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Rising Stars: Developing Millennial Women as Leaders
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Insights Magazine
Business Insights for Women
PNC INSIGHTS Magazine Spring/Summer 2014 Issue
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Author Elisabeth Kelan offers a scholarly look at the means of fostering young women in the workforce.

In Rising Stars, Elizabeth Kelan, an associate professor in the department of management at King's College, London, offers a scholarly look at the complex subject of women leaders in the workforce as it pertains to the Millennial generation, typically described as those born in 1982 and later.

Kelan's nuanced and thoroughly researched picture of Millennial women lets managers better understand their charges, and also gives Millennials a mirror by which to examine their own assumptions about work, career and leadership. Millennials, she writes, are "confident, authentic, anxious (particularly in the face of ambiguity), assertive, money-driven and lovers of leisure time and job security." Additionally, Millennial women tend to downplay gender differences (in contrast to feminists of previous generations), adopt "masculine" traits and accept an image of the ideal leader as male.

How does this help managers and organizations as they groom young women for leadership positions? Kelan offers these suggestions:

Keep It Real

Authenticity is a core value among Millennials, Kelan says. They're uncomfortable conforming to traditional workplace norms, and (thanks in no small part to social media) readily blur the line between public and private identities. Beyond creating an environment in which employees can be themselves, a skillful manager will also help young women craft "personal stories" that accurately reflect who they are as individuals and that also highlight traits valued in leaders. At the same time, organizations should offer bias-awareness training so that junior employees perceive a wide array of leaders as "authentic."

Be Nurturing

Millennials are well known for appreciating constant, immediate and constructive feedback, a preference that Kelan underscores. They respond best to managers who act as sounding boards for their ideas and advise them on what would be best for their career development. Kelan goes so far as to suggest that the ideal manager is something of a "nurturing parent" who helps her charges develop by teaching them, assigning them challenging projects, and offering feedback and advice.

Embrace Womanhood

Because Millennial women value individualism over gender identification, they are likely downplaying exactly those "feminine" skills that experts have found are increasingly important for leadership--specifically, listening to and empathizing with one's employees. Kelan suggests that mentors should steer young women away from adopting masculine leadership traits such as competitiveness and assertiveness, while focusing on the skills that make women so valuable to workplace balance.



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