HomeLearning CenterWe’re Teaching the Wrong Things About Leadership to Young Women

We’re Teaching the Wrong Things About Leadership to Young Women

Originally published by Jane Thier in Fortune

We’re putting too much pressure on aspiring Gen Z and millennial leaders.

That’s according to Kristen Soltis Anderson, founding partner of research institute Echelon Insights and author of The Selfie Vote: Where Millennials Are Leading America. Anderson spoke on a panel hosted by the Walton Family Foundation at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women: Next Gen conference in San Diego on Tuesday.

Alongside panelists Shannon-Janean Currie, vice president of Benenson Strategy Group, and Layla Zaidane, President and CEO of the Millennial Action Project, Anderson unpacked and redefined the common narrative women across industries face to do it all.

“The message we send to young women is that it’s great to be a leader, but leadership is hard,” Anderson said. “It’s a burden, and it requires a lot of work and support.” 

While some might suggest that there’s never been a better time to be a woman leader breaking glass ceilings, “we know women are facing incredible challenges,” Anderson added. 

According to research from Benenson Strategy Group and Echelon Insights, which Anderson and Currie presented, 81% of women feel that childcare and domestic responsibilities fall primarily to them. Naturally, that dampens their abilities to climb the corporate ladder. But they’re not too worried. Only one in six female respondents in the study said they think women are at a “great disadvantage” to men and will never rise to leadership roles. 

In any case, women across generations agreed that the biggest thing holding them back from career success is gender bias and discrimination

“The next generation of women in leadership need a stronger support system,” Currie said. “Gen Zers, much more so than millennials, Gen Xers, and boomers feel they don’t have community in their companies.” The research found that nearly a third of Gen Z women feel unsupported by their peers. These are bad signs; as Currie pointed out, the higher you rise in your career, the more female peers you lose—you’ll generally find fewer women at the top.  

Women can’t rely on the current systemic hierarchy to think in that inclusive and equal way, she said, so it’s up to women to proactively make women’s empowerment part of their mission. As women leaders, “we need to be conscious of trying to create that space,” she added. “It’s important, when you don’t have those peers at the table, that you create the seats for them and thus you’ll have peers.”

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