Defining Success: What Do Age & Gender Have to Do With It?

Business.com / Strategy / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

The way we view success is changing, especially for women and millennials. Do you agree with their perspective?

Suc·cess /səkˈses/ noun: the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.

When you think about the definition of success, the dictionary isn’t much help. Success is all sorts of shades of gray, because when it comes right down to it, success is in the eye of the beholder.

If you’re a single billionaire at 65 but always wanted a family, are you successful? Depends on whom you ask, according to Capital One’s recent Spark Business Barometer survey. If you were to ask a woman or a millennial, chances are the answer would be no. Here’s why:

Increased Value in Work-Life Balance

At the end of the day, money doesn’t keep you warm at night, and it seems that millennials and women are acutely aware of that. Though financials are of major importance to these entrepreneurs and business owners, achieving work-life balance is the key to success.

According to the Spark Business Barometer, 69% of women feel that achieving work-life balance defines success, as opposed to 58% of men. And it’s not just SMB execs that feel this way: Ariana Huffington spoke of success on the Today Show, stating, "We've all bought into this male definition of success, money and power, and it's not working. It's not working for men, and it's not working for women. It's not working for anyone."

Related Article: Millennials In the Workplace: How Will They Affect Hiring?

The Millennial Perspective

Millennials seem agree that previously held notions of success are antiquated, regardless of gender. In a widely circulated 2013 cover story in Time Magazine, millennials were labeled as “lazy and entitled,” but many would argue that millennials are not, in fact, either of those things.

A Bentley University study, Millennials in the Workplace, found that 67% of millennials want to be entrepreneurs; they just want to do it their own way. Kate Holmes, author of The Millennial Next Door Revealed: How to Be Financially Successful in Your 20’s agrees in her eBook, sharing that success to millennials doesn’t exactly come from the traditional 9-5, and that the Internet has given opened a new door for entrepreneurialism for this technology-loving set.

As a millennial myself, I can agree upon this ideal definition of success: that hard work and financial gains are of necessity and greatly desired, but that being able to work when I want and having a life outside of that are equally important.

The Divide Between Desire & Reality for Women

In my opinion, one of the most interesting findings from the Spark Business Barometer is the disconnect between what women cite as their definition of success, and their willingness to put the wheels in motion to achieve it. More than 2/3 of entrepreneurial women define success as achieving work-life balance, but men are more likely to do what it takes the achieve it.

The stats, via this infographic representing the study:

Restricted working at home:

  • 21% of women
  • 30% of men

Limited travel:

  • 16% of women
  • 26% of men

Cut back event attendance:

  • 7% of women
  • 20% of men

No setting of “ground rules”:

  • 31% of women
  • 25% of men

Related Article: Why Company Culture Matters More to Employee Than Pay

Why is this? The conclusion the study comes to is that even though women want work-life balance; the gender wage gap restricts women from being able to limit the activities that hold them back from it. Even so, 56% of women feel current business conditions are good, as compared to 46% of men.

In Conclusion

As the workplace continues to shift and change with more women and millennials at the helm, so does the definition of success. No longer does it mean suits and ties and 9-5, but instead means satisfaction and hard work, regardless of when it happens. Though it might sound a little cliché, we are in control of our own destiny, and how you achieve success is in your own hands. Carpe diem, indeed.

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