This midterm election cycle Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was elected the youngest woman ever to the U.S. House of Representatives. In comparison, since 1950 there have been 27 men who were 30 or younger when elected. Before even taking her oath of office there have been reports of Ocasio-Cortez being confused for an intern or spouse, as well as articles and commentary critical of her dress and appearance, an experience foreign to her male counterparts. Where Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is experiencing this in the halls of the nation’s capital this is not an unusual experience for many young female leaders. Whether it is being confused for the assistant in a meeting, receiving unsolicited fatherly advice from an older co-worker, or being discredited as too young or inexperienced, young women in leadership positions face unique challenges that are arguably not faced by our male counterparts to the same degree.
As more and more women enter leadership roles, specifically more Millennial women, the pressure to address youth and gender bias in how people are viewed in the workplace will increase.
For a little over a year, I have been in a leadership role at my organization. When I started I was 30 years old, I manage individuals who have been in the workforce longer than me, and among my cross-state team, I am the youngest in this position. Here are some tips based on my experience, and the experience of some other Millennial women leaders that I am proud to associate with, on how we can make sure we uplift our young female leaders.
Encourage Them To Step Up
Build an environment where the young women leaders in your organization are encouraged to take on new risks, challenges and opportunities, and make sure you recognize them when they do. Encourage young women to be brave, to raise their hand and step up, the least we can do is reward that bravery.
Share Your Experience
The challenges faced by today’s young women leaders are not new. It is important that women at all levels and ages of leadership are sharing their challenges and experiences. We are not in this alone and the more we know that the more confident we can become.
Lift Each Other Up
Many women are familiar with the practice of repeating and reaffirming other women’s points in a meeting, specifically when women are outnumbered at the table. This exercise can be especially important for young women leaders who are new to leadership roles. Making sure that these women are heard and addressed with respect can go a long way in lifting women leaders to the next level.
While we all like to think we do not have a bias, we do. One of the best ways you can help improve the workplace environment for young women leaders in your organization is to check yourself. This goes for both women and men. Are you talking to a younger woman leader in your organization like you would your daughter, are you addressing male leaders more often, are you saying ‘but, they are young’ when referring to a woman leader in your organization? Check yourself. Millennial women leaders might be younger, but we are also competent and strong, our youth should not be a defining characteristic.
The future of women in leadership roles is bright, and the more we uplift our young women leaders the more we will see success and more women at the table.
About Cidne Christensen
Cidne Christensen is the Director of Community Development for American Cancer Society at the Utah Branch. She has been with the American Cancer Society for 8 years and has a degree in Marketing and Economics from Southern Utah University. Originally she is from New Mexico, but she grew up in Clinton, Utah until she turned 18. When she isn’t helping patients, caregivers, and communities in the fight against cancer, Cidne is an avid traveler and an enthusiastic Real Salt Lake Supporter. She studied abroad in Salzburg, Austria, Galway, Ireland and did an internship in Washington D.C. She also loves cheering on the Real Salt Lake and even follows the team on away games.
Join us at the upcoming Business Women’s Forum Luncheon
Connecting Through Art – A Celebration of Diversity With Dance
January 15, 2019
Movement is universal. Everyone is a dancer. You might boogie in your car, in the shower, while you make breakfast or when you hear your favorite song on the radio…everyone dances. Dance is a thing that connects us and has no language barriers. It is a way to understand our common humanity. In this session you will learn how dance connects us across cultures and how you can incorporate dance into your everyday life. In addition to seeing some beautiful performers, you’ll also get a chance to move! Don’t be scared… everyone is a dancer!