Abstract

In American culture, traditional gender roles are socially constructed around binaries of male and female and femininity and masculinity. This categorization forces women and men to conform to socially constructed views of gender (Aker, 2006, p. 444; Wood, 2014). Accordingly, men must be masculine, or “dominant, independent, assertive and strong” (Weisgram, Dinella, & Fulcher, 2011, p. 244). On the other hand, women should be feminine, that is “warm, sympathetic, sensitive and soft-spoken” (Weisgram, Dinella, & Fulcher, 2011, p. 245). These stereotypes infiltrate the minds of men and women and can even subconsciously affect occupational choices (Buzannell, 1994). Indeed, in the workplace, men are “described as achievement-oriented” and value independence, competitiveness, courage, and autonomy (Ciolac, 2013, p. 2). Women, on the other hand, are expected to be submissive, supporting the social and emotional health of the organization (Wood, 2012, p. 235).

However, Millennials (also known as Generation Y), born between 1980 and 2000, seem to be pushing back on these traditional constructions of gender (Farrel & Hurt, 2014). For example, Millennials are more likely to “believe that men and women should contribute equally to childcare and home maintenance” (Reference Shelf, 2014, p. 182). Moreover, Cotter, Hermsen, and Vanneman (2011) explain that contemporary gender roles and norms do not necessarily represent a reversal of tradition but instead a new set of gender norms that highlight gender equality and choice. One arena that offers the opportunity to further explore how gender is socially constructed in terms of generation is popular culture.

Popular culture has the power to both subvert and reinforce dominant gender regimes and constructions (Reference Shelf, 2014). For example, D’Enbeau and Buzzanell (2014) explore how the hit TV show Mad Men depicts female characters that allow viewers to consider how much has changed in terms of gender and how much remains the same. In another example, D’Enbeau (2011) highlights how feminist media can encourage young women to reclaim their sexuality while also maintaining their femininity. These analyses demonstrate that how gender is constructed in popular culture is often wrought with contradiction, tension, and complexity.

In this spirit, this study examines how the ideal Millennial woman is discursively constructed online. Specifically, I conducted a thematic analysis of the Top 10 websites for Millennial women as outlined by Forbes magazine. My analysis demonstrates how the ideal Millennial woman is defined by her relationships. She sees the importance of cultivating and maintaining a personal brand. She sees her career as something important to navigate and seeks outside sources to reassure her. She could be perceived as naïve in some fields, and turns to her personal brand and relationships for affirmations. However, her brand is devoid of race and religion.

The contributions of this paper will allow a reference for millennial women to view a summary of content surrounding their professional experience. This research could help define problematic stereotypes and encourage women to find creative ways to redefine them in their own lives. Finally, this research begins to close the gap on defining the characteristics or perceived characteristics of Millennial women.

Modified Abstract

This study examines how the ideal Millennial woman is discursively constructed online. Specifically, I conducted a thematic analysis of the Top 10 websites for Millennial women as outlined by Forbes magazine. The contributions of this paper will allow a reference for millennial women to view a summary of content surrounding their professional experience. This research could help define problematic stereotypes and encourage women to find creative ways to redefine them in their own lives. Finally, this research begins to close the gap on defining the characteristics or perceived characteristics of Millennial women.

Research Category

English/Languages/Communication

Primary Author's Major

Communication Studies/Applied Communication

Mentor #1 Information

Dr. Suzy D'Enbeau

Presentation Format

Poster

Start Date

March 2016

Research Area

Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Ethnicity in Communication

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Mar 15th, 1:00 PM

The ideal Millennial working woman: A thematic analysis of how female professional identity and community are constructed online

In American culture, traditional gender roles are socially constructed around binaries of male and female and femininity and masculinity. This categorization forces women and men to conform to socially constructed views of gender (Aker, 2006, p. 444; Wood, 2014). Accordingly, men must be masculine, or “dominant, independent, assertive and strong” (Weisgram, Dinella, & Fulcher, 2011, p. 244). On the other hand, women should be feminine, that is “warm, sympathetic, sensitive and soft-spoken” (Weisgram, Dinella, & Fulcher, 2011, p. 245). These stereotypes infiltrate the minds of men and women and can even subconsciously affect occupational choices (Buzannell, 1994). Indeed, in the workplace, men are “described as achievement-oriented” and value independence, competitiveness, courage, and autonomy (Ciolac, 2013, p. 2). Women, on the other hand, are expected to be submissive, supporting the social and emotional health of the organization (Wood, 2012, p. 235).

However, Millennials (also known as Generation Y), born between 1980 and 2000, seem to be pushing back on these traditional constructions of gender (Farrel & Hurt, 2014). For example, Millennials are more likely to “believe that men and women should contribute equally to childcare and home maintenance” (Reference Shelf, 2014, p. 182). Moreover, Cotter, Hermsen, and Vanneman (2011) explain that contemporary gender roles and norms do not necessarily represent a reversal of tradition but instead a new set of gender norms that highlight gender equality and choice. One arena that offers the opportunity to further explore how gender is socially constructed in terms of generation is popular culture.

Popular culture has the power to both subvert and reinforce dominant gender regimes and constructions (Reference Shelf, 2014). For example, D’Enbeau and Buzzanell (2014) explore how the hit TV show Mad Men depicts female characters that allow viewers to consider how much has changed in terms of gender and how much remains the same. In another example, D’Enbeau (2011) highlights how feminist media can encourage young women to reclaim their sexuality while also maintaining their femininity. These analyses demonstrate that how gender is constructed in popular culture is often wrought with contradiction, tension, and complexity.

In this spirit, this study examines how the ideal Millennial woman is discursively constructed online. Specifically, I conducted a thematic analysis of the Top 10 websites for Millennial women as outlined by Forbes magazine. My analysis demonstrates how the ideal Millennial woman is defined by her relationships. She sees the importance of cultivating and maintaining a personal brand. She sees her career as something important to navigate and seeks outside sources to reassure her. She could be perceived as naïve in some fields, and turns to her personal brand and relationships for affirmations. However, her brand is devoid of race and religion.

The contributions of this paper will allow a reference for millennial women to view a summary of content surrounding their professional experience. This research could help define problematic stereotypes and encourage women to find creative ways to redefine them in their own lives. Finally, this research begins to close the gap on defining the characteristics or perceived characteristics of Millennial women.