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Lead Your Team Women in Business

Millennial Women Ditching Corporate World for Entrepreneurship

Millennial Women Ditching Corporate World for Entrepreneurship
Credit: Dragon Images/Shutterstock

Instead of waiting their turn to rise to the top at work, a number of younger women are taking a different approach to breaking the glass ceiling, new research finds.

A study from the consulting firm REAL revealed that among millennial female entrepreneurs, nearly 90 percent left their job in the corporate world to start their own business. This has not only given them the opportunity to take on executive leadership roles, but it also allows them to employ largely female staffs, execute flat business structures that have no, or few, levels of middle managers between exectuives and employees, and encourage greater employee consideration and inclusion, according to the study.

Serena Saitas, founder of REAL, said that female entrepreneurship is a breeding ground for the cultivation of informed and empowered women.

"Many women who are not getting the chance to make an impact at a corporation are leaving, and starting their own companies where they are calling the shots and making the impact they want to make," Saitas said in a statement.

For many young female entrepreneurs, the desire to get away from the corporate world was a big impetus for starting a business. Among those surveyed, 43 percent said that they left their corporate job because they weren't following their passion, 42 percent left their job because the corporate lifestyle was not for them and 33 percent said that they changed directions because they felt too restricted. [See Related Story: Female Entrepreneurs Share Startup Advice for Women]

The women surveyed also said that they left their corporate job because they weren't being given the opportunity to influence the business in the way they wanted, and because they weren't given the chance to grow at the pace that they desired.

The study found that, before they started their business, the presence of a glass ceiling had an impact on half of the female entrepreneurs surveyed. Specifically, 45 percent said that they were underpaid, 43 percent believed that they were overlooked for a promotion, 41 percent weren't able to fully express their ideas and 39 percent had few, or no, female mentors.

Being in charge has given these young female entrepreneurs the ability to create a business structure that's different from the one they left behind in the corporate world. These are the top three ways in which their businesses are run differently:

Having full transparency with employees and customers.

Listening to and considering ideas from all employees across all levels.

Providing equal pay to both women and men.

Millennial female entrepreneurs are running their businesses differently in other ways, including being able to provide more opportunities to learn new skills, providing opportunities for role fluidity, giving employees more autonomy to innovate, making social media a core competency and ensuring that having a positive social impact is equally as important as having a strong financial performance.

The study found that young female business owners support other smaller organizations. More than half of those surveyed use a mix of smaller businesses and corporate enterprises when making purchases for their business as well as for themselves.

The research shows that when they spend money, these women place a priority on brand authenticity and values. Specifically, 82 percent look for brands that engage with them in an authentic way, 80 percent want to spend money with organizations that share the same values as their own company and 50 percent search out other brands that were founded by women.

The study's authors said that millennial female entrepreneurs are a unique consumer market because they are dual spenders whose purchasing power is employed for both personal and business needs.

"When making purchases for themselves and their business, they show discernment and are concerned with brands' authenticity and integrity," the study's authors wrote. "Looking to brands with similar values as their own company, they feel it is important brands are innovative, socially responsible, fully transparent with their practices, and provide great customer service."

The study was based on surveys of 246 millennial female business owners who represented a cross-section of businesses in terms of company size, revenue, industries, ethnicities and geographies. The in-depth, 50-question online quantitative study focused on leadership style, corporate structure, approach to brand building and awareness of the impact of the glass ceiling.

Additionally, REAL interviewed over 50 entrepreneurs including Katia Beauchamp, co-founder and CEO of Birchbox; Miki Agrawal, co-founder and CEO of Thinx; and Christine Souffrant, founder and CEO of Vendedy.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance writer who has nearly 15 years experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.