Millennials (roughly, those born between 1980 to 2000) are now the largest generation in the United States, representing over a quarter of our nation’s population. Companies across America are facing the vast set of challenges that come with millennial talent entering and restructuring the labor force. Female millennials alone are estimated to compose greater than 25% of the workforce worldwide by 2020,and are leading change in terms of their triple bottom line way of thinking which includes: people, planet, and profits.
In 2013, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) led the most comprehensive global generational study on the attitude of female millennials employees ever conducted. PwC’s cross-generational report, entitled “NextGen,” summarized the views of over 40,000 millennials in order to better understand changes in attitudes and thinking among female millennial employees. PwC’s study points out the growing importance of attracting and retaining female millennial talent in the American workforce among our nation’s CEOs, stating that the current lack of women in leadership can create a competitive disadvantage for these organizations. CEOs have made significant strides toward increasing talent diversity over the last few years, as demonstrated by the fact that 64% of them now have a diversity strategy (compared to 11% four years prior). The report states, “CEOs have finally woken up to the fact that they have immense talent pools under their noses, which they have failed to fully leverage for too long, with [millennial]women forming the most significant talent pool.”
How the Female Millennial Differs From Older Generations
The female millennial is more professionally confident and ambitious than the generations that have gone before her, including the post-World War II Baby Boomers and the generation after them, Generation X. In addition, millennials are getting married and having children later. A 2010 report by the Pew Research Center titled “The New Demography of American Motherhood” shows that today’s mother is not only older but also much more highly educated than her mother’s generation. Today, babies born to mothers who are older than age thirty-five for the first time outnumber the number of teen moms in America. One-third of first-time moms now have kids over age thirty, with the number of women who rear children between the ages of thirty-five and thirty-nine having increased by around 50% in the last twenty years, and by over 80% for women aged forty to forty-four.
By and large, millennials have shifted their life focus from getting married and having children, to getting a degree and having a successful career (women hold almost 60% of master’s degrees and undergraduate degrees). As a result, many millennial women are putting their careers before motherhood.
More and more women are choosing to put off having children for another reason: they are choosing to pursue their passions. Millennials seek careers that allow them to have purpose and observe having a larger, positive impact on society. Many of our ideal careers simply don’t pay enough to support a family and take time away from these other passions.
A Lack of Women Leaders in the Mortgage Industry
While women compose around 50 percent of the American workforce, the United States Department of Labor has found that less than 15 percent of our nation’s CEOs are women. This number is even bleaker at Fortune 500 companies, where women make up less than four percent of CEOs. In traditionally male-dominated industries such as mortgage, the absence of high-ranking women figures is highly prevalent though seldom talked about. Catalyst, a research organization that aims to expand and improve opportunities for women in business, has found that less than 22 percent of directors in the insurance and finance industries are female. The mortgage industry lacks representation by women not only in the boardroom, but in management and senior leadership positions across the board.
This is a problem because women bring an integral aspect to leadership needed across organizations. In a study performed by the Harvard Business Review, in which 7,200 leaders (from senior management to entry level) were studied. The researchers found that “at every level, more women were rated as better overall leaders than their male counterparts.” Unsurprisingly, they found that women outperformed males in traditionally “nurturing” areas such as empathy, conflict management, team building, and ability to influence. However, women were also found to outperform their male counterparts in two strengths that are stereotypically male including taking initiative and driving results. Other studies have found similar results, including the 2016 Peterson Institute for International Economics, in which they found that higher representation of women in leadership positions leads to higher profitability and higher productivity.
Tips for Successfully Attracting, Retaining and Developing Female Millennials
As more and more millennial women rise up the ranks in the traditionally male-dominated mortgage industry, we will see a huge shift not only in the number of women in leadership roles, but in mortgage industry culture as well. In order to remain competitive in the marketplace, mortgage companies should begin to shift their recruitment and retention strategies to be women-focused. To drive retention and recruitment of top female leaders in our field, we will need to align our business strategies with millennial women. The following are a list of action items every mortgage company should follow if they want to remain competitive in today’s ever-changing market:
- Offer Employees Some Fun Perks: While the mortgage industry isn’t (and doesn’t need to be) Silicon Valley with beer pong in the office, small perks such as a $50 monthly fitness stipend, low-cost commuter benefits, weekly happy hours, or free food and drinks will go a long way with millennials.
- Give Flex Time: Work-life balance is key for retaining millennials (and employees at large). Offer your workers the opportunity to work remotely, even if it’s just one day a week every two months. Consider offering employees who have been with your firm for a number of years an opportunity to work in another city temporarily, if possible, or an option to take a couple of weeks of sabbatical. Experience has proven that these employees will return to work happier and more productive than ever.
- Communicate Your Brand’s Greater Purpose: Millennials want to work for companies that make a positive impact on the world and their communities. Offer your millennials a way to get involved outside of their day-to-day responsibilities at the office, such as offering a paid volunteer day one day a year. Remember, though, that millennials value authenticity: they will not be impressed by a corporate social responsibility campaign that states you’re helping your communities when they do not see business practices which support this day-in and day-out. Weave positive social impact into your everyday business practices.
- Offer Top-Notch Training Programs and Mentorship: Make sure you are offering female-led training and mentorship by women in key leadership positions within your organization. If you don’t have an internal women’s initiative focused on bringing together women leaders from throughout your organization and providing them with networking opportunities and sense of community, this is highly recommended.
- Praise, Praise, Praise: One of the biggest mistakes made by employers is forgetting to tell their employees how much they appreciate and value their workers. Women tend to take lack of praise even harder than men, and require consistent, positive reinforcement. Ask each of your employees to write one positive email every day when they get to work praising or thanking someone in their social support network. Elect a female (and male) “Worker of The Week.”
- Create a Positive Work Environment: Encourage random acts of kindness in your office such as buying a top-notch employee flowers on a random occasion, or offering to mentor a younger coworker you don’t know well over coffee/lunch one day a month. Further, support your employees in living a healthy lifestyle by encouraging and supporting them in taking the time they need to work out and eat well. Whether it’s taking ten minutes every day to meditate together, or holding an office yoga session or a running club one day a week, when your employees are happier their performance improves dramatically.
Given what we know about the expected growth of the female millennial women talent pool, it is of little surprise that this group is poised to shatter the glass ceiling of their parent’s generation; women are increasingly better educated than their male counterparts, and are climbing the corporate ladder at a much faster pace.
As PwC’s “NextGen” study points out, “To be successful and capitalize on the stellar traits of the female millennial, employers must commit to an inclusive culture, talent processes, policies, and programs that lean into the confidence and ambition of the female millennial. Forming talent strategies tailored for this talent segment will be a vital step to achieving the long-term aims and ambitions of an individual organization.”
To learn more insights on how to position your brand with Millennials, contact Kristin Messerli at firstname.lastname@example.org.
 According to Catalyst, a research organization that aims to expand business opportunities for women. http://www.catalyst.org/knowledge/statistical-overview-women-workforce