Millennials have a reputation for being lazy and entitled. Women who advocate for themselves get called b*tchy and difficult. Millennial women are not exactly set up for success when it comes to getting what they want out of their careers.
But by 2025 the majority of the workforce will be millennials. As young women strive to find professional fulfillment and companies attempt to attract and retain millennial talent, we need to find a middle ground.
Kate Gremillon is co-founder of Mavenly + Co, which provides young women with resources to design a career and lifestyle with purpose. We recently had a conversation about her experience working with companies that want to engage millennial women.
Lelia Gowland: I recently met a 55-year old pharmaceutical company director on a plane. When I mentioned that I was writing this piece on millennials, he said,“God they’re a pain in the ass.” What do you think companies should know about millennials?
Kate Gremillon: Millennials aren’t really all that different from any other generation. They generally want the same things as past generations, but they act differently because the Internet validates that they have countless opportunities to go somewhere else and do something different.
The previous success narrative was to aim for stability and security, get a corporate job, and stay at a company for 30+ years. Previously, when you were unhappy, leaving didn’t seem like an option. It’s not that past generations didn't want to have flexibility or autonomy, it’s that loyalty was prioritized over fulfillment.
Social media has totally transformed this. Millennials, more than any other generation, are faced with the paradox of choice. They get distracted by what all their friends are doing, which makes it harder to feel happy where they are. When you’re faced with so many choices, it’s natural to question your decision and wonder if you’ll be happier somewhere else.
Ping pong tables and pizza parties aren’t going to cut it. Millennials, and particularly millennial women, want to understand that what they’re doing every day contributes to the company values and shapes the culture in a positive way. Instead of putting a metaphorical bandaid on the problem, we strive to get to the root of it and ensure that millennial women feel valued.
LG: On the millennials’ side, it seems like there’s often significant professional dissatisfaction. We talk a lot about the difference between being happy with your job title and being happy with what your day to day looks like. How do you talk with young women about reconciling those two things if they don’t want to change companies?
KG: We coach women every day on the importance of articulating their needs and goals in the workplace and effectively setting expectations with their employer. The core of dissatisfaction at work resides in poor communication on either side.
The reason most women don’t go to their managers with their concerns or challenges is because there is a fear of resentment or pushback for speaking up. Women are incredibly relational and aware of how decisions impact others. It’s both a strength and a weakness, but it sometimes keeps them from voicing concerns.
At Mavenly + Co, we’re having these conversations with women so they can feel equipped with the language to communicate how they want to see their work shape their organization. These conversations allow women to see they don’t have to leave their positions. Instead, they can thrive where they are by effectively communicating their needs and wants.
LG: How do you think this impacts millennial women specifically?
KG: When people think of engaging millennial women, they think about free tampons in the bathroom and book clubs. These things are great, but they aren’t increasing loyalty or engagement. We find that what’s most effective is to help women identify their strengths and learn to feel good about their contribution. When women feel valued and appreciated, they’re more likely to stay.
If my new baby boomer friend who thinks millennials are a “pain in the ass” is any indication, it’ll take a paradigm shift to ensure companies are able to retain millennial female talent. I’m glad we’re starting to have that conversation.
A version of this piece was originally published by Forbes.