Millennial women need to care more about being rich
Millennial women aren’t clamoring to make the big bucks.
Or so says Ann Shoket, the former editor-in-chief of Seventeen magazine and author of new book The Big Life. “Millennial women say they want to be paid what they’re worth but very few women say they want to make a lot of money,” explains Shoket. (In 2015, The Atlantic reported that 57% of younger Americans said their number one priority in a career was “was doing something that they found enjoyable or making a difference in society.”) When Shoket speaks with them, she says they talk about making money, but that “it always seems like a fantasy …. ‘of course I’d want to own a boat or a private island’ … as though it’s never going to happen.”
Shoket, who spent eight years connecting with this generation’s young women at CosmoGirl and Seventeen, has a message for those younger Americans: “Make your money,” she says. “Money is freedom, money is control and money is power.”
But making bank is something many don’t do — likely because of the scars left by troubled economic times, she says. When many millennial women started their careers, “The money literally wasn’t there,” Shoket says. “The recession rocked an entire generation of women.” As a result, these twentysomethings needed something else to tie their ambition to. In the wake of a post-Hills, post-Sex and the City economic downturn, women “replaced money with passion,” Shoket says.
This is a far cry from the realities Shoket faced in 2007, when she first started at Seventeen. That was the year, she tells Moneyish, of Lauren Conrad. “Lauren exemplified what was happening in 2007. Affluent, blond, carefree.” The culture, at the time, created a “moment of expected affluence” and her magazine reflected that. “We put Blake Lively on the cover wearing Chanel. We put Beyonce on the cover dripping in black diamonds. It wasn’t that young women didn’t have ambitions for themselves … but they just thought [becoming wealthy] would happen.”
There’s plenty Shoket applauds millennial women for: “They want a sisterhood and they continue to help each other,” which includes sharing their salaries and fighting for equality and transparency. But sisterhood, transparency and passion doesn’t always lead to earning power. “They feel insecure about being the breadwinner,” she says — and they’re often afraid to ask for what they’re worth.
Shoket remembers the challenges she herself faced when asking for more early on in her career. “I remember when I was a young reporter asking my boss for a raise,” Shoket recalls. “He pulled me aside and said, ‘you know, nobody goes into magazine journalism to get rich,’ as though I was out of line to be asking to make more money. I wasn’t asking to get rich. I lived in a one room apartment in the East Village with one sink. I brushed my teeth in the kitchen sink for 10 years. I thought to myself, ‘I understand I’m not in this business to get rich, but at the same time I would like to live somewhere with two sinks.’”
These days, Shoket is building a second career out of relentlessly encouraging women to ask for more. In addition to The Big Life, she organizes networking dinner parties and has created a network of “Badass Babes” with the goal of connecting to her built-in millennial audience in a more direct way.
“Make your money,” she tells today’s young women. “Find your power. Be in control your situation.” In other words, reach for a private island and you might land on a New York City apartment with two sinks.
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