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Millennials - How Millennials are Creating a Cultural Shift in Gender Roles

Expectations of Millennial Women Breaking Down Gender Roles at Work and at Home

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The gender revolution is underway, and millennial women (born between 1977 and 1995) are at the forefront. But this revolution won't be fought using old-school feminist tactics like women's encounter groups, protest marches, or bra-burnings (which are the stuff of urban myth and actually never happened.) Change will occur -- and women will experience greater gender equality at work and at home -- because of personal expectations.

What makes millennial women different from every other generation preceding them is the expectation that this will happen. It's not a hopeful optimism but a solid 'that's the way it will be' mindset.

Writing for BlogHer, Marya Stark explains this emerging millennial view:

Millennial women live in a world where they believe they are equal, for the most part believe they are treated as equal, and importantly, they don’t believe being angry about the past gets you anywhere.
According to Stark, few identify themselves as feminists because they don't see the need for feminism. Instead of viewing gender barriers as the outgrowth of a male-dominated society, they view them as personal obstacles to overcome.

Millennial women also don't buy into the idea of gender determining male/female roles in society. In the 2008 book Millennial Makeover by Morley Winograd and Michael D. Hais, the authors note that over two-thirds of millennial women oppose the idea of women returning to traditional roles.

As the first generation to have fathers actively involved in their upbringing, millennial women expect their partners to participate in family life as much as or more than their own fathers. For women who no longer regard child-rearing as a gender-specific task, the concept of work-life balance becomes an achievable and commonplace goal.

A January 2010 study by the global management company Accenture found that of the 1,000 millenial women surveyed, 94% believed they could have both a rewarding professional career and a fulfilling personal life. Nearly half -- 46% -- felt this work-life balance already existed in their lives. The importance of balance to millennial women cannot be overestimated, as they see this as a key measure of success not only in their own lives but in the lives of others. As the Accenture study indicates:

[W]hen asked to list typical qualities of a successful female business leader, seven in 10 (70 percent) [of respondents] cited “maintains work/life balance.”
"Balance" was deemed more important than other qualities such as “is flexible” (66%) and “is able to make an impact” (64%).

Skeptics might charge that the expectations of millennial women are no different from those of the third-wave feminist of the 1970s, or the "superwomen" who came of age in the 1980s, believing they could have it all. Yet the fact that women already comprise half of the U.S. workforce -- and that millennials will soon dominate as its 80 million members enter the workplace -- suggest that millennials not only have the sheer numbers to effect cultural and gender change but also the mindset to expect and accept nothing less.

Sources:
"Accenture: Millennial women overwhelmingly positive about career prospects." Consultant-news.com. 19 January 2010.
Bylenga, Barbara and Marya Stark. "Have Millennial Women Moved Beyond Feminism?" Blogher.com. 22 October 2008.
Gevirtz, Leslie."U.S. 'Millennial' women believe they can have it all." UK. Reuiters.com. 18 January 2010.
Kakutani, Michiko. "Why Are These Democrats Smiling? It’s Cyclical." NYTimes.com. 22 April 2008.

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