Will Millennial Women End the Cycle of Career Disappointment?



After Pew Research data showed Millennial women are near parity with their male counterparts at .93 on the dollar, there was much chatter on social media about the Pay Gap Myth.”

And yet if you refer back to The Harvard Business Review study, it seems educated professional women experience career disappointment in droves – including Millennials.

So we gathered our Breaking Glass community together on Blab to ask:

How do Millennial women avoid the same disappointment other generations have faced?

Our guests included:

What Do Millennials REALLY Want from Their Careers?

To help anyone avoid career disappointment, no matter their gender, it’s crucial to understand what they want from their career. When we polled our audience we were not surprised by their answers: More than financial success or career advancement, the priority to our audience (no matter their age) was flexibility.

After graduating into the Great Recession, the need for security was a close second. Odd, perhaps, because flexibility and security don’t often come in one package; flexibility is generally a benefit of freelance/contract work or self-employment, where security more often than not comes from traditional 9-to-5 employment.

The Solutions are Out There

The workplace has changed tremendously since GenX entered roughly 25 years ago; specifically, technology has transformed how we collaborate and contribute. And Millennial women are benefitting from it as much, if not more, than any other group. Flexibility, the component of work sought by so many, and something absolutely essential for women who choose to parent and work simultaneously, is is now more common than ever before.

With the flexibility options technology has brought us, there are solutions that didn’t previously exist, but there are also other steps young career women can take to avoid career disappointment down the road. Be cognizant of your choices, including the choice to have children. Make parenthood and your career part of a large discussion with your partner. Plan ahead – and prioritize the desire to have a fulfilling career and be a parent.

Position Yourself to Negotiate

If career advancement is important to you, it is up to you to make sure you’re in the position to be promoted. Period.

That means having direct and regular conversations with your workplace mentors and supervisors about where you see yourself in the future. If Sheryl Sandberg is right, and many women aren’t promoted because they don’t ask for the promotion, don’t be that woman. Perhaps you need sales and negotiation training to feel more comfortable advocating for yourself. So get that necessary training and speak up.

What is your purpose? What is most meaningful to you? What are you best at?

Know your value, and be ready to negotiate.

Don’t Shut Male Allies Out

There are plenty of men in the workplace who believe in both equality and pay equity. Find them and make them part of your network. Proactively seek out female and male mentors who will help you advance within your company and chosen field.

Be Aware

If you listen closely to workplace language, you will be able to identify when you are hitting an obstacle that may be connected to gender bias. It may be someone who calls you “too emotional,” or “too assertive.” The reality is you won’t be able to change this behavior, but you can learn how to deal with and be prepared for it when it comes. (We’ll talk about this further on future episodes of our Breaking Glass series), so stay tuned to YouTern.

Consider Startups and Small Business

If you are in a business that doesn’t have many women in leadership positions, instead of fighting your battle there, consider shifting your plan. You don’t need to stay where you don’t get the respect you deserve. That doesn’t mean leave immediately, but it may mean going to a smaller company, or working freelance, or finding a startup that needs your skills. Often in smaller businesses there isn’t room for gender discrimination – it’s an all-hands-on-deck atmosphere that often provides more on-the-job professional development.

Consider Self-Employment

Another advancement technology has brought is making the barrier of entry to self-employment tremendously lower. From registering your business, to online training, to the ability to sell your services via the web and social media to anyone anywhere, starting a business isn’t nearly as difficult as it once was. When you’re the boss, you don’t have to worry about advancement obstacles, but pay attention to the disadvantages, too, like longer hours, more interruptions during family time, etc.

Be Part of the Solution

As you make your way up the proverbial career ladder, remain aware of the challenges of those coming after you. Be part of the solution for your peer and the next generation. There is a lot of talk – so much smoke that there must be some fire – about women NOT helping other women, or ‘protecting their spot.’

Make sure to do your part. Support and mentor other women.

Understand That Everything Is Temporary

If the Recession taught us anything, it’s that everything is temporary.

Whether you are an intern or a long-tenured executive, your job could disappear tomorrow. And if you accept that concept now and embrace the precariousness of all jobs, you will be much better prepared. Think like a freelancer. Prepare for alternative income producing opportunities, including self-employment. Build and nurture a living, breathing network. Create your OWN safety net.

Women do have a special set of circumstances and challenges when it comes to careers, but none of them are insurmountable. The reality is that employees of all genders and age brackets face their own  obstacles.

The answer is in facing them, understanding exactly what they are, and having a plan to overcome the speed bumps and detours that come your way.


Amy TobinAbout the Author: Amy McCloskey Tobin is a content strategist and creator. She specializes in generational insights, the future of work, the remote workforce, workplace diversity, and how tech has changed the business world. Amy has worked with major online publications to develop content and content strategy. A devotee of social media, Amy believes firmly that great content begets social media community. Find Amy on LinkedIn and follow her on Twitter!




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