By Tina Vasquez (Los Angeles)
It seems as if young working women not only feel as if they can have it all, but a shockingly high percentage reports that they do have it all. According to recent research by Accenture, young professional women ages 22-35 – otherwise known as “millennial women” – believe they will have rewarding careers in equal balance with fulfilling personal lives, despite a rough economy and corporate structures that are still lacking in their understanding of women’s dual obligations in the workplace and at home.
The Millennial Women Workplace Success Index marked the results of an online study taken by 1,000 millennial women currently employed full-time in the U.S. According to the index, 94 percent believe they will achieve a work/life balance and even more astonishing, almost half (46 percent) of the women surveyed believe their work life and personal life are in equal balance.
Accenture’s U.S. Human Capital and Diversity Managing Director Lamae Allen deJongh was extremely surprised by the index’s findings- as were many, but she does not believe that the statistics are the result of naiveté on behalf of young or inexperienced women. “I think the results speak to the high degree of confidence of millennial women,” deJongh said. “And because of their confidence, their work/life balance goals are realistic. Having a satisfying professional life and a gratifying personal life is important to them; it exemplifies the fact that they believe they can have it all.”
Evolving Views on Work/Life Balance
The issue of work/life balance was so important to millennial women, in fact, that a whopping 70 percent cited the ability to “maintain work/life balance” as one of the most typical qualities of a successful female business leader. Sixty-six percent also stated that being flexible was important, as was being able to make an impact, which was cited as the third most important characteristic by 64 percent of the women surveyed.
Women of older generations came up the ranks in a more difficult time when they often felt as if they had to choose between their career and their family; sacrificing one in order to be a success at the other. It seems as if millennial women don’t feel the pressure to choose a single path, because to them, having a successful career and a happy family aren’t mutually exclusive goals; they are one in the same. This is perfectly illustrated by the average millennial woman’s definition of success. According to young women in the workplace today, success is not defined as making partner, becoming company president, or being named a COO. Rather, their success is defined as “doing meaningful work while also maintaining a work/life balance.”
If so many women in the workplace have severely struggled to maintain a balance between their lives and their work, why are millennial women – for a lack of a better term – so cocky? Again, it all comes back to confidence – and for good reason. Young women in the workplace today have an unprecedented set of skills that women of previous generations did not. The average millennial woman is more capable of managing her life and her career because of new technology, expert multi-tasking skills, and the advent of social networking sites.
Changing Views on Gender Barriers
According to the index, another important factor is fueling the confidence of millennial women: the barriers to professional success are changing. Only 12 percent of the women surveyed cited marriage as a barrier to their career, while 19 percent cited maternity policies.
Also interesting, despite facts that speak to the contrary, 46 percent of the millennial women surveyed believe more women are being appointed to serve on boards and in C-suite positions than five years ago, even though only 15 percent of board positions are held by women nationally, which is actually down from last year.
Non-millennial women often place a great amount of importance on having a female role model or mentor because they didn’t have the opportunity to have one as they were coming up in the workplace. Because of that, many corporations now have mentoring programs that team up senior women and young hopefuls. It’s believed that a mentor can be impactful on a woman’s career and helpful to her success.
According to Accenture’s study however, young, professional women place very little importance on role models. When the survey respondents were asked to identify the most helpful in driving professional success, only 16 percent responded with “women in company leadership” (i.e. C-suite, boardroom) and just 18 percent cited having female role models. Compared to the nearly 60 percent that cited “a good work atmosphere,” it becomes abundantly clear that millennial women have a different vision, a different set of priorities, and a different skill set. We’ll have to wait and see if their confidence allows them to balance the best of both worlds – professionally and personally.