When it comes to their careers, millennial women want the same thing as men: to be successful. And while the path to success may differ on some levels, the two sides are converging more than we think.
Women have joined men in their quest to climb the corporate ladder and make money to support their families. But the similarities don’t stop there. A survey by Bentley’s Center for Women and Business found that both expect a job to ensure a family’s long-term financial security and provide opportunities for skill building. With more than 40 percent of families relying on mothers as an equal or the sole breadwinner, supplying income is a necessity for nearly as many women as men.
Work-life balance, a phrase once reserved for working mothers, is on the wish list for both male and female millennials. Dual-career couples are not just trying to juggle the demands of children and financial obligations. This generation grew up with involved parents and they expect to be hands-on with their own kids.
Does this coming-together of the genders mean that we can turn a blind eye to the fact that men and women are hard-wired differently? If we do, we risk neglecting the talents of many professionals, because this generation demands authenticity. And it should.
What comes through loud and clear in research — and I also see it with our students — is that women do not want to have to act like men at work. Even though both sides may have similar goals, they take different approaches to getting there. For so long, to advance in the business world a woman had to behave like a “mini-man” and embrace male-dominated traits. We’re now seeing women who aren’t afraid to have their own leadership styles, and it’s OK if that’s more collaborative and empathetic. Fast Company reports that “finally, women can actually be themselves at work and be viewed as leaders.”
On some level, it might sound like we’re feeding into old gender stereotypes when, in fact, we’re learning to understand our differences and utilizing them. We’re also discovering how to evolve in ways that will lead us to success while allowing us to stay true to who we are. Men are becoming more collaborative and empathetic; women are becoming more willing to step up and take ownership. And this is a good thing, because the more you have in your toolkit of leadership styles, the more effective you’re going to be in today’s ever-changing world. But you’re going to do it in your own way, not sacrificing who you are.
Susan Adams is professor of management and senior director of the Center for Women and Business at Bentley.