Though many more women are taking leadership positions on Wall Street and Congress, and an increasing number of women are starting their own businesses, many Generation Y women do not want to take on the traditional idea of leadership.
Generation Y workers seem much more fixated with trying to make the world a better place than previous generations. Increasingly, students fresh out of college and MBA graduates want to work for socially responsible companies. A survey released last September by New Impact, a San Francisco, Calif.- based international nonprofit focused on corporate social responsibility, surveyed 2,113 MBA students, with about 80 percent saying that they would seek socially responsible employment at some point in their careers, and 59 percent adding that they would do so immediately upon graduating.
Up until recently, people who wanted to help save the environment were stereotyped as “hippie tree huggers” and largely written off. So recently that Megan DiScullo a 2006 Georgetown graduate with a bachelor’s in international business and marketing heard those stereotypes back when she was in college just a few years ago. But no longer.
“Investment banking used to be really big,” DiScullo said, “but now this is the next big thing.”
A business can be defined as socially responsible when it has ethical and environmentally beneficial business practices. This concept resonates with newcomers to the workforce, so much so that it actually even drew DiScullo away from another company and toward her current place of employment, Edelman, a New York-based communications firm, specifically because of its CSR program.
“I wanted to work for a company that not only talks the talk, but walks the walk. We actually work on these programs ourselves,” DiScullo said.
As an account executive at Edelman, DiScullo is not only able to work as a part of the CSR program and with other non-government organizations and private companies but she is also able to work with other companies’ CSR programs herself, offering suggestions and helping them create plans to implement in their own offices.
This idea of social responsibility is even starting to trickle down to young girls. A study conducted by the Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. of 2,475 girls and 1,514 boys ages 8 to 17 found that many girls are not interested in the traditional concept of leadership — that of a power-wielding dictator. Instead, many of these girls are more interested in giving back to society.
The national survey found that 30 percent of girls want to be leaders, with that leadership desire higher among African-American, Hispanic and Asian-American girls at 53 percent, 50 percent and 59 percent respectively. Only 34 percent of Caucasian girls want to be leaders, with the majority of them citing their hesitation about being seen as bossy and their fear of public speaking.
Within the Girl Scout study, qualitative research showed that a mother’s own ambitions, outlook and leadership have a close connection with her daughter’s leadership aspirations. Generally speaking, the study shows that mothers want their daughters to have a positive impact on those around them and that through sharing instructive stories about their lives, mothers are able to offer their daughters a chance to learn from their experiences.
The study concludes that girls can be encouraged to become leaders through fostering self-confidence and providing a supportive environment to do so. Emotional safety is also key, giving these girls a safe place to test out their newly acquired leadership skills.