Will Millennials make issues like the “glass ceiling” obsolete? Said differently, are obstacles for women in the workplace likely to disappear when Millennials run the world? And said yet differently, is gender bias absent in the youngest generation in today’s workplace?
Now, it’s still a few years until Millennials take over leadership of U.S. business – so I’m not out of a job yet. (My job is working to create workplaces where both men and women can lead and succeed.) But I am curious about whether my mission will be accomplished simply by the passage of time. And I am working on an article on the generational roots of some of the obstacles facing women in today’s workplace.
Depending on which expert you ask, Millennials were born approximately 1980 to 2000, so they are now in their teens through their early 30’s. Big changes in family dynamics and gender expectations have occurred since Baby Boomers were young. Millennials were raised by attentive Gen X parents; they hadn’t been born when the last feminist movement occurred. They grew up with working, professional mothers. Their fathers didn’t call it “baby sitting” when they took care of the children. Dad could cook and do housework – maybe more than Mom. Some had bread-winner Moms and stay-at-home Dads.
Millennials grew up playing with the opposite sex, from play dates to group dates. Millennial boys competed with girls in school. As men, they have competed with women for jobs and have had women bosses. They have seen four women Supreme Court Justices and more women than men Secretaries of State (they may think it odd that John Kerry can serve that position). Of course, a woman can run for President!
In our workshops, we address the unconscious “mind-sets” that still affect women’s ability to reach their potential. We are often asked if these issues are disappearing in the younger generations in today’s workforce. Do young people truly have a less “gendered” view of leadership qualities? Will their images of leadership and success be less predictably masculine? Do they lack the confusion about how women do and “should” lead that has led to the “double bind”? Will the “comfort principle” disappear because Millennials managers and bosses feel comfortable with women peers and subordinates?
I am hopeful. Are you? What do you see changing for women as Millennials gain more influence in the business world?