Posted by: lukefernandez15 | January 23, 2018

Millennial Women in Leadership

Millennials have grown up in a unique time of rapid change and the explosion of a technology revolution. The Millennial generation has been under a lot of scrutiny the past decade and is often referred to as the “participation award” children. Parents of these millennials believed they were doing the right thing by making every child a winner, I am a byproduct of this phenomenon. As a male, I have a different perspective on leadership than that of women in leadership. Millennial women have been the generation that has broken through the glass ceiling of organizations and made a name for themselves. In many ways, the millennial generation of women are the people becoming leaders but, unfortunately, women in leadership positions are still few and far between. However, due to this circumstance, are millennial women hesitant to take on leadership positions?

The millennial generation makes up about 70 percent of the current workforce, and the numbers are still growing, women make up about 50 percent of the Millennial population. Leadership comes down to two main factors in the work place: their skill and their will. As discussed in the readings thus far, women face a double bind in many leadership positions; if a woman behaves in a ‘feminine” way, she may be liked, but will not be taken seriously; conversely, if she acts too “masculine” she may be criticized or disliked. I believe the real problem is rooted in the perception of leadership for women. Women in the millennial generation, according to a Zeno Group study conducted in 2014 (refer to URL attached) have more aspirations to lead than previous generations. This causes problems; women associate leadership positions with sacrifice, such as a decrease in work-life balance and loss of individualism. This all relates back to the double bind of women leaders. The perception needs to change.  Women and organizations need to display that it is not about sacrifice that makes a women leader successful, nor should it be the case.

Many methods can be used to combat this perception of women leaders, and most importantly should be increasing the visibility of women in leadership roles. If someone changes the perception that women do not have to give up everything in their life to be successful, you therefore change the reality. Additionally, if there was more visibility of millennial women in being successful, greater exposure would correlate to a positive perception. For example, a mentorship program in organizations could increase the positivity of perception and evoke real change in an organization. Next, an organization must realize that in order to have successful leaders, both male and female, you must be more flexible and provide more options for leaders to excel and maintain an overall positive work-life balance.

 

https://www.td.org/insights/why-millennial-women-are-hesitant-to-take-on-leadership-positions

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Responses

  1. I think changing societal perceptions and expectations about women in leadership positions is absolutely one of the main factors that can improve conditions for women to become leaders. However, I feel that successful change can only occur when we as a society deliver on both sides of the issue. For instance, one of the major problems for women leaders in the workforce is the notion that women are expected to fulfill the domestic duties of the household, which prevents them from sustaining flexible work hours. Thus, if men and women shared equal responsibility for family/home upkeep, women will be much more able to take on leadership roles. On the flip side, men are expected to lead in a domineering, task-oriented style, which can cause conflict among client or employee relations and increases workplace risk. However, by ignoring the gender-based assignments of certain leadership traits, we can anticipate that both men and women can adopt their own methods of leadership. Changes to the fundamental mechanisms of society will have to take place before we can see overt changes in women’s leadership capabilities.

  2. Hi Luke! I really enjoyed reading your blog, and I think you pose some interesting points. First, I wonder if women are hesitant to take leadership opportunities because of the new social paradigm. In one of the earlier classes, we talked about Betty Friedan’s The Problem Without a Name, and how it has been translated through the decades. Now the problem is not a lack of choice, but a choice that gets women criticized no matter what. If a woman chooses to have a career, she’s leaving her family behind and if she chooses to stay home, she’s betraying the activists before her (as a kind human I believe that both these are categorically incorrect). But, maybe this is what is halting women from seizing the leadership opportunities in front of them. Like you said in your last paragraph: women don’t have to choose a family or a career, they can have both. I agree that if society as a whole normalized the idea of accepting the working mom, there would be more women who wanted to climb the ladder of advancement within their organizations. While I do believe that women may sometimes hold themselves back because they don’t want to sacrifice their family life, I think other times there are factors within their work that limit them. For example, women with children are often at a set-back when it comes to maternity leave, or they may not have access to sufficient child care. I agree with Alexa’s comment that both the women and the structure of the organization must be willing to change.

  3. I don’t think it is just millennial women who are hesitant towards fulfilling leadership roles, but also men too. In America, we often live to work, unlike other countries that work in order to live. As a whole, there stands a value for hard work and self-sacrifice for the company. These values stood better in the mid-1900s, when it was the expectation that the wife stayed more at home, or only took a part-time job, while the husband worked. As society progressed, so did its leadership and its working force. Now seventy percent of American households contain working individuals, many of whom are millennials. In the U.S., 85.8 percent of males and 66.5 percent of females work more than 40 hours per week (Miller, 2018). There has never been a mandated law that requires the maximum number of hours for a work week, nor a law mandating paid holiday or sick leave days.

    Within the millennial generation, there is a fear and expectation that student loans will never be paid off. There is also another underlying expectation that millennials will be upholding the economy left by the organizations and leadership from early decades. This fear extenuates the live to work mentality, but not necessarily by choice anymore, but by force. In the event that an employee questions the company’s organizational strategies, they can be told that they can be readily replaced by someone else. This does not create an environment of trust within a company. This could be a reason why many may not seek out leadership roles.

    America would produce better leadership and organizations by adopting several strategies from other industrialized nations that support their employees. Instead of driving the mentality that they can be easily replaced or hounded for their actions, there needs to be a line of support established for leaders. Some of these support can include paid maternity and paternity leave for a longer extended period of time, childcare opportunities, recognizing their potential, and giving them the support they need. There needs to be a more humanitarian approach in organization of leadership than just crunching the data. This would help balance the work-life balance for everyone, especially women leaders themselves who can be victims of the double bind.

  4. Luke, your post really got me thinkning about the generational divide between millennials and the generations before. To answer your question, do millenial women feel hesitant to take on leadership roles?, I do not think there is a simple answer. In many cases, millennials have grown up in a world that is much more progressive than previous years. However, I believe the leadership style of millennial women is very different than that of other, older women. For example, my aunt, mother, and grandmother all have very similar leadership styles, yet they are all from different generations. They tend to do most of the work, picking up the slack in order to accomadate everyone elses lives while at the same time running the home by cooking all the meals, doing all the laundry, and cleaning the home. This always results in them being overly worked and tired. However, I tend to lead with a more direct and demanding way which leads me to seem less empathetic than the other women in my family. I have often been berated by my family members for my leadership style. I think there is a difference brewing in the way millennial women lead, which shocks many people and thus results in them not getting as many leadership position. However, this also leads women, like myself, feeling discouraged from running for leadership positions because of the scrutiny of others they will face for their leadership style.

  5. I agree I think there’s a major difference between a millennial’s definition of successful leaders compared to the generations before us. Women of our generation want to balance career and personal life. Often, men do not struggle with having to choose between family and career. If we normalize equality of household duties then we can start to allow women to choose their careers without them feeling guilty. Perhaps some employers subconsciously don’t want to pull women away from their family lives and therefore are less likely to promote them. I agree that visibility of successful women leaders will help other women strive for leadership positions. Since the millennial generation is one of the first to be allowed to work in male dominated fields, they may still feel uncertain of their ability to do equal work when some men have more expertise from past generations passing down information and confidence in their abilities. As a society we must show that women are capable of balancing life while also being successful career women to encourage young women to believe that they can do the same

    • In class yesterday, I began thinking about the balance of power in leadership, how women would like more of it, and how men would have to give some up. This led me to think about what would be given up on both sides with this change in power. I couldn’t stop thinking about the Spiderman quote “with great power comes great responsibility” and how to two go together. I concluded that men would lose some power of leadership and women would gain some, so then it made sense that responsibilities would change too. I then questioned if responsibilities would change or simply get transferred from one side to the other. After reading this post I came to realize that men would indeed gain a new responsibility within the household to offset what was lost by women. There would have to be a balance of power and responsibilities among both parties.

  6. In a honors class I took two years ago our teacher asked us to name the best and worst qualities of our generation. The worst qualities we came up with had to do with our tendency to be lazy or reclusive. The best qualities were commonly our desire to be tolerant of different groups and our general kindness to other people.

    I was talking with a friend about what defines “millennial” and whether we fit into the category as kids born in 1997. The way he put it, millennials were defined be growing up in the optimism of the 90s and then being disillusioned by the horror of 9/11, making them a cynical generation. Because us born in ’97 were a bit too young to understand what 9/11 meant when it happened, we didn’t count, instead growing up into a post 9/11 world.

    As people of our (yet unnamed) generation go into the workforce, I think we’ll bring more cautious realism. In terms of women in leadership, our generations desire to spread tolerance and be good to each other will (hopefully) make it easier for women to occupy those positions and employ less traditionally masculine styles.

  7. With generational divides comes educational and cultural divides as well. While I may be of a newer generation, I grew up moving around to different states and countries, and each place I lived had a different cultural atmosphere. I’ve met many women in my life who have held all sorts of positions, but neither was upset or ashamed of their role — whether it was an officer in the military, a stay-at-home-mom, or anyone few and far between.
    I’m curious to know if how we view societal roles depends on our location, for our views of self are seemingly influenced by those around us.

  8. Something that really struck me about this post was that you addressed the concept that millennials are known as the generation in which “everyone gets a trophy.” This in itself is supposed to characterize us as feeble-minded, weak, lacking of initiative, and too “sensitive.” In reality, we now have to compete and work harder to get into college, obtains jobs, and excel in leadership positions that now enforce criteria that is remarkably more difficult than previous generations ever had to deal with. What is being referred to is the tendency for millennials to be more inclusive and accepting of diversity, more tolerant, and more willing to help those who have felt oppressed by society.

    As a generation, we are not perfect, but we are generally much more accepting than in previous years. I would even argue that we are more “feminine” as a generation than in previous years, as we display attributes such as tolerance and empathy that may be described as “feminine” qualities–and this may in fact be intimately linked with why we are considered to be less fit for leadership positions, when in reality we, as millennials, bring to the table a new and inclusive mindset that will lead us into the future.


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