Single Millennial Women Feel Pressure to Downplay Ambition
I am surprised by the findings of a recent study showing that single millennial women who are MBA candidates in an elite program feel they must downplay their professional ambitions when in public in order to attract a marriageable male mate. I realize I should not be surprised, given the support for traditional heterosexual relationships reported by voters for Donald Trump in the recent presidential election. Joan C. Williams, writing for the Harvard Business Review, describes the strong feelings about traditional gender roles that still exist in large segments of our society. She explains, “Trump promises a world free of political correctness and a return to an earlier era, when men were men and women knew their place.” With these attitudes still deeply embedded in our society, it is no wonder that many young women feel they have to minimize their goals in public settings.
An article by Valentina Zarya in Fortune reports findings from a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research. These findings show significantly different responses for single millennial women when compared to the responses of female peers in long-term relationships and to both single and partnered male peers. When they believe men are watching, single women:
- Are noticeably less assertive and speak up less in meetings
- Minimize their goals and lower their desired annual salary expectations from $131,000 to $113,000
- Lower their willingness to travel from fourteen to seven days per month
- Lower their ambition for leadership roles in the future
While the study only analyzed and reported data based on gender and relationship status, it seems likely that there are racial differences for single women that are not reflected in this report.
Yes, we have come a long way, but it seems we still have a long way to go. Society still teaches that it is not acceptable to be ambitious and assertive as a woman. While I’m sure that many women will say they are not impacted by these traditional attitudes, many women are still getting the message that they must tamp down their ambitions if they want to be acceptable to men.
What role models and societal influences have shaped you?