Millennial and Gen Z Women Express Workplace Woes

Posted By Terri Williams on October 26, 2016 at 9:48 am
Millennial and Gen Z Women Express Workplace Woes

To our readers: Today, GoodCall gives an overview of the progress – or the lack thereof – made by women in the workplace and in the classroom. First up, writer Terri Williams examines a new report on the state of young women in the workplace. Later today, Terri reveals which major computer science program has made major strides in recruiting women. Tying both together is the powerful role played by having strong women mentors and role models.

While research shows that millennials and Gen Z are joining forces to shape the workforce, it also appears that the workplace may be shaping millennial and Gen Z women – and not in a good way.

Women and men often have different higher ed and workplace experiences, especially in male-dominated fields. For example, an MIT study found that 40% of women engineering students earning degrees quit or never enter the field. Another study, by Adecco, revealed that 40% of women college students have low earning expectations for their first job.

Now, a new study by 1,000 Dreams Fund and examines the state of young women in the workplace. Highlights from the study are below:

77% Say being too young has hindered their ability to get an interview or employment
20% Have been the victim of workplace bullying (by more women then men)
21% Have been the victim of sexism in the workplace
31% Consider their dream job to be working for themselves at their own company

Are women workplace bullies?

One person not surprised by the findings revealing that millennial and Gen Z women experience workplace sexism and are more likely to be bullied by other women is Lisa Kaess, founder of Feminomics. “Studies have found that when collaborating with men, women get less credit for their work — from men and women,” Kaess tells GoodCall. “In some instances, the women gave more credit to their male counterparts when working with teams than they did when working with other women.”

In sectors and workplaces with a male majority, Kaess explains that some women may be protecting their status. “If you’re the ‘token’ female – and you could substitute people of color, or ethnic groups – you may not be so friendly to the young upstart – we’ve seen this on TV when young, attractive women are brought on and ‘edge out’ older professionals.”  That’s not always a sure thing, however. Kaess says research also shows that when there are more women in the environment, they tend to be supportive of each other.

The importance of mentors

Christie Garton, founder of the 1,000 Dreams Fund, tells GoodCall that 70% of young women in their survey stated that they did not have a workplace mentor. “Workplace mentors, whether formal or informal, can be invaluable assets for young women to have as they get their careers off the ground,” Garton says. “I developed an informal relationship and, eventually, a friendship with a female partner at the law firm where I first worked, and her advice continues to guide me in my career – even beyond law.”

Encouraging entrepreneurship?

Garton encourages entrepreneurship – if it’s for the right reason. “Not only does owning one’s own business provide wealth opportunities, successful entrepreneurs create jobs and contribute to an overall healthier economy.” However, she’s concerned that some young women want to work for themselves simply to get away from negatives they experience at work.  “Entrepreneurship should not be an ‘opt out’ option to poor workplace treatment, and unfortunately, I think many become disillusioned early in their careers by some of these challenges our survey identified,” Garton says.

Experiences from the workplace

Millennial and Generation Z women in the workplace have differing experiences, of course. Emma Ehlers, a student at the University of Arkansas, says, “My workplace experiences have included the typical events. I have been disregarded if the job requires manual labor, and a male has been sought out instead.”

Sharlena Luyen, a student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, has had a different experience. She tells GoodCall, “I have been offered multiple internships and/or positions solely for being female in a male-dominated field. Luyen believes that her ability to clearly articulate her thoughts – especially when involved with team projects – has been the best way to get noticed at work. “In order to ensure my age, gender, or race is not a factor in anyone’s opinion about me, I introduce myself professionally yet I’m sure to let them know something memorable about me.” And Luyen adds, “Personability has built personal relationships in a professional environment – what more can you ask for?”

Terri Williams
Terri Williams graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her education, career, and business articles have been featured on Yahoo! Education, U.S. News & World Report, The Houston Chronicle, and in the print edition of USA Today Special Edition. Terri is also a contributing author to "A Practical Guide to Digital Journalism Ethics," a book published by the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University Chicago.

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