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Handicapping the gender gap

Corporate careerists

In this story:

Leadership, flex time, success

Wooing the women


(CNN) -- "What these young girls told us is their view of working in big companies is kind of like a 'Dilbert' cartoon. You go to the office every day and you're in a cubicle, you interact with the computer. That just didn't score real high with them."

Karen Kurek has news for corporate recruiters and human resource officials: Your jobs may become much harder in a few years.

Would it surprise you to find out that teens surveyed by Arthur Andersen weren't talking money as their main goal in a career? See what they say is important.

Many teen-age girls say a job in corporate America is about as relevant to their lives as poodle skirts and beehive hairdos.

And their testosterone-charged counterparts aren't pining for a corporate berth, either.

A survey of 500 girls and 150 boys aged 15 to 18 was commissioned by the international business-development firm Arthur Andersen. The research indicates that only half the girls responding think they'll work in a large company in corporate America, compared to 59 percent of the boys.

And only a slight majority of girls asked -- 54 percent -- say they have a favorable impression of large companies in corporate America. Boys aren't much more impressed: 58 percent responding say they have a favorable impression.

Making Opportunities for Upgrading School & Education is a nonprofit operation working to bring New York's city schools in touch with high-tech industry careerists.Astronaut Sally Ride is among those careerists.

"Teens in general have a lukewarm view of corporate America," says Kurek, managing partner of Arthur Andersen's Growth and Retention of Women (GROW) program. It was created two years ago to focus on accelerating and enhancing the recruitment, retention, advancement and leadership paths of women.

"The reason it's significant," Kurek says, "is that with the tight labor market and companies being in the war for talent, a big issue is the attraction and retention of talent."


Leadership, flex time, success

"They're more excited about going into small business or the public service sector than into large companies in corporate America," Kurek says of the girls surveyed in the United States.

"If corporations are going to be attracting talent in the future, they have to be thinking about what the future workplace values, and how that's going to fit into their organization."
— Karen Kurek, Arthur Andersen

Corporations need to concern themselves with girls' attitudes because of their sheer numbers, Kurek says. It's not fuzzy math: Females comprise a little more than half the U.S. population.

There's also an issue of diversity. "Women bring a unique perspective to any environment in which they're working," Kurek says. "Organizations need to make sure they're appealing to a wide variety of people and their interests."

The Arthur Andersen survey was conducted by Lake Snell Perry & Associates.

•   Girls and boys responding to questions in the study unanimously agree that it's important to understand computers for future employment. But boys are five times more likely to be interested in majoring in computer science or computer engineering than girls.

•   Ninety-five percent of girls and 94 percent of boys responding say it's likely or somewhat likely they'll be successful in the future.


•   Teens don't necessarily equate success with being a leader. Eighty-seven percent of girls and 80 percent of boys asked say it's important or "somewhat important" that they be a leader when they're older. More than 7 of 10 teens of each gender -- 78 percent of girls and 71 percent of boys -- say they perceive themselves as leaders today.

•   In potential college majors, girls most often cite medicine or health services (17 percent) and education (10 percent) and fine arts (10 percent) as possible college majors. Boys' most popular choices are computer science (20 percent) and law (9 percent).


Wooing the women

If large corporations hope to appeal to the next wave of young women when they enter the workforce they need to do a better job of selling themselves, Kurek says.


By nearly a two-to-one margin over boys, girls who were surveyed cite helping others as a measure of success. Companies that support community and volunteer programs and encourage or organize employees' participation in them, should mention this, Kurek suggests.

Ditto if they have flexible work arrangements, because 15 percent of girls surveyed say having a happy family life is a marker of success.

"More and more corporations are embracing flexible work arrangements," Kurek says. Flex time, telecommuting and other such arrangements appeal to both genders, she says. At Arthur Andersen, more than 20 percent of the 1,400 employees who have such arrangements are men, she adds.

"Companies that have arrangements in place need to communicate that," Kurek says. "Companies that haven't even started thinking about it need to start thinking about it very seriously.

"If they're going to be attracting talent in the future, they have to be thinking about what the future workplace values, and how that's going to fit into their organization."



Teen techies graduate with enhanced learning
September 18, 2000
Mayor finds $1.7 million for teen job program
August 9, 2000

Arthur Andersen
American Education Guidance Center, 2001 Colleges, College Scholarships and Financial Aid Page
Lake Snell Perry & Associates
MOUSE -- Making Opportunities for Upgrading Schools & Education

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