don't feel it's worth the sacrifice.
THEY MAY NOT WANT THE JOB THEMSELVES, BUT GEN Y WOMEN DO WANT A WOMAN IN THE WHITE HOUSE!
All Things Equal, Gen Y Prefers to Vote for Women
When asked to consider two (nameless) equally qualified candidates - one male, one female - running for political office, Gen Y women favored the female candidate by a double digit margin (38%-26%). Furthermore, almost twice as many respondents would "definitely" vote for the woman than the man (17%-9%)
Hillary Clinton Jump Starts the Race for Women
More than three-quarters (78%) of the young women surveyed agreed that having a woman as Speaker of the House, in this case, Nancy Pelosi, was a boon to American women overall. A similar number (76%) believed that a woman in the Oval Office - would improve women's status as well
Gen Y Women Open to Voting for a Woman For President, Four-in-Ten Would Back Hillary
In a four-point question, a 39% plurality of young women indicated they would cast a ballot for Hillary Clinton in 2008, making her the first female U.S. President. Another 24% would vote for "a woman" other than Mrs. Clinton in 2008. We admit we were surprised by the reluctance of some to vote for a woman. Seventeen percent noted 2008 was too soon to send a woman to the Oval Office but they might consider it in the future, and 8% flat out admitted they wouldn't support a woman for President at all.
EDUCATION IS GEN Y'S TOP PRIORITY
When asked which issue would most impact their presidential vote in 2008, Gen Y women made clear that education was foremost in their minds. In fact, 42% selected it from a list of nine issues, ahead of the war in Iraq (33%) and healthcare (31%). Clustered lower on the matrix were the war on terror (24%), jobs/the economy (20%), morality/family values (20%), fiscal issues (16%), immigration (14%) and, somewhat surprisingly, environmental issues (11%).
While this latest Lifetime Poll (created by WomenTrend and Lake Research Partners) offers a glimpse of a twenty-something's take on politics, "Spotlight 25" offers a unique and revealing look at the total picture. These women are- intelligent, engaging, passionate, confident and really candid about their lives. And they're hilarious...wait until you hear them dish about on-line dating. To hear more about what today's 25 year old women (including Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson) have to say about life, love, sex and having it all, tune in to "Spotlight 25" on Monday, March 26th at 8 PM ET/PT.