Millennials and unflattering stereotypes go hand in hand. Yet while myths about millennials tend to paint the generation as lazy and entitled, particularly when it comes to their attitudes in the workplace, new research suggests that this cohort might be better characterized as driven and enterprising.
This year’s McKinsey and Lean In survey, which The Wall Street Journal reported on this week, reveals that young millennials in particular actually express higher levels of ambition than older women. The survey gathered responses from 70,000 men and women and found that 60 percent of younger millennial women (under age 30) said that they aspire to be a top executive, while just 37 percent of older women said the same. Young millennial men also reported higher levels of ambition than older men (69 percent vs. 50 percent.)
Casey Miller, a recruiting manager, can attest to this attitude and behavior shift. She told The Journal that this year, when she observed intern presentations at Enterprise Holdings Inc., she noticed that female interns tended to spearhead their groups, while men were more passive. “The male interns weren’t concerned or giving it another thought,” she said. “It was very natural.” Miller noted that in previous years, male interns were the ones to dominate and serve as spokespeople within their groups.
Lisa Walden, who directs research and communication at consulting firm BridgeWorks, suggests that women’s growing drive might be attributed to the fact that the 2008 recession clouded their formative years. She told the The Journal that younger women “have seen how tipped the scales are and are showing up a little more guarded, but more ready to fight for that equality on day one, whereas the early millennial women had to readjust.”
Miller has noticed a similar increase in assertiveness among young women; she says that during the interview process, they’re more likely to question employers about gender equality and maternity benefits.
LeanIn and McKinsey’s survey also found that like the ambition gap, the perception gap seems to be narrowing. For instance, 29 percent of young men and 22 percent of young women believe that managers confront biased language and behavior immediately, whereas 38 percent of older women and 23 percent of older men — a much wider gap — say the same.
These trends seem to translate to home life as well, where young millennial men are much more likely than older generations of men to more equally share domestic work with their female partners.