Every generation of women that has come before mine – the Millennials – has laid another stone in the path towards women truly being able to have it all. From fighting for the right to vote, to smashing through glass ceilings, Millennial women are in the position that we are in only because of the brilliant and fearless women who have come before us. Each generation has wanted a little more, whether that was to have an equal voice in state and national politics, access to birth control, or equal pay for equal work, women have gone after what they have wanted, and earned it. My generation is no different. We want it all. And we believe that we can have it all, because of the work of our predecessors.
It’s important to clarify that we “want” it all, is quite a stretch from believing “we’re entitled to it all.” Yet there is no shortage of people – with loud voices – who have affixed us with that label. In fact, research from global firm EY found that we are “perceived as entitled, and score significantly lower as hard-working team players.” To put it in equally unflattering terms we are seen as “self-centered, needy, and entitled with unrealistic work expectations,” according to Dan Schawbel, the author of Me 2.0 and founder of the Gen-Y research and consulting firm, Millennial Branding.
As a Millennial, I beg to differ. Yes, we do want it all, and thanks to the legwork laid by previous generations, we believe that we can have it all. We can be the “Everything Woman.” But we’re also aware of just how hard we’re going to have to work to accomplish this goal.
I didn’t come to this stance out of the blue. It’s firmly rooted in experience. In fact, years ago, when I was still in high school, I read a New York Times article titled something to the effect of: “For Girls, Be Yourself, and Be Perfect, Too.” The article was about highly ambitious young women who seemed to have it all. They got straight A’s effortlessly (or so it seemed). They looked impeccably put together every day. They were getting into great colleges, and clearly aiming for the stars, and hitting their mark. “How did they do it?” I began to wonder. Yet, it spurred a belief in myself – that I, too, could have it all. I could be a career-driven woman and also have a family, and also look my best. All. Of. The. Time.
You see, Millennials were raised to believe that the world is our oyster. We were taught that we could do anything we set our minds to. Don’t want to climb a corporate ladder? We were told to launch companies from our basements. Don’t want to go to a traditional college? Earn your Bachelor’s Degree on line. We had no option but to be innovative, considering the abysmal economic state our nation was in when most of us were graduating from college.
Through this encouragement, whether passed onto us as the result of the obstacles our parents faced and overcame – or simply a byproduct of positive, encouraging, parenting – we were raised with a very high level of confidence in ourselves and in our capabilities. I assume it is this characteristic that has today earned us the label of entitled. (For the record, that label is more than a little sweeping in its generality, and more than a little patronizing considering the innovations brought to life by this generation, but I’m getting ahead of myself…)
So what does the “Everything Woman” look like to Millennials like me? She is well-spoken, yet relatable to and loved by all. She is brilliant, leading billion dollar companies à la Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Mayer. She is attractive, but effortlessly so. She is the perfect girlfriend and wife – if she wants to be –despite working 70+ hours a week. She loves adventure and travels the world – but comes home to a perfectly kept home – the home that she likely decorated and bought herself. She refrains from wearing frumpy business suits. No, she looks like a Kate Spade model at the office –pumps, feminine dresses, chunky statement necklaces, and a splash of bold lipstick. And she owns it. She’s a chef, and can whip up a crème brulee like it’s nobody’s business. She’s the kind of woman who buys herself a Cartier bracelet and Jimmy Choos just to treat herself. She’s the kind of woman that every man wants to be with – and every girl wants to be.
Why Do Millennials Want It All?
But what drives Millennial women to want to have it all? It’s enormous pressure obviously, and it is almost an impossible standard to live up to. All the same, the short answer is because we can. We were raised in the world of Sheryl Sandbergs, Sara Blakelys, Tory Burchs and Ivanka Trumps. We were raised in the world of women who are everything women. Our role models today are superwomen – but relatable enough for us to know that we, too, can be superwomen.
I graduated college in two years at age 19 with a 4.0 GPA and then went straight into graduate school for my MBA (which I completed in just one year). By no means does that make me a superwoman – but still, the most frequent question I am asked today is why did I want to graduate college early? College was supposed to be the best time of my life. What in the world would possess me to cut it in half? The answer is the same- because I could, and because the sooner I did, the sooner the world would be mine for the taking.
When it comes to having the marriage, the house, the children, we can have all of that, too. And we can have it –more or less-when we want. We’re fortunate to be free from archaic timelines women of other generations felt obliged to meet. Sure, we still have to abide by biology, but no one is going to call us a spinster if we’re not married with children by the ripe old age of 28.
Instead, for Millennial women, if we want them to be, our teen years can be used to excel in school and differentiate ourselves enough to get into an amazing college which will provide the springboard to post-graduate studies, or an incredible career. The rest of our twenties can be spent working night and day, to prove our worth, thereby achieving financial stability and a spectacular resume before turning the big 3-0. Now I’m not saying that my entire generation has done this or will do this, but rather that the opportunity is there if we want it. We can absolutely achieve financial security before we start our own families. We can have it all by the time we’re thirty.
You see, women of the Millennial generation have more opportunity than ever before to have it all. School can be completed on our schedules. We can choose how hard we want to work (either for someone else or as an entrepreneur). We have plenty of time to work, to raise a family, and to wrest everything we can out of life.
Of course, I know that the oldest Millennial today is still fairly young– and you may be wondering how we can really know if being an “Everything Woman” is even possible? Well, we don’t. But we will die trying. And that effort is pretty much the antithesis of entitlement, don’t you think?