Career 03 April 2017
Millennials, like baby boomers, are a group defined by their birth dates. A "millennial" refers to someone who was born after 1980. More specifically, millennials are those born between 1977 and 1995 or 1980 and 2000, depending on who is writing about this generation at the moment.
Also referred to as Generation Y, Generation Why, Generation Next, and Echo Boomers, this group has taken over the American workforce. As of 2016, nearly half of the country's employees fall between the ages of 20 and 44 years old. Estimated at 80 million, millennials outnumber baby boomers (73 million) and Generation X (49 million).
The label "Generation Why" refers to the questioning nature of millennials, taught not to take everything at face value but rather to understand why something is. Access to the internet has only fueled this desire. After all, this is the first generation to have grown up entirely with computers. Even many born in those disputed years of 1977 to 1981 had their first interactions with computers in elementary school. Technology has played a crucial role in their lives and it progressed quickly as they grew up. Not surprisingly, millennials are the unofficial tech experts.
Raised during "The Decade of the Child," millennials also benefitted from greater parental attention than in generations past. Typically, this included fathers who were more involved in their children's lives. Their childhoods have influenced their understanding of gender roles in the home and the workplace as well as their future expectations.
Meaningful and inclusive work
Already, millennials have expressed a desire to pursue work that is personally meaningful. They tend to resist corporate hierarchy and are accustomed to getting work done in a variety of environments, often shunning cubicle-confinement. Flexible scheduling is of great appeal to millennials who place a high value on work-life balance.
Many companies are following this trend by providing an employee-centered workplace that is flexible in both place and time. They are changing the traditional approach to management, and are known as multi-tasking team players who thrive on encouragement and feedback. Companies that can appeal to these attributes often see great gains in productivity.
Millennials may also be the generation that closes the gender wage gap by the time they retire. Although women typically earn 80 cents for every dollar a man makes, among the millennials that gap is closing tighter.
Every year since 1979, the U.S. Department of Labor has issued a report on the annual average of women's earnings compared to that of men. In 1979, women earned just 62.3 percent of what men did and by 2015, that reached 81.1 percent.
In that same 2015 report, women in the millennial generation were earning as much, if not more, on average each week than older women, revealing a significant increase in skilled labor jobs that have opened up for women in the workforce. It also tells us that millennial women are competing more and more with their male counterparts in a technologically-driven society.
Last year, millennials edged out Generation X (35 to 50 years old in 2015) as the largest share of the labor force, according to the Pew Research Center. Furthermore, they have also passed baby boomers. With its disproportionately large share of immigrants, and at an age of transition from college to the working world, the millennial generation's workforce is highly likely to grow even further in the near future.
First, immigration to the U.S. will continue to disproportionately enlarge the ranks of the millennial labor force. Immigrants coming to the U.S. are typically in their young working years. Relatively speaking, few immigrants come to the U.S. during childhood or during older adulthood. In the past five years, over half of newly arrived immigrant workers have been millennials.
Furthermore, a significant chunk of the millennial population are 18 to 24-year olds. These are the years when school and college-going are often front-and-center, and not surprisingly, labor force participation is suppressed. As the youngest millennials get older, more of them will be searching for jobs. The millennial generation as a whole, not just the workforce, overtook the baby boomers, in 2016, as the nation's largest living group, according to the US Census Bureau.
Millennials by the numbers
The average millennial stays at her job for 4.4 years, according to the Bureau of Labor & Statistics
Ninety-one percent of millennials expect to stay in a job for less than three years, according to the Future Workplace “Multiple Generations @Work" survey of 1,189 employees and 150 managers: translating to 15 to 20 jobs over the course of their working lives
A survey by Net Impact found that 88 percent of workers considered “positive culture" important to their dream job, job-hopping helps workers to learn new skills and roles: workers today know that they could be laid off at any time-after all, they saw it happen to their parents, so they essentially consider themselves “free agents."
Millennials embrace diversity as beneficial to an organization
Greater diversity: according to a study by Fierce, Inc., over 40 percent of survey respondents believe that their organization would benefit from greater diversity
Discrimination in the workplace: 18% say they've seen others discriminated against, 20% say they've seen others discriminated against for political reasons, and 21% say they've seen others discriminated against based on their gender
Gender views: between men and women, nearly twice as many women than men noted they felt they have been discriminated against based on their gender (21% vs 12% respectively)
Workplace safety: one in five millennials surveyed have felt unsafe at work, but for women that increased to more than a quarter
Workplace transparency and inclusivity: millennials, overwhelmingly, are in favor of being educated and involved in all workplace practices, a disengaged millennial will often lead to employment departure costing the company valuable resources
I walk into a room full of men and I know exactly what they're thinking: "What does she know about whisky?"
I know this because many men have asked me that same question from the moment I started my career in spirits a decade ago.
In a male-dominated industry, I realized early on that I would always have to work harder than my male counterparts to prove my credibility, ability and knowledge in order to earn the trust of leadership stakeholders, coworkers, vendors and even consumers of our products. I am no stranger to hard work and appreciate that everyone needs to prove their worth when starting any career or role. What struck me however, was how the recognition and opportunities seemed to differ between genders. Women usually had to prove themselves before they were accepted and promoted ("do the work first and earn it"), whereas men often were more easily accepted and promoted on future potential. It seemed like their credibility was automatically and immediately assumed. Regardless of the challenges and adversity I faced, my focus was on proving my worth within the industry, and I know many other women were doing the same.
Thankfully, the industry has advanced in the last few years since those first uncomfortable meetings. The rooms I walk into are no longer filled with just men, and perceptions are starting to change significantly. There are more women than ever before making, educating, selling, marketing and conceptualizing whiskies and spirits of all kinds. Times are changing for the better and it's benefitting the industry overall, which is exciting to see.
For me, starting a career in the spirits business was a happy accident. Before spirits, I had worked in the hospitality industry and on the creative agency side. That background just happened to be what a spirits company was looking for at the time and thus began my journey in the industry. I was lucky that my gender did not play a deciding role in the hiring process, as I know that might not have been the case for everyone at that time.
Now, ten plus years later, I am fortunate to work for and lead one of the most renowned and prestigious Whisky brands in the world.. What was once an accident now feels like my destiny. The talent and skill that goes into the whisky-making process is what inspired me to come back and live and breathe those brands as if they were my own. It gave me a deep understanding and appreciation of an industry that although quite large, still has an incredible amount of handmade qualities and a specific and meticulous craft I have not seen in any other industry before. Of course, my journey has not been without challenges, but those obstacles have only continued to light my passion for the industry.
The good news is, we're on the right track. When you look at how many females hold roles in the spirits industry today compared to what it looked like 15 years ago, there has been a significant increase in both the number of women working and the types of roles women are hired for. From whisky makers and distillers to brand ambassadors and brand marketers, we're seeing more women in positions of influence and more spirits companies willing to stand up and provide a platform for women to make an impact. Many would likely be surprised to learn that one of our team's Whisky Makers is a woman. They might even be more surprised to learn that women, with a heightened sense of smell compared to our male counterparts, might actually be a better fit for the role! We're nowhere near equality, but the numbers are certainly improving.
It was recently reported by the Distilled Spirits Council that women today represent a large percentage of whisky drinkers and that has helped drive U.S. sales of distilled spirits to a record high in 2017. Today, women represent about 37% of the whisky drinkers in the United States, which is a large increase compared to the 1990s when a mere 15% of whisky drinkers were women. As for what's causing this change? I believe it's a mix of the acceptance of women to hold roles within the spirits industry partnered with thoughtful programs and initiatives to engage with female consumers.
While whisky was previously known for being a man's drink, reserved for after-dinner cigars behind closed doors, it is now out in the open and accessible for women to learn about and enjoy too.
What was once subculture is now becoming the norm and women are really breaking through and grabbing coveted roles in the spirits business. That said, it's up to the industry as a whole to continue to push it forward. When you work for a company that values diversity, you're afforded the opportunity to be who you are and let that benefit your business. Working under the model that the best brand initiatives come from passionate groups of people with diverse backgrounds, we are able to offer different points of view and challenge our full team to bring their best work forward, which in turn creates better experiences for our audience. We must continue to diversify the industry and break against the status quo if we really want to continue evolving.
While we've made great strides as an industry, there is still a lot of work to be done. To make a change and finally achieve gender equality in the workplace, both men and women need to stand behind the cause as we are better collectively as a balanced industry. We have proved that we have the ability to not only meet the bar, but to also raise it - now we just need everyone else to catch up.