Half Of Millennial Women Feel They Are Being Overlooked For Leadership Positions

Almost half of millennials want to leave their jobs in the next two years, and women feel like they have fewer opportunities.

Half Of Millennial Women Feel They Are Being Overlooked For Leadership Positions
[Photo: MarKord via Shutterstock]

Here is what we know: Millennials will make up 75% of the workforce by 2025, and they have different priorities than their predecessors. Motivated by a different set of values and ideas despite facing challenges such as student debt, the recession, and the resulting jobs crisis, Deloitte’s Millennial Survey revealed that for young adults, making the world a better, more sustainable, and compassionate place trumps a hefty paycheck.


This invariably affects their career at every stage, but especially as they move into more senior roles. The Deloitte survey found that overall, 44% of millennials say, if given the choice, they would like to leave their current employers in the next two years.

Both men and women surveyed agree that “opportunities for career progression and leadership roles” are a major factor for staying at or leaving a job. However, drilling down further, the Deloitte analysis revealed that women are slightly more likely to report that they’d leave their current employer. 67% of women said they would leave their employer in the next five years versus 64% of men.

Why? David Cruickshank, Deloitte global chairman, posits that it’s because 48% of female respondents say they are “being overlooked for potential leadership positions.”

More Millennial Men In Leadership Positions

“While consideration (or a lack of it) may be equal, the reality is that millennial men (21%) are significantly more likely than women (16%) to say they lead a department or are members of their organizations’ senior management teams,” Cruickshank writes.

This could be due to persistent gender bias, but Deloitte’s earlier report revealed that millennial men were more ambitious and confident in their leadership skills upon entering the workforce. They also reported being more likely to seek senior-level positions than women (seven-point gap) as well as aim for the top job in their organization (12-point gap).


The Flexibility Issue

Other research from Harvard Business School indicates that while there’s no gender gap when it comes to thinking that a promotion is within reach, women are more likely than men to view the path to power as less desirable, as well as paved with potentially negative outcomes.

Cruickshank points out that women in this survey reported being caught between feeling overlooked and the lack of leadership development and training that would allow them to move up, and the larger issues of balancing work and family.

It’s not surprising that the opportunity for flexibility influences women more. Women considered work-life balance when deciding whether to stay with an employer, even though the U.S. Department of Labor found that women of all backgrounds have increasingly become the primary breadwinners for their families.

Divided Values

These women are also placing greater emphasis on the ability to derive a sense of meaning from their work than men do. The Deloitte survey found further differences along gender lines, including that women also focused more on a company’s culture, whereas men indicated that they were more focused on products and performance.

Cruickshank notes that understanding the value divide between millennial men and women in the workforce is going to be crucial to employers who want to attract and retain talented individuals.


The recent McKinsey/Lean In study revealed a simple yet startling problem. While nearly three-quarters (74%) of companies assert that their CEO is making gender diversity a priority, the staff at these organizations aren’t getting the message. Less than half of workers believe that gender diversity is a top priority for their CEO, and only one-third view it as a top priority for their direct manager.

A Difference In Beliefs

It’s important to also note that while 70% of men think gender diversity is important, only 12% believe women have fewer opportunities, and 13% of men believe they are disadvantaged by diversity initiatives.

One solution, therefore, could be shifting into a more supportive approach. Senior leaders need to prove their commitment to gender diversity by participating in women’s events and publicly sponsoring high-potential female employees. They could also do more to give all employees the flexibility to find their own balance between work and life (taking into account that managers and staff have different ideas of what this means).

The McKinsey/Lean In researchers write:

Employees on diverse and inclusive teams put in more effort, stay longer, and demonstrate more commitment. Women and men of all ages benefit from the flexibility to be their best selves at work and at home. Building on this foundation, corporate America can eliminate the barriers women face and help all employees achieve their full potential.

Why Can’t We Fix The Gender Wage Gap?

About the author

Lydia Dishman is a reporter writing about the intersection of tech, leadership, and innovation. She is a regular contributor to Fast Company and has written for CBS Moneywatch, Fortune, The Guardian, Popular Science, and the New York Times, among others.