Born between 1980 and 1995, Millennials make up significant number of future talent pools today. With huge amounts of soon-to-retire boomers, attracting the best of Millennials generation is critical for business sustainability. Growing up in this modern era where gender parity is (supposed to be) the norm, what are the challenges faced by Millennial women in the workplace?
The world has been evolving faster than ever before, in terms of gender equality. A century ago, it was beyond imagination to see women becoming a president or even going to the outer space. However, the era was long gone. PwC report notes that since 1980 to 2008, more than 552 million women have joined the global workforce. With the increasing rate of participation in the workforce, currently women make up 40 percent of the global labour force.
According to the report, there are four key points that characterise millennial women. First, compared to their predecessor, millennial women are more highly educated. Women’s enrolment in education has been one of the major factor leading to women’s involvement in the workforce.
Second, since millennial women gain better access to higher education, they will make up for bigger number of talent pools than previous generations. Third, millennial women possess higher levels of confidence to grow in their careers. Fourth, they also have higher levels of career ambition.
However, while women activists has always been resounding the spirit of gender balance, it seems that Millennial women still need to do a lot to realise gender parity at the workplace. It seems that men are the ones, who are getting more privileges within an organisation. Be it unequal pay and salary, unfair promotional raise, or imbalanced tasks and responsibilities, these indicate that women still have a long way to go to achieve gender equality.
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A study conducted by McKinsey & Company about Women in the Workplace 2016 notes that women are still underrepresented at every level. On the entry level, there is slight difference between men (54 percent) and women (46 percent). However, moving to higher level, the representation of women declines at each step, with only 18 percent women in C-suite compared to 81 percent men in the same level. These findings underline the importance of business leaders to provide fair and square opportunity for both gender to scale up their career.
Women also experience an uneven playing field. While both men and women new hires might begin their career from the same start, they do not have the same experiences along the journey. The study highlights how women are subtly disadvantaged in many of their daily interactions. For example, only 49 percent women believe that their contributions are appropriately valued, compared to 54 percent of men. In such condition, women get less access and opportunities to scale up their abilities and advance their careers.
Moreover, Millennial women also face gender diversity problems. PwC report points out that despite organisation’s commitment to gender diversity, only 13 percent millennial women agree to the statement. This is in contrast when compared to 71 percent men, who feel gender diversity at work. Most women also agree that employers are biased towards men, when promoting from within.
Yet, there are differences among countries too. 60 percent millennials women in Spain and 58 percent in France agree that their employers are unable to perform balanced assessment between male and female workers.
On the other hand, only 11 percent millennial women in Philippines and 16 percent in Malaysia agree to the statement. It means that women in these regions see their employers performing unbiased evaluation towards both gender. The findings further highlight that owing to different cultural backgrounds and society, Millennial women in one region face different challenges from their peers in another region.
However, the challenges do not only come from unsupportive working environment, but also from within Millennials women itself. McKinsey study points out that women are actually less interested in becoming top executives. While most of them want to be promoted for higher managerial position, only few aspire to be in senior leadership roles.
Only 43 percent women think that becoming top executive will significantly improve their impact to the business, compared to 51 percent of men. One of the major reasons why women do not want to be top executives is due to their inability to balance between family and work commitments.
So what should Millennial women do to tackle these challenges?
Get yourself heard. People make a difference by finding their voice, speaking up, and conveying message to others. When Millennial women experience or witness any kind of gender discrimination at the workplace, they should address the situation in conversation with the HR department. If you feel ignored or disrespected, do not be afraid to stand up and seek out for new career opportunities, where you will be respected. Only then change can be possible.
Broaden your knowledge. Nowadays, Internet has brought the world right at your fingertips for easy access to information at any time. Be an internet savvy individual and gain access to abundant information available on the net. Rather than using the Internet only for shopping, entertainment and lifestyle experiences, it is time Millennial women invest into broadening their knowledge by reading new reports and subscribing to journals or even downloading the latest books.
Challenge yourself. If you want to make a positive change in the workplace, be bold and go for it. Push yourself out of the comfort zone and challenge yourself to try something new. Millennial women should always be keen to look for new achievements and success. Be a fierce and stable individual, who never gives up to strive for their goals.
In today’s digitised world, Millennial women are faced with far more choices and opportunities to broaden mental horizons and reach out, than the women some decades ago. So, if you want to succeed in the modern workplace, all you have to is hold onto your values high and stick to your commitments. Respect the people around you and earn respect in return as well, this will help breakdown the glass ceiling and gender-biased approaches towards women in the workplace.
Read also: Sexism and Gender-Discrimination Continue to Hold Back Women in the Workplace