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Millennial women more upbeat about their future in the workplace

Fahda Bandar, a 32-year-old female executive at a communications company in Saudi Arabia's city of Al Khobar, spends most of her time in male-dominated meetings.

She sits around tables at business meetings filled with men, travels throughout Gulf countries to members clubs to meet company guests who are nearly always male, and is one of two women in her 15-person corporate management team.

Still, in G20 countries including Saudi Arabia, women of Bandar's generation are more upbeat than older women about their prospects in the workplace, according to a poll on Tuesday by the Thomson Reuters Foundation and The Rockefeller Foundation.

"When I call a head of a company as a woman .. they do answer respectfully and accept opinion and suggestions," said Bandar, who fits the general definition of a millennial, born in the 1980s or 1990s and now in the 18-34 age group. But she said women have to work harder than men to prove their worth.

"I just think that we have something to prove, especially in a male-dominated country," said Bandar.

It found 43 percent of women from the millennial generation are confident they earn the same salary as a man doing the same job compared with 34 percent of women aged 50 to 64.

A similar proportion of millennial women, or 42 percent, feel they have access to the same types of business networks as men compared to 33 percent of older women.

As to job access, millennial women also had a rosier view than their older counterparts. The survey found just 45 percent think men have better options, compared with 50 percent for the 50 to 64 age group.

Women aged 13 to 34 are confident they earn the same salary as men

Millennials were more optimistic about professional development and career growth opportunities. The poll showed 45 percent again think men fare better, compared with 50 percent of women aged 35 to 49.

They are also more confident about going it alone with 40 percent saying it was easy for them to start a business as a man compared to 33 percent of older women.

Francoise Jacobsohn of the Equal Rights Advocates, a legal group headquartered in San Francisco, said such optimism is not misplaced as women have been making strides in recent decades.

Young women are often resourceful and knowledgeable about their legal rights, said Jacobsohn.

But she warned such progress may be the result of more women getting higher education than systemic changes in the power relations between men and women in the workplace, she said.

"There is still a mommy tax, there is still a woman tax and women are still not making the same as men," she said. "But I do think that we are far further than we used to be."

THE JUGGLING GAME

Millennial women are more confident that they can juggle families and careers than are older women, the survey found.

Megan Bowen, 24, a senior account executive with a London-based advertising agency, says the issue of gender discrimination or whether women can "have it all" does not come up in conversation with friends.

Female colleagues who have taken leave to have children have not seemed to pay a price, she said.

Once upon a time, the woman had to get permission from their spouses to work,". "That's not the case anymore. So the reality is that if you like it or not ... women will be in the workforce.

"They've always managed to come back. They take on the same position," Bowen said.

Millennial women in G20 say as easy for them to start a business as a man

Through the eyes of the millennial generation, women's experience in the workplace reflects the progress that has been made over what is left to be done, said Saudi Arabia's Bandar.

"Once upon a time, the woman had to get permission from their spouses to work," she said. "That's not the case anymore. So the reality is that if you like it or not ... women will be in the workforce."

"Even if women only take maternity leave for a few months, employers will question their motivation and commitment ... it is a barrier for women's careers," Robichon said

The survey was carried out online by Ipsos Global @dvisor from July 24–Aug 7 and face-to-face in South Africa and Indonesia from Aug 6-Aug 25. Data are weighted to match the population profile of each country and the margin of error between two country sample sizes of 500 is about 6 percent at the 95 percent confidence interval.

Respondents were aged 18-64 in the United States and Canada, and 16-64 in all other countries. Approximately 45 percent of the sample was below the age of 35, 33 percent were between 35 and 49 years old and 23 percent were between 50 and 64.

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