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Bentley University PreparedU Project: Millennial Women in the Workplace

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The Bentley University PreparedU Project features a comprehensive Preparedness Survey that uncovers the “why, what, and how” behind the millennial generation’s challenges in the 21st century …

The Bentley University PreparedU Project features a comprehensive Preparedness Survey that uncovers the “why, what, and how” behind the millennial generation’s challenges in the 21st century workplace. The survey results serve as a springboard for a wide-ranging conversation and a call to action for stakeholders to find innovative ways to prepare millennials for career success and a fulfilling life.

To learn more about the survey’s initial findings, visit Bentley.edu/Prepared.

A key area covered in the study is perceptions of the career preparedness of millennial women compared to millennial men. The survey results present a striking challenge: While respondents see women as better prepared for their first jobs after graduating from college, respondents give men the advantage when it comes to the likelihood of overall career success.

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  • 1. BENTLEY UNIVERSITY: THE PREPAREDU PROJECT MILLENNIAL WOMEN IN THE WORKPLACE: PERCEPTIONS, REALITIES, CHALLENGES AND SOLUTIONS Introduction The Bentley University PreparedU Project features a comprehensive Preparedness Survey that uncovers the “why, what, and how” behind the millennial generation’s challenges in the 21st century workplace. The survey results serve as a springboard for a wide-ranging conversation and a call to action for stakeholders to find innovative ways to prepare millennials for career success and a fulfilling life. To learn more about the survey’s initial findings, visit Bentley.edu/Prepared. A key area covered in the study is perceptions of the career preparedness of millennial women compared to millennial men. The survey results present a striking challenge: While respondents see women as better prepared for their first jobs after graduating from college, respondents give men the advantage when it comes to the likelihood of overall career success. Given these findings, how do stakeholders (higher education leaders, business leaders, parents, college students, high school students, and recent college graduates) ensure that men and women are able to participate equally at all levels, succeeding not just in their first job, but throughout their career? How do we provide more encouragement and support to millennial women at an early age? How do we address obstacles and biases that prevent women from reaching leadership positions in their organizations? Addressing questions such as these forms the core of the Bentley University PreparedU Project. The research finds that millennial women have confidence in their career skills and abilities to succeed long-term, specifically skills that are valued by business leaders, suggesting that a positive change starting with their generation could be just around the corner. About The Bentley University Preparedness Study The Bentley University Preparedness Study is one of the most comprehensive surveys done on the subject of preparedness for the workforce. Conducted in October 2013 by KRC Research, the online survey of 3,149 respondents explored 11 different themes via more than 300 questions with nine different stakeholder groups: business decision- makers, corporate recruiters, higher education influentials, parents of high school students (juniors and seniors only), parents of college students, high school students (juniors and seniors only), college students, recent college graduates (those who graduated within the past five years), and members of the general public (U.S. adults ages 18 and over). The average interview duration was 29 minutes in length and the margin of sampling error for the total sample is plus or minus 1.75% at the 95% confidence level. 1
  • 2. Context: Women In The U.S. Labor Market Although women account for more than half (53%) of all entry level professionals at the largest industrial companies in the United States, according to McKinsey and Companyi , they are still earning less than their male colleagues as they climb up the career ladder. According to the U.S. Census Bureauii , the average full-time woman employee earns 77 cents for every dollar her male colleagues earn. And the same McKinsey study found that women hold just 37% of middle management positions and 26% of senior management positions in the companies it examined – despite the fact that they come into the workforce so strong. Millennial Women and Workforce Preparedness: Findings from the Bentley Preparedness Survey The Bentley Preparedness Survey shows that respondents believe recent female college graduates are better prepared for their first job than male recent college graduates – by a wide margin, 59% to 41% (see table 1 below for more detail). Yet while survey respondents consider women better prepared for success in their first jobs, they believe men are better prepared for their entire careers (53% to 47%). More significantly, when asked, “Who is better suited to succeed in today’s business climate,” just 31% of respondents choose women, compared with 69% who choose men. This was true among millennials themselves: 62% of millennial women believe men are better suited for success in today’s business climate. Interestingly, as the lists below make clear, respondents who said that they believe female recent college graduates to be better prepared for their first jobs gave broadly similar explanations for why they believe that to be the case: 70% of these respondents cite factors related to women’s skills and abilities. In contrast, among respondents who said they believe male recent college graduates to be better prepared for their first job, just under one-quarter (23%) cite factors related to men’s skills and abilities, while nearly one- fifth (19%) say men are better prepared for their first jobs because men generally have more career success. Gender bias may be a factor behind perceptions among respondents that men are better prepared for their first jobs due to a variety of non-skill-related factors, including that they have more career success. All Respondents Men Women Business Decision Makers Corporate Recruiters Better suited to succeed in today's business climate (Q99). Women 31% 22% 37% 23% 32% Men 69 78 63 77 68 Better prepared for their first jobs (Q108). Women 59 51 64 51 61 Men 41 49 36 49 39 Better prepared for their entire careers (Q120). Women 47 38 53 39 46 Men 53 62 47 61 54 Table 1. Perceptions of women's and men's workforce preparedness Question 99. Overall, who is better suited to succeed in today's business climate? Question 108. Do you think women who are recent college graduates or men who are recent college graduates are better prepared for their first job? Question 120. Do you think women who are recent college graduates or men who are recent college graduates are better prepared for their entire career? 2
  • 3. As table 2 below shows, the Bentley Preparedness Study found that women are seen as much better suited to success when it comes to specific qualities like organizational skills and interpersonal and communication skills, with men and women alike agreeing that women have an advantage in these areas. The study found a significant gender split when it came to one skill area, however: decision-making ability. Overall, respondents are split almost evenly on whether men or women are better suited for success when it comes to decision-making skills. Men overwhelmingly think that men are better suited to make decisions (63%), but women overwhelmingly think that women are better suited to make decisions (62%). Finally, when it comes to leadership skills and “entrepreneurial spirit,” respondents overwhelmingly believe that men are better suited to succeed. Top Reasons Why Men & Women Are Better Prepared For Their First Jobs WOMEN Work harder 18% Better organization skills 14% More prepared 12% Smarter 9% Responsible 9% Better social skills 6% Tougher 3% Better at multitasking 2% MEN Experienced 12% More men are hired 7% Men are better 6% Dominant 6% Not emotional 4% Things are easier for men 3% Stronger 3% Smarter 1% Better at business 1% All Respondents Men Women Business Decision Makers Corporate Recruiters Decision-making skills (Q100) Women 51% 37% 62% 37% 48% Men 49 63 38 63 52 Women 82 76 87 82 81 Men 18 24 13 18 19 Organizational skills (Q102) Women 86 76 93 84 85 Men 14 24 07 16 15 Leadership skills (Q103) Women 36 20 48 29 33 Men 64 80 52 71 67 Entrepreneurial spirit (Q104) Women 38 29 45 32 32 Men 62 71 55 68 68 Table 2. Specific skills: Who is better suited for success? Questions 100-104. Now thinking about each of the following qualities, who is better suited for business -- men or women? Communication & interpersonal skills (Q101) 3
  • 4. COMMENTARY: HOW CAN WOMEN OVERCOME GENDER BIAS? Although respondents perceive women to possess more of the skills and abilities that business leaders are looking for, like strong communication and organizational skills, the gender bias in the workplace remains strong. Men are seen as better prepared for lifelong career success based on general perception rather than concrete evidence. This perception holds the unfortunate risk of being a self-fulfilling prophecy, despite the fact that women are indeed believed by business decision makers and corporate recruiters to be well equipped for success. Do women need to improve their leadership and entrepreneurial abilities, or do men need to recognize an existing gender bias? We think it’s the latter. Change starts with the millennial generation, whose members can work together, along with key stakeholders like businesses and higher education institutions, to break these barriers. Young women should be encouraged to see social bias for what it is and focus on doing their best to rise to the top. Encouragingly, millennial women have great confidence in women’s skills and abilities. A full 92% of millennial women believe that women’s organizational skills are superior to men’s. And 84% believe that women’s communications and interpersonal skills are superior to men’s. These are skills that the main Bentley Preparedness Survey showed to be highly valued by business leaders. Gloria Larson, president of Bentley University The Gender Gap in Parents’ Encouragement to Pursue a Business Career. The Bentley Preparedness Survey also examined whether women receive encouragement to pursue business careers. Among respondents who say that not enough women are pursuing careers in business today, roughly half (51% of women and 45% of men) say women simply don’t have as many opportunities in business as men have. Among millennials, 47% report an opportunity gap between men and women, including 51% of millennial women and 39% of millennial men. Parents with high school or college-age sons and daughters are more likely to encourage sons to pursue a career in business than they are to encourage daughters. Millennial men are more likely than millennial women to report they have been encouraged to go into business (53% compared with 46%). Indeed, more than half of respondents (55%) overall believe that women do not receive enough encouragement to enter the business world. Among business decision makers, 62% believe this to be the case. Respondents do see broad benefits to having more women pursue careers in business. When asked if the corporate world would experience fewer scandals if more women were in leadership positions, 52% of respondents agreed, while 36% disagreed. (58 % of women agreed, compared with 44% of men.) Finally, the Bentley Preparedness Survey asked respondents whether they believe it is getting easier or getting harder for women to have a successful career and personal life and found a marked gender split: 59% of men say it’s getting easier, compared with 50% of women. Fully half of all women, in other words, believe it is still hard for women to achieve both a successful professional and personal life. Among millennials, 62% of millennial men say it’s getting easier for women to have it all, compared to 52% of millennial women. 4
  • 5. FOCUS ON SOLUTIONS The goal of The PreparedU Project is to identify and promote solutions for preparing millennial college graduates for success not just in their first jobs after college, but throughout their careers. All stakeholders have a role to play in ensuring that women graduate from college well-prepared for success in their careers. Higher education leaders, the business community, parents and millennials themselves need to take responsibility for doing their part in this challenge and identify and embrace solutions that will ensure young women can continue to secure employment and have equal opportunity to advance to positions of leadership in their organizations. The Bentley Preparedness Survey outlines potential solutions for preparing millennial women for workforce and career success. For example: Understanding work-life balance. 56% of women and 47% of men say that helping women understand that they can have a successful career while also being a good parent or spouse/ partner could better prepare women to succeed in business. More than half (56%) of all business leaders (which includes business decision makers and corporate recruiters) feel the same, including 62% of female business decision makers and 59% of female corporate recruiters. Among the solutions presented, this was also the most popular among male business MYTH: Compared with men, women don’t have what it takes to succeed in business. FACT: When it comes to many of the skills that business leaders say they value, women are seen as better suited for success. More than 8 in 10 business leaders (84%) say women are better suited for success in terms of organizational skills. Similarly, 82% of business leaders say women are better suited for success in terms of communication and interpersonal skills. decision makers (52%) and male corporate recruiters (53%). Mentorship programs. More popular among women and less popular among men are women-specific mentorship programs, starting as early as high school, that encourage girls to enter the business world (57% women, 44% men). Nearly two- thirds (62%) of non-millennial women supported this solution (compared to 52% of millennial women, 46% of non-millennial men, and 39% of millennial men), along with 62% of female business decision makers and 61% of female corporate recruiters. Also more popular among non-millennial women are women-specific mentorship programs in college and universities (58% of non-millennial women, compared to 41% of non- millennial men, 48% of millennial women, and 38% of millennial men). Networking events combined with mentorship. Half of women and just one-third of men say that women-specific networking events and women-specific corporate mentorship programs would better prepare women to help them succeed in business. Non- millennial women in particular agree, with 52% selecting women-specific networking events for women in business (compared with 47% of millennial women) and 55% selecting women-specific corporate mentorship programs (compared with 45% of millennial women). Furthermore, women in the business world reflect overall favorability for these solutions: fully half (50%) of female business decision makers and corporate recruiters are in favor of women-specific networking events for women in business (compared with 36% of male business decision makers and 41% of male corporate recruiters) and 61% of female business decision makers and 60% of corporate recruiters agree that women-specific corporate mentorship programs could better prepare women to succeed (compared to 39% of male business decision makers and 34% of male corporate recruiters). 5
  • 6. Role of male managers/executives. Female survey respondents are generally more supportive than men of solutions to help women advance in the workplace. Slightly more men, however, say that male managers and male executives playing a more active role in the mentoring and the development of women could better prepare women to help them to succeed in business (37% of men compared to 34% of women), especially in the business world. More than 4 in 10 (45%) of male business decision makers selected this solution, which is the highest percentage of any subgroup (compared to 36% of female business decision makers). Although data show that women are seen as adequately prepared by higher education, colleges and universities can take an active role in helping women prepare for long-term success. Bentley University’s Center for Women and Business (CWB), founded in 2010, has been working to identify solutions to address obstacles that prevent more women from reaching leadership positions. Among the solutions identified by the CWB are: • Women should be aware of gender-based perceptions that hinder equal pay, equal access to assignments, and development opportunities. • Women should learn to confront biases with solutions that demonstrate visionary leadership. • Women should learn to engage men as champions for equality. • Men should use their influence for equality so they are also afforded access to flexible work arrangements and other programs that allow for life beyond work. • Companies should identify and change interpersonal biases and biased organizational practices. • Parents and guidance counselors should encourage women to explore careers in business since the business world offers a wide variety of occupations that can lead to leadership positions. The CWB has developed a comprehensive approach to preparing women by developing and sharing practices that companies can adopt to offer work environments where all employees can thrive. For example, the CWB encourages going beyond “mentoring” for women to a true “sponsorship” program where senior executives proactively knock down barriers to women’s advancement, create opportunities for women, and defend talent. Most recently, the CWB joined forces with Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick to develop a fellowship program that places graduate-level women in paid positions in state government while also providing leadership training and networking opportunities. Conclusion Ensuring that women and men have appropriate preparation and equal opportunities to advance and succeed throughout their careers – not just in entry-level positions – is essential to the strength of the U.S. economy. The Bentley Preparedness Study underscores the fact that all stakeholders – parents, business leaders, colleges and universities, high school and college students, and recent college graduates – can make a difference in encouraging millennial women to pursue business careers and removing obstacles that prevent women from rising through the ranks. The survey also highlights a number of solutions to help prepare millennials – both women and men – for success in their careers. Will women fare better in a 21st century economy that may place greater emphasis on people, planet and profits? Why or why not? Join the PreparedU conversation by visiting Bentley.edu/Prepared. I. http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/organization/changing_companies_minds_about_women II. http://www.census.gov/prod/2013pubs/p60-245.pdf 6