In the 21st century, we are inclined to think that there are no unknown territories, no frontiers left uncharted. Yet, when Christian nonprofit organizations seek to equip millennial women for leadership, they are embarking, like Lewis and Clark, on a journey into terra incognita.
The endeavor poses a double challenge because organizations are engaging a generation that is qualitatively different from their predecessors and, for the first time, are intentionally seeking how to equip women for leadership.
Millennials, born between 1977 and 2000, are the largest generation in the history of the United States. This group of 80 million outnumbers both the Baby Boomers (73 million) and Generation X (49 million). Millennials make up one-third of the American workforce.
Despite a flagging economy and a legacy of corporate culture that favors the lifestyles of men, millennial women believe they can achieve a balance between a rewarding career and a fulfilling personal life. Millennials were born in a time of unparalleled opportunities for women.
So, how can Christian nonprofits engage and equip millennial women for leadership?
1. Increase the visibility of women leaders.
Provide ample opportunities for women of all generations to display their talents, competencies, and accomplishments. Senior leadership should strive to assume responsibility for promoting the advancement of female leaders by ensuring that key decision makers are open to recruiting more women for leadership positions. Increasing the visibility of female leaders helps alleviate the perception that specific women leaders are “exceptional” simply because they are both a female and a leader.
2. Adopt a more transformational style of leadership.
Millennials do not respond well to transactional styles of leadership that are based on contingent reinforcement, positive or negative. A recent study of Christian nonprofit organizations revealed that Millennials are not alone: Both men and women of all generations desire to be inspired and led by a more relational leadership style.
3. Build multi-generational leadership teams.
Providing Millennials with the opportunity to serve alongside Baby Boomers and Gen Xers illustrates that Millennials are valued members of the workforce and enables them to play a meaningful part in the decision-making process.
4. Establish mentoring programs
Help millennial women develop competencies that will help them thrive as leaders. Although millennial women are confident that they will be able to effectively integrate corporate and family life, many struggle with the pragmatics of piecing both together in a cohesive way. Mentoring programs can help Millennials grow as leaders and negotiate the boundaries between work and home.
5. Connect Millennials to the meaning of their work.
Millennials need to understand how their work is meaningful and how it contributes to a greater cause. Who is counting on them? Who benefits from their labor? How is the world a better place because of what they do? Creating opportunities for Millennials to express themselves through their strengths and passions enables them to find purpose in their work.
Lewis and Clark never did find a direct water route across the continent, but they produced the first accurate maps of the unknown territory. Likewise, the process of engaging and equipping millennial women for leadership is unknown territory. However, these five strategies will help organizations navigate the challenges in mapping out new, uncharted frontiers.
What you are doing to intentionally engage this next generation of women leaders?
Halee Gray Scott, Ph.D., is an author, blogger, independent scholar, and researcher. Her focus is on leadership development and spiritual formation, particularly in regards to women evangelical leaders. Excerpt Outcomes Magazine, Fall 2011.