Robin J. Ely, Pamela Stone, and Colleen Ammerman. Harvard Business Review, December 2014.

The Millennials Are Rising—Is Change on the Way? It is tempting to think that people launching their careers today will change the game. After all, it was only a few generations ago that women were barred from higher education and many professions. Won’t gender parity develop with the passage of time? Unfortunately, we don’t think it’s quite that simple, given what we heard from Millennial MBAs. What these men and women expect at this early stage in their careers and lives looks as incompatible—and unrealistic—as it was for earlier generations. It’s not that things have stayed the same. Among HBS graduates, Millennial men are somewhat less likely than older men to expect their careers to take precedence. They’re also less likely to expect that their partners will do the majority of child care: A third anticipate Rethink What You “Know” About High-Achieving Women Do Millennials, Too, Expect “Traditional” Partnerships? Half of Millennial men expect their careers to take precedence over their partners’. Only a quarter of Millennial women expect their partners’ careers to take precedence. doing an equal share, as compared with 22% of Gen X men and 16% of Baby Boom men. (This generation looks different in other ways, as well: When we asked Millennials to define success today, they cited job titles, being in the C-suite, and similar status concerns less often than did older generations.) Nevertheless, like their predecessors, the youngest men have expectations more traditional than those of their female peers. Whereas three-quarters of Millennial women anticipate that their careers will be at least as important as their partners’, half the men in their generation expect that their own careers will take priority. And whereas two-thirds of Millennial men expect that their partners will handle the majority of child care, just under half—42%—of Millennial women expect that they themselves will do so. We can’t help noting that 42% is still a sizable proportion, and these young women may find— as Gen X and Baby Boom women apparently did—that shouldering most of the child rearing hinders equal career importance. Only 10% of the Millennial graduates have children, and they are still early in their careers, so we do not yet know how these mismatched expectations will ultimately play out. But if previous generations are any indication, change won’t occur soon.

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