Young Women: Work and Career

LHBS constantly collects signs of changing behavior in culture, markets, and technology. One of the key demographics involved in these changes is young women.

Through researching what is driving values and decisions– and therefore needs– of young women today, some of the most significant factors at play are perhaps found in their prevailing attitudes towards work and career.

We would like to share some of our research into the work and career of young women, which explores several important trends and trajectories of this important demographic, and offers some of the implications for businesses looking to establish a working environment where young women feel not only valued, but also positively challenged.

Findings

Today, young women find themselves on a more level playing field, both in terms of wages and career trajectories, as they have increased their presence in higher-paying jobs traditionally dominated by men. While there is still more to be gained, they are looking for workplaces that accommodate their personal values, of which balance, working relationships, and challenging, meaningful work take priority.

We have identified six categories that describe the most significant aspects of this highly influential demographic. Below is a brief summary of our findings.

 

FREEDOM & FLEXIBILITY:

80% believe that a flexible work environment is important for the next generation of women.
@@Young women associate empowerment with independence, and in general value freedom and flexibility over financial reward.@@ They pursue their career ambitions according to their own terms, and are not afraid to start their own business if employers do not meet their needs.

CLIMBING THE CORPORATE LADDER:

70% want to see more women at the top, while 43% said they would slow down their career path when they have kids.
While women are still fulfilling their ambitions by climbing the corporate ladder, many women are also creating a ceiling in order to focus on family, motherhood, personal development, and other down-to-earth pursuits.

WORK-LIFE BALANCE:

63% say the success means work-life balance.
Seeking a better balance between work and life is rooted in young women’s generational attitudes, and it is a predominant motivation as well as a legitimate marker of success.

MEANING:

Young women want their work to have a purpose, to contribute something to the world and to be proud of their employer.
Along with work-life balance, young women are seeking out meaningful work, seeking different work responsibilities and flexible schedules, and even changing career paths to dedicate themselves to what they find meaningful.

CREATIVITY:

In the US 75% are strongly influenced by how innovative and creative the company is.
Meaning on the job often comes in the form of creativity. Many women are willing to take on second or third jobs not just to pay the bills but to better express their creativity; others are flocking to high tech and communications industries who are increasingly in need of young women’s talents.

IMPACT:

A strong majority – 84% – agreed that it was their responsibility to improve the world through their lifestyle.
@@Young women expect organizations they are involved in to have high ambition in terms of innovation, social causes, or the way business is conducted.@@ Eager to give back, they make an impact by volunteering either skills or money to causes that align with their beliefs.

 

IMPLICATION

1.     THE WORKING FAMILY

As young women are seeking out balance in their careers, employers need to create a strong team-oriented culture in the workplace and appeal to young women’s need for balance and independence through interoffice flexibility and collaboration.

  •  IBM, Microsoft, and Google are combining heavy use of telecommuting with flexible work schedules
  • Activities are key: LifeSize employees play volleyball at midday, while Patagonia gives its employees flexible hours so they can go surfing
  •  Virgin and Netflix offer ‘unlimited holidays’ not so employees can go on year-round vacation, but to establish a trust relationship between the employee and the company.

2.     POSITIVE FEEDBACK

By establishing a culture that gives women ample opportunities to express their needs and priorities, companies can take less of a top-down approach in their workplace dynamics in order to positively incorporate both needs and shared learnings into the way it operates on a daily basis.

  • To encourage non-hierarchical collaboration and feedback, Facebook is now building the largest open-plan office in the world
  • Google offers standing desks as part of its employee wellness program
  • Mentoring programs are also useful tools for attracting and retaining talented, ambitious young women– such as PepsiCo’s "Conn3ct" program, which connects executive sponsors with Millennial mentees.

3.     MULTIPLE LADDERS

Young women’s high standards for achievement demand organic, dynamic spaces for professional and personal growth.  Companies can implement multiple time frames for ascending the ladder into management roles in order to give young women the time and space for important milestones of self-discovery such as motherhood.

  • Apple has given its employees longer parental leave, many more companies have implemented on-site child care for when women come back to work
  •  Credit Suisse started its “Real Returns” program, giving women ten-week “returnships” to help women adjust to returning to the office after extended time from their professional life, aiming to permanently retain 70 percent of them.

4.      GIVING BACK  

As young women are often looking to contribute something to the world, by giving back through volunteering time, skills and money, employers can facilitate this by donating time, resources, or establishing CSR programs that make it easy for employees to contribute to society at large. If possible, this ‘giving back’ can be related to an employees work to give an added value.

  •  Apple matches employees for time spent on philanthropic endeavors, paying up to $25 per hour of non-profit work, while 3M and LinkedIn offer employees time every week to work on a project of their choosing
  • NetApp has an Adoption Assistance plan that reimburses some of the adoption expenses for its employees who choose this route to parenthood.

 

Our summary of the theme Work and Career is only one aspect of the extensive research we have done into the major trends, values, and needs of young women today. If you would like to know more about this influential demographic, from insights to opportunities for brands and business, please get in touch.