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Don’t believe all you read about Gen Y women – new survey on their beliefs and values in the workplace

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve been told “don’t worry, GenY women are different, they’ve got gender balance all sorted…” well, let’s just say my bank balance would be looking pretty darned healthy!  But while there’s no doubt that GenY women are well positioned for career and life success, it’s also true that most of what you read about their attitudes and beliefs is based on loose assumptions and opinions.  Now new research by Business & Professional Women International shines the light on beliefs, values and expectations of over 600 women from USA across four key areas: workplace values, work-life balance, gender in the workplace and intergenerational workplace dynamics.

1.  Gen Y women want a more holistic approach to work-life balance – and it’s equally important to them irrespective of whether or not they have children;

2.  Gen Y women believe gender discrimination is still an Issue in today’s workplace – with 77% of respondents rating it as a moderate or severe issue for them.  Only 3% indicated that gender discrimination is not a problem. Further, almost 50% of Gen Y women have observed or experienced gender discrimination in the workplace, the most prevalent forms being:

      • Stereotyping (63%)
• Unequal compensation (60%)
• Not being treated as an equal (58%)
• Inequality of opportunities (52%)
• Being held to a different standard (51%)
• Sexist jokes and derogatory statements about women (38%)
• Sexual harassment (31%)

3. Gen Y women who had experienced gender discrimination were also more likely to experience age discrimination than their male peers, with examples cited of being perceived as incompetent or inexperienced because of age; name calling such as “kid” and girl”; being passed over for promotions; and being held to different standards because of age.

The study identified four key employer implications related to addressing challenges and promoting opportunities for Gen Y women in the workplace – and which I believe fly in the face of common perceptions:

  1. Addressing Gen Y women’s workplace challenges is a business imperative.  It won’t solve itself by virtue of GenY women being more confident, educated or courageous than their predecessors.  Promoting workplace cultures and practices associated with flexibility, equality and inclusivity are imperative for the success and sustainability of businesses.
  2. Young working women are not a homogenous group; and identifying Gen Y women’s workplace challenges and opportunities will differ by occupation, employer type, compensation type, and presence of children.
  3. Work-life balance is important to Gen Y women regardless of their position in life – single, married, with or without children and there’s no “one size fits all” solution.  The research indicates a need to examine workplace assumptions about characteristics of the “ideal worker” and aspects of “life” addressed and who is included (or excluded) in workplace policies and programs.
  4. Employers need to understand how gender and age shape the workplace experiences of Gen Y women. Gen Y women identified five features that enable them to do their best at work: understanding goals and expectations; open communication channels; encouragement from co-workers and supervisors; having their voice heard; and understanding roles and responsibilities.

This is a good piece of research by BPW covering a broad spectrum of women and their workplaces.  You can download the full report here.



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