BPW Foundation's Women Misbehavin' Blog

Well behaved women never make history

From Gen Y Women to Employers: What You Need to Know about Our Work Values

Posted by knbarrett on November 22, 2011

Last week, Business and Professional Women’s Foundation released a new report – From Gen Y Women to Employers: What They Want in the Workplace and Why it Matters for Business. The results from a national survey of Gen Y (born 1978-1994) women challenged popular perceptions of Gen Y women in the workplace. Over the next two weeks, we’ll explore some of the key misconceptions across four thematic areas: work values, work-life balance, gender in the workplace and intergenerational workplace dynamics.

By Kara Nichols Barrett, lead project researcher

Today’s topic is work values. Over 660 Gen Y told us about:

  • how they view work;
  • their most important career values;
  • their “must have” benefits;
  • what motivates them to produce results at work; and
  • what enables them to do their best at work.

Here are the top four messages for employers about Gen Y women’s work values.  

  1. Same Same but Different. Yes, we belong to the same age group. We were influenced by the same historical events such as September 11th, the dot-com bubble, the Columbine High School shooting, and the controversial 2000 elections. Sharing a particular historical period, however, does not translate into shared work values. Literature on Gen Y often suggests that our values are uniform. But, it’s not true. We are more than our age group. Who we are and what we value is also shaped by gender, race, education, and our occupations. Our most important values range from achievement to creativity to altruism to compensation. You’ll be hard pressed to determine a core set of career values for us. If you’re hoping to make an employee/employer values match, it’s best to start by articulating your organizations values and then look for Gen Y women who share those values.
  2. Work ain’t about the cha-ching, cha-ching. We hold work in high regard. Most of us believe that work can be enjoyable and meaningful. Few of us perceive work as drudgery or believe that work is simply about picking up a paycheck. That doesn’t mean that money isn’t important to us, though. In fact, increased pay is one of our top motivating factors for producing results. If you’re looking for strategies to motivate us, here’s our top five: give us a new challenge, increase our pay, increase our responsibility, say “thank you” when we do good work, and consider promoting us.
  3. Please meet our basic needs. We know there are lots of different ideas about our “must have” benefits. Some authors suggest that you should focus on non-traditional benefits to attract us such as: game rooms, exercise rooms and free movie tickets. That may be attractive to some, but it’s important to remember that we’re real people with real needs. We want our basic needs met: health insurance, paid leave and retirement.
  4. You can create an enabling environment for us to succeed. We may have different career values and motivations, but there are five factors that enable us to do our best at work:
  • Having a clear understanding of goals and expectations
  • Having open communication channels with co-workers and supervisors
  • Receiving encouragement from co-workers and supervisor
  • Having our voice heard
  • Having a clear understanding of roles and responsibilities

If you’re serious about creating an enabling environment, you’ll have to explore how gender and age impedes our ability to do our best at work. It’s hard to feel like your voice is heard when you’re referred to as a “girl” or “kid” at work. Be sure to check out chapters three and four of the BPW Foundation report.

This research, funded from the Virginia Allan Young Careerist Grant, is part of BPW Foundation’s ongoing “Young Careerist” research project that since 2005 has been exploring the career opportunities and challenges facing today’s young working women.  The research gives voice to a distinct group of working women who are vital to developing a diverse and skilled workforce.  Research has been conducted using social media, focus groups and this national survey. To find all of the research and this report, visit our Young Careerist website.

3 Responses to “From Gen Y Women to Employers: What You Need to Know about Our Work Values”

  1. […] Over the next few weeks, we’ll explore some of the key misconceptions across four thematic areas: work values, work-life balance, gender in the workplace and inter-generational workplace […]

  2. […] Gen Y women in the workplace. Over the last two weeks, we’ve examined key misconceptions about  work values and work-life […]

  3. […] Y women in the workplace. Over the last few weeks, we’ve examined key misconceptions related to work values, work-life balance and gender in the […]

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