Millennial women may be saying "no" to the prospect of having high-powered jobs later on. A new study claims that young women just aren't very interested in being the top executives of high-profile companies, reported BusinessNews Daily.
The research, conducted by PR firm Zeno Group, found that only 15 percent of women between the ages of 21 and 33 have the desire to lead a "large or prominent organization." The reason? They aren't willing to make the personal compromises that they perceive female leaders being forced to make. And 90 percent of women surveyed believe that female executives are forced to make greater sacrifices than male executives.
The findings indicate that young women are acutely aware of the individual stressors female leaders face as well as the institutional barriers that women who are trying to get to the top grapple with. And instead of trying to claw their way up the ladder, many young women are choosing to opt out of -- or at least change -- the process.
These choices don't mean that young women aren't ambitious or excited about the work they do. In a November 2012 piece for the Washington Post, journalist Laura Stepp wrote:
Forget what you may think you know about our newest generation of working women. They are not the fretting, overstressed women we've been reading about for 20 or 30 years. They are as large or larger in number, better-educated, ambitious, optimistic and determined to enjoy a more well-rounded life than their mothers' generations, according to polls from The Washington Post and Pew Research Center.
Stepp went on to cite increasing technology and expectations of workplace flexibility as reasons these women have such a positive outlook on how they plan to weave their work and careers into the rest of their lives. It may simply be that until high-level, high-powered executive positions offer the sort of flexibility that these women seek, the women will continue to find those jobs undesirable.
Barby Siegel, the CEO of Zeno Group, told BusinessNews Daily that workplaces need to start changing in order to avoid missing out on strong female talent. "We need to think about doing things differently when helping millennial women develop their careers and weigh the sacrifices that may or may not be required," Siegel said. "The findings send a clear signal that we cannot operate business as usual."
We agree with The Grindstone's Carrie Murphy that this research doesn't indicate that we won't see any female CEOs in a few decades. There are plenty of women who are talented and willing to make the tradeoffs that reaching the C-suite in our current workplace culture often requires. However, it does signal a generational switch: Young people don't accept traditional corporate structures and the stress that comes along with them as givens. "What we're seeing with the information from this study is a cultural shift, evidence that women (and men, too!) aren't willing to sacrifice their happiness and personal life to excel in a workplace setting," wrote Murphy.
"There's no such thing as work-life balance. There are priorities," commented writer Nell Minow at The Huffington Post's recent Third Metric conference. Millennial women are thinking carefully about what theirs are.