At this very moment, millennials (those born between 1980 and 1995) make up the largest share of the workforce, with millennial women alone projected to form approximately 25% of the global workforce by 2020. While much has been made of the propensity for women within this demographic to leave their jobs, the reality is, millennial women are only ever so slightly more likely than men (67% to 64%) to leave their employers within the next five years, according to a recent study by Deloitte.
That being said, because a gender-diverse workforce can improve a company’s financial performance, more and more companies are eager to discover and implement practices and methods that both attract and retain millennial women specifically.
So, what can be done to effect this positive change in your organization?
First, and prior to creating the candidate persona that will guide your marketing efforts to this target group, we need to understand who these women are (generally, speaking: there will always be exceptions) as well as what makes us different —and similar— from the generations of women that have gone before us.
Confidence. Ambition. Equality.
Like our male cohorts, millennial women in the workplace have likely benefited from a good education. With education comes confidence, ambition, and the belief that we can achieve our professional goals. As a result, the employers that will attract and retain this demographic are those that provide ongoing training and development programs, and follow through on their promises of opportunities for career progression — as evidenced by the presence of women in senior and executive-level roles.
Employers can gain extra kudos by ensuring that the provision of such opportunities doesn’t falter or stop should a woman choose to become a mother. Many millennial women are wary of the professional sacrifices they might have to make if they have children. When a woman does take time off to have a baby with a view to returning to work, employers should incentivize her to return by striving to meet her needs with regard to flexible working, compensation, and continued opportunities for professional development and career progression. Employers that offer these options demonstrate the value they see in their employee, alleviate her concerns, and will succeed in attracting and retaining talent.
However, be sensitive to the circumstances and and choices of all.
Millennial women value a workplace that is truly inclusive, and with many in this demographic (men included) identifying as “feminists,” there is a dominant mindset that women who do not have children should not be treated differently, or miss out on experiences or opportunities because of that fact.
While a generous parental leave policy and flexible working arrangements are certainly appealing to those already with or who plan to have children, it’s important that employers recognize the millennials’ belief in equality. That means, if flexible working is available to some employees (i.e. parents) it should be available to all to be utilized in the ways that will be most beneficial to each person based on their individual needs — be that for family, hobbies and recreation, study, or, basic errands.
Because what hasn’t changed from one generation to another, is the fact that most millennial women —mothers or not— are also doing the heavy lifting in what this Time article refers to as the “second-shift: the work that greets us when we come home from work.”
Sad, perhaps, but a reality of the world we live in. Where an employer recognizes this universal truth and fosters a culture that factors this into the equation —without calling it out as such— i.e. through flexible start and finish times, for example, that allow for both men and women to find a better work/life balance, they will go a long way to establishing themselves as an employer of choice with their target candidates — whatever their demographic.
If an employer doesn’t step up to the mark, millennial women know they have options.
The rise in the “gig economy” and entrepreneurship means that more so than the generations that have gone before them, millennial women have the opportunity to make money —and potentially a living— doing something that they love, something they’re passionate about, and, something that brings them a sense of fulfillment.
And plenty of women are choosing that route.
What this indicates is that millennial women are considering their own, individual needs; we know our worth and we’re acting on this awareness. Influenced, inspired, and buoyed by the support and mentorship of other women, we are seeking a work/life arrangement that speaks to that sense of worth and those needs. The employer that understands this and gives us the tools and support we need to do our best work and live our best life, the employer that gives us wings to fly and reach the heights we aspire to; this is the employer that will succeed in attracting, engaging, and retaining this much sought-after demographic.
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