Will Millennial Women Climb the Ladder Differently to Other Generations?

Risk TakingFemale Millennials (or Generation Y) made up roughly of ages 13-33, may be in a better position to rise the corporate ladder than any generation before them. This is partially due to the amount of women who are graduating college, and receiving higher education, even more so than their male counterparts.

According to Census figures, there are 60 million Millennials in America, and 30 million of those are women. Keywords describing the generation have been ‘ambitious,’ ‘optimistic,’ and ‘dedicated.’

In a recent Washington Post Magazine article, Laura Sessions Stepp says, “These women appear to be buoyed by a stronger belief in their capabilities than many of their mothers enjoyed at their age.” She also mentions that Millennials have higher hopes of what they’ll be paid.

Yet it is still a common complaint that there are not enough women in positions of power in business. But how can young women make sure they are on the right track to leadership? Stepp’s advice to young workers is to take risks, assume an active role in a young professional organization, and “always strive to reach the next level.” But encouragement to do so by their managers, or presidents may not be happening as much as needed.

In a popular Forbes article entitled ‘Why Millennial Women Are Burning Out at Work by 30,’ contributor Larissa Faw discusses how women are treating work like a sprint rather than a marathon which is causing unhappiness and exhaustion. Another reason for opt out is ‘unrealistic expectations’ since work and college differ greatly. Others believe it could be due to the group’s entrepreneurial inclinations. In a Forbes follow-up post by Meghan Casserly, she argues that the drop off could be due to a drastic rise in Millennials who are starting their own businesses.

“Fifty-four percent of the nation’s Millennials either want to start a business or already have started one,” president and CEO of the Kauffman Foundation, Carl Schramm, states. It appears that instead of blending in with corporate culture, they are branching off and creating something of their own.

Gen Y women want to be independent, and to be able to steer their own future. “Paired with data on the rise of female entrepreneurs, Casserly writes, “the outlook for young women is promising.”

In truth, it can often be difficult to mentor Generation Y, as a Women Powering Business article by Heather Huhman suggests. “It’s hard to give advice to those who seem to be self-advised,” she warns. Huhman reminds Millennials to be team players, and that nothing replaces putting in “time and effort when others won’t.” Millennial women may have less problem putting in the time and effort when they are working towards something they helped create.

A recent article in Business News Daily took a survey of 550 millennials on the topic of leadership. The survey found that “while just 48 percent hold official “leadership” titles, 72 percent consider themselves a leader in the workplace.” This survey aligns with a popular stereotype of Generation Y being ‘entitled.’ But what their idea of leadership means to them could be different than holding title in the C-Suite.

According to Forbes, women “currently comprise only 35.2% of entrepreneurial activity in the U.S., and we’re far less likely to launch firms with revenues of over $1 million than our male counterparts.” But young female entrepreneurs change this.

Fast Company’s Carol Reed points out that while more women are founding companies than men, they are not necessarily at the head of it. “Broadly, 30% of all U.S. businesses are women-owned and 17% are 50/50 co-owned with men, she cites, “which means 47% of all businesses in the United States have a woman co-owner, according to the latest U.S. Census data on business ownership.” Still, close to none of these businesses are solely owned by a woman.

The bottom line is that Millennials are determined to make an impact. Their drive and enthusiasm can be harnessed to improve best practices and invent new ways of operating. If so many Millennials are dissatisfied with corporate culture, as research suggests, perhaps their confidence and optimism will steer them towards leadership positions within smaller U.S. businesses sometimes founded by women, paving the way for a more even playing field.

By Gina Scanlon