Study underscores need to address bias and other career obstacles to career advancement for millennial women

Although millennial women are seen as better job candidates and better prepared for their first jobs out of college, men are still viewed as better prepared for success in their careers overall, according to survey data released by Bentley University that asked respondents for their views about recent college graduates. The survey underscores the need to address out of date perceptions that remain despite positive views on women in the workplace, and other perception-based barriers that prevent millennial women from advancing within their organizations.

The results are part of the Bentley Preparedness Survey, conducted on the University's behalf by KRC Research, which surveyed more than 3,000 respondents on the "why, what and how" behind the millennial generation's challenges in the 21st century workforce. A key area covered in the survey is the perception of career preparedness and advancement of women in the workplace compared to men.

"There's no question that millennial women have what it takes to make it to the top of their organizations," said Betsy Myers, the founding director of the Center for Women and Business at Bentley. "But as these results show, we still have work to do to clear away the obstacles that deprive women of equal opportunities to advance their careers."

By a margin of 59% to 41%, respondents consider women to be better prepared than men for success in their first jobs. But respondents give the edge to men over their entire careers, 53% to 47%, reinforcing the idea that perceptions, not necessarily skills, still play a key role in whether women and men have equal opportunities in their professional lives. Other key survey findings include:

  • More than eight in 10 respondents (82%): including 76% of men: believe women are better suited for business success in terms of their communication and interpersonal skills. And 86% of respondents (including 76% of men) rate women higher in terms of their organizational skills.
  • However, 64% of respondents, including a majority of women, say men are better suited to business success in terms of their leadership abilities, which may help explain why respondents view men as better prepared for success over their entire careers.
  • The one area where respondents split along gender lines is decision-making skills: 62% of women say that women are better suited for success in terms of their decision-making skills, while 63% of men believe the same to be true of men.
  • Millennial women have great confidence in women's skills and abilities. A full 92% of millennial women believe that women's organizational skills are superior to men's. And 84% believe that women's communications and interpersonal skills are superior to men's: skills that the Bentley Preparedness Survey showed to be highly valued by business leaders.