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Gen Y women experience workplace discrimination too

Thursday, December 1, 2011  
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Most Gen Y women in the United States believe gender discrimination is still a problem in the workplace, according to a recent study by the Business and Professional Women’s Foundation.

Seventy-seven percent of the 662 Gen Y women surveyed for "Gen Y Women in the Workplace” identified gender discrimination as a moderate or severe problem in today’s workplace. Only 3 percent indicated that gender discrimination is not a problem. (Generation Y, also called the Millennial Generation, is comprised of individuals born between 1977 and 1998.)

What’s more, nearly half of Gen Y women have observed or experienced gender discrimination in the workplace, the survey said. Women who had observed or experienced gender discrimination were more likely to report gender as a severe problem (37 percent) compared with women who had not (8 percent).

For Gen Y women who had either experienced or observed gender discrimination, the most prevalent forms reported included stereotyping (63 percent), unequal compensation (60 percent), not being treated as an equal (58 percent), inequality of opportunities (52 percent) and being held to a different standard (51 percent). These women also reported experienced or observed sexist jokes and derogatory statements about women (38 percent) and sexual harassment (31 percent.)

The study also found gender and age may have a compounding effect. Gen Y women who had experienced gender discrimination were more likely to report generational conflict or discrimination than those who had not, according to the report.

More than half of Gen Y women who observed or experienced gender discrimination also reported generational discrimination. Types of generational or age discrimination reported include being perceived as incompetent or inexperienced because of age, name calling such as "kid” and girl,” being passed over for promotions because of age and being held to different standards because of age.

Work/life balance

The BPW Foundation survey results also corroborated previous studies that found family is the most important aspect of life to Gen Y. Indeed, the study found work/life balance is equally important to Gen Y women regardless of whether or not they have children.

"It is an issue of importance and concern across various categories of women,” the study concluded. "Because work/life balance policies and programs often preference workers with children, formal or informal rules may preclude Gen Y women without children from work/life balance programs.”

Discussions of work/life balance often ignore the fact that family is important for women without children, the study found. Family is often defined narrowly as relating to one’s nuclear family. Survey results indicate that Gen Y women have a broader understanding of family. Almost three-quarters of Gen Y women report that family is "very important,” and 69 percent of women without children report it as "very important.”

"Women hold various positions within families -- granddaughter, daughter, sister, aunt, mother, spouse and partner,” the report noted. "Family responsibilities extend beyond parent-child relationships.”

Also, women have responsibilities and interests outside of work and home, an issue also missing from the work/life balance conversation. "The work-life balance literature often treats workers as having two spheres of life -- work and home,” according to the report.

However, Gen Y women report more than two aspects of life as important. In addition to work and family, Gen Y women report these aspects of life are also important: hobbies (55 percent), friends (44 percent), exercise (43 percent) and volunteering (36 percent).

Download full report

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