Millennial Women Do Not Want Top Jobs, Says Study With Narrow Definition Of Top Jobs


Today, in generational fear mongering! The PR firm Zeno Group has released a study that suggests not a lot of millennial women want society’s “top jobs,” which this study has chosen to define as a position where you tell other people what to do within “a large or prominent organization.” Oh no.

Before we go any further, I’d like to point out the confusing language used here, because “organization” suggests “non-profit organization” to me, but judging from the coverage this has received thus far and the types of people quoted, I’m pretty sure it’s actually referring to the hierarchical “organization” of people, money and synergy that makes up a corporation.

Anyway, according to the study, only 15% of millennial women say they want to lead a “large and prominent organization” (i.e. corporation), and Zeno Group says they are worried about that. “We need to think about doing things differently when helping millennial women develop their careers and weigh the sacrifices that may or may not be required,” says Zeno Group CEO Barby Siegel. “We do not want to risk losing this talented generation of professionals.” It’s not totally clear whether the things he wants to do differently involve giving his employees more time and flexibility to have families and enjoy their lives, or simply strengthening their incentives to focus on work, but I hope it’s the former.

This goes along with various other findings that suggest millennials are not as willing as their predecessors to sacrifice “work-life balance” in exchange for “success” in the form of money and power, even though jobs are scarce and it’s increasingly a buyer’s market where labor power is concerned. It stands to reason that millennial women (at least the ones who have the option of working less) would feel especially able to resist working all the time, because it’s still more socially acceptable for women to focus on family life than it is for men. Throw in the realities of institutionalized sexism and that fact that not everyone is lucky enough to do what they love for a living, and the job of caring for tiny people who love you might suddenly seem much more appealing.

Of course, the study takes a narrow view of what “top jobs” means, because that definition differs greatly from person to person. For some, it might mean leading a company. For others, it might mean getting up at lunchtime to write articles about pop culture while petting their cat. So maybe people don’t want success less, they just choose to define success differently.

This shift may have something to do with this generation’s politics, as millennials are more liberal and cooperative than previous generations, and have even shown a radical streak via Occupy Wall Street, etc. Women also tend, on average, to espouse more liberal values than men, and an increasing amount seem to agree that equality among humans (half of whom are women) is more important than individual success, even if that individual is a woman. In this type of climate, then, it makes sense that fewer women would value attaining the top positions in corporate structures they view as essentially flawed. Depending on your point of view, that’s either very good or very bad news.

(Via Jezebel)

Image: Knopf

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    • Lastango

      Some of that disinclination might just be common sense. Nowhere near 15% of people are suited to be the “#1 leader of a large or prominent organization or start-up”.

    • Tusconian

      I don’t see why being the “leader” is considered indicative of drive, especially for a group that includes teenagers. I will always say, these nonsense studies happen because older adults are trying to foist the life experience of a 50 year old onto a 22 year old. I’m 22. No, I don’t have any particular goal to be a “leader” of a fortune 500 company. Why? Those jobs aren’t available; my boss is 50, and HE has no chance at jobs like that because the 70 year olds who’ve been CEOs and presidents for the last 20 years want to sit tight for another 10. In many industries where there exist traditionally coveted “leader” positions, people in their 40s and 50s are considered “young punks.” There’s no point in a recent college grad coveting such a thing, not because we feel inadequate or don’t desire a leadership position, but because we don’t particularly expect it. It’s hard enough to get a job when even middle aged people are clamoring for jobs that an 18 year old with a GED could have done 25 years ago, why should we be particularly setting our eyes on something we can’t even begin to be close enough to desire them for another half century? People also don’t stay in jobs like they used to. And a 22 year old’s desires and needs are different than a 50 year old’s. A 50 year old doesn’t have to devote all that time and effort to a work-life balance, because their life is already set up for them. They already probably have a close circle of friends, a spouse, kids, established hobbies, whatever. Many people in their 20s (or even 30s) don’t, and would like to solidify friendships, make new friends, find someone to love, and possibly start having kids. The only way to get those prestigious titles is to work ungodly hours. If you’re not working with people you like at a job you’re absolutely passionate about, what’s the point? Most young people would rather drive a crappy car around for 5 more years and have roommates to split the bills with than face the idea that they may look up in 25 years, having “made it,” but never had time to find a husband/wife, keep up with their college friends, raise kids, and tried new hobbies.

    • JennyWren

      I honestly think that 15% is a pretty healthy percentage of people to be aiming for a high-level corporate position. Given that we still need people to be lawyers, doctors, engineers, mechanics, bricklayers, firefighters, retail workers, truck drivers, vets, cleaners, policemen and women, and so on and on and on and on. I think rather than labeling this as a lack of “ambition,” we could see this as an indication that millennial women (and I think it’s highly likely that male millenials would report the same) have reasonable expectations for their futures.Goodness knows, it’s already hard enough to find a secure-ish job that pays a living wage and still allows you time for a family/social life.

    • MaryAnnC

      I’m a 45-year old female and I’ve never wanted one of those jobs. The people that I know that have those jobs are over-stressed and miserable. I’m not afraid of work but what they do to get there is too much and they sacrificed too much.
      I have a good paying job that I LOVE. I worked had to get here but not at the expense of my family and health. My pay doesn’t even come close to theirs but I don’t care. I make more than enough to pay the bills and put some away. That’s good enough for me. I don’t appreciate being looked down upon because I don’t want a “top job”.

    • Eileen

      The percentage of millennial women who want that kind of job, as a marker of women’s ambition, means absolutely nothing unless it’s compared to the percentage of millennial men who want that kind of job, not to mention the percentage of gen X and baby boomer women and men who wanted that kind of job when they were in their twenties. Personally, I’ve never wanted to be the top of an organization, for-profit or not-for-profit. It’s a lot of responsibility, and not a lot of people are good fits for that kind of job. I’d rather be awesome at a less prestigious, lower paying position than so-so as a CEO.