For the first time in history, as of October 2015, more women in the U.S. held bachelor’s degrees than men. Unfortunately, higher levels of education don’t seem to be translating into more leadership ambition: according to a recent Pew study, 34% of millennial women say they aren’t interested in becoming top managers. Only 24% of millennial men felt that way. Why?
Perhaps it’s because the pressures of family and career are still palpable. Even in the era of post-Steinem feminism there’s still a gender pay gap, child care costs continue to rise, and the U.S. trails the world in family leave policies. So it’s no surprise 75% of millennial women feel changes are desperately needed in workplace—and that we aren’t exactly clamoring for more responsibility.
With an entire generation of females hesitant to assume positions of power for fear of poor performance or overwhelming stress, today’s companies have an opportunity to step up and ease the burden. Here are five ways to develop and inspire young women to take on leadership roles at your organization:
Set up ways to for women to give back through mentorship or philanthropy projects at your organization. In particular, encourage female employees to network and build relationships internally. No one knows the working world of women better than ourselves, so the best support for female millennials is to connect them to the women just a few offices over.
Support mothers and parents.
Women are more likely to quit, reduce hours, or interrupt careers due to family obligations. That causes a ripple effect that can devastate career opportunities and long-term earnings. Combat this by offering maternity and paternity leave policies, work-from-home arrangements, and flex time off for women who choose to balance motherhood with a career.
Equal work, equal pay.
Since the Equal Pay Act of 1963, it’s been illegal in this country to pay different wages to men and to women for the same job. Yet young women still make only 93% of what men make for similar kinds of labor. This doesn’t have to be so: companies can take a stand against sexual discrimination in the workplace by ensuring equal pay for equal work.
Provide training and development.
Prepare and support those in new leadership roles with management training, skills development, and learning programs to help women and new managers build confidence and advance their careers. But don’t just stop at check-the-box training: ensure your corporate learning program is effective for millennials. In other words, ensure it speaks to the needs and tastes of a never-stop, on-the-go generation.
Create a supportive team environment.
Millennials are far more likely to value teamwork than their predecessors, but women especially thrive in environments that focus less on competition and more on cooperation. Foster collaboration, open communication, and team-building to ensure your organization is the kind of place ambitious young women are comfortable leading.
Companies have the opportunity to empower and inspire an entire generation of women. We need to prioritize doing so. With the right support and preparation, millennial women can contribute and make real changes in the workplace—but only if they accept the mantle.