How Teen Girls and Young Women Can Leverage Gender Trends in the Workplace

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by Katharine Hansen, Ph.D.

Our article, Women Are the New Men: Reviewing and Leveraging Women’s Bold New World of Work listed five trends that are reshaping opportunities for women in the workplace. This companion article suggests ways that teen girls and young women can get an early start on making the most of these trends:

Commit yourself to higher education. A college degree is the single most powerful tool young women can deploy to ensure a leg up in the world of work. With women enjoying a 60 percent to 40 percent majority over men in earning bachelor’s degrees, women’s career fortunes have reached a real turning point. As reported in Women Are the New Men, young women in major metropolitan areas are already out-earning men, and women’s educational advantage is said to be the reason.

Consider science, technology, and engineering. Sue Shellenberger reported in the Wall Street Journal: “Prospects for long-term job growth in these fields are relatively good, and many employers expect a talent shortage, partly because of high quit rates among experienced women.”

Participate in sports. Wharton business and public policy professor Betsey Stevenson researched the relationship between high-school sports participation and educational/employment opportunities, noting in her paper Beyond the Classroom: Using Title IX to Measure the Return to High School Sports, that working women who were high-school athletes earned 14 percent higher wages than those who weren’t. As reported on Knowledge@Wharton, “the skills associated with athletic participation and success later in life ‘may include the ability to communicate, the ability to work well with others, competitiveness, assertiveness and discipline,’ and “sports participation may be especially helpful to girls because it gives them skills that they can use later in the business world.” Stevenson also asserts that “a roughly four percentage point rise in female labor force participation is attributable to increased opportunities to participate in sports. In turn, this suggests that up to 40 percent of the overall rise in the employment of 25 to 34 year-old women is attributable to Title IX [a 1972 amendment to the Civil Rights Act that expanded athletic and educational opportunities for girls].”

Pursue a career in a large metro area. As noted above, in New York City and several other major cities (such as Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis, and Dallas) women 21 to 30, working fulltime, are making more money than men. Thus, Gen Y women may find salary advantages in living in a large metropolitan area. Also consider some of the best-paying careers for women, such as the 25 reported on CareerBuilder’s Work Buzz blog, even though men still earn more than women in almost all of these professions.

Get a mentor, or better yet, a sponsor. Mentors have long been seen as a particular boon to women’s career prospects (Learn more.), and now economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett takes the mentor concept a step further. Hewlett, founding president of the Center for Work-Life Policy, writes:

To successfully make [the leap to the next professional level] requires something more specific: a sponsor. More than a mentor, this is someone in a senior position who’s willing to advocate for and facilitate career moves, make introductions to the right people, translate and teach the secret language of success, and most important, ‘use up chips’ for their proteges. One woman describes a sponsor as someone who can ‘directly intercede on your behalf to create a different reality for you.’

Network. Networking is not only the most effective way to get a job, but one of the best ways to get noticed and promoted at a current job. It’s also especially valuable for women. One of the best networking techniques for younger women is informational interviewing (because prospective interviewees are often more open to being interviewed by students and young people). Learn all about how to conduct informational interviews with our informational interviewing tutorial. Another highly effective technique is joining professional organizations, which often offer student or “young professional” memberships. Check out QuintCareers’s Professional Organizations and Associations for Networking. And don’t forget to network once you’re on the job so your co-workers know what you hope to do next and are poised to give advice and referrals.

Final Thoughts on Leveraging Career Gender Trends

Teen girls and young women are in a prime position to take advantage of the current “turning point” era for women in the workplace because they can leverage opportunities that would be difficult or virtually impossible for more established career women to pursue. This is your time. Go for it!

Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.

Katharine Hansen, PhD, Creative Director Katharine Hansen, Ph.D., creative director and associate publisher of Quintessential Careers, is an educator, author, and blogger who provides content for Quintessential Careers, edits QuintZine, an electronic newsletter for jobseekers, and blogs about storytelling in the job search at A Storied Career. Katharine, who earned her PhD in organizational behavior from Union Institute & University, Cincinnati, OH, is author of Dynamic Cover Letters for New Graduates and A Foot in the Door: Networking Your Way into the Hidden Job Market (both published by Ten Speed Press), as well as Top Notch Executive Resumes (Career Press); and with Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D., Dynamic Cover Letters, Write Your Way to a Higher GPA (Ten Speed), and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Study Skills (Alpha). Visit her personal Website or reach her by e-mail at kathy(at) Check out Dr. Hansen on GooglePlus.

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