Millennial women want to have it all — an amazing career, a fulfilling family life (complete with cute kids), the opportunity to travel, to start their own business… What’s more, they know they have the abilities to do all of these things, and to do them well. But women are struggling with work/life balance, and as the oldest Millennial women reach their 30s, they’re finding it’s not that easy having it all. Their older peers — the women who have broken through the glass ceiling to earn high positions in business and government — are sharing stories of how their ambitions have affected their lives which has sparked a robust online debate about whether they really can balance their career desires with their personal goals.
What Millennial women have before them is not only a crisis of work-life balance; it’s a crisis of opportunity. All avenues are finally open to women. Not only can they have careers, they can have any job they want and can go as far in a company as their talents and ambitions will carry them. There’s never been a time like this for American women, when they weren’t held back by gender roles, stereotypes, or a lack of freedom or education. They’re kids in a candy store, eyes wide at all the amazing options and choices before them — so they’ll take one of everything, please.
But as the pioneer businesswomen who have gone before them are reporting, it’s not easy to balance work and family (not to mention personal needs). So why aren’t women choosing the one avenue that’s most important to them and focusing on that? Because that’s the one societal norm that hasn’t changed (yet) — a woman who chooses to focus on family over career feels like she’s letting down the feminist movement for not being ambitious enough, and a woman who chooses career over having a family feels criticized by society because she isn’t feminine enough. So Millennial women continue to feel that they have to do it all, and are scared (as one told the Washington Post) that it may not be possible because that means they have to make a choice.
It will be Millennial women who shape the next chapter in this story, with a few conflicting generational factors weighing on them. They are the most highly-educated group of women ever, but also members of a conservative, family-oriented generation. The work-life choices they make will be personal, but will shape the ongoing evolution of women overall.