Julia Jia was the first girl from her small village in Shandong Province to go to university. Now 30, she works for Louis Vuitton China’s retail department and would like to have a career in luxury goods, perhaps in sales development or public relations.
“Of course, I want to be in top management,” Jia says, echoing the high-flying aspirations that have catapulted so many Chinese women into the business elite. Then in a seeming contradiction, she adds that she worries about work/life balance. “I would feel frustrated working 60 to 70 hours a week,” she confesses. “If there were a conflict with taking care of my children or elders, I would give up my career.”
Jia’s attitude astonishes colleagues in their 40s and 50s. As the first university graduates to emerge from Communism to a newly developing China in the 1980s and 90s, those women didn’t hesitate to dedicate themselves wholeheartedly to their careers. But according to data from the centre for Talent Innovation (formerly the centre for Work-Life Policy), today’s younger generation is different. “The mindset has really changed,” notes an HR manager for a major multinational corporation. “Women now talk about facials and travelling and all the things that the older generation didn’t think about until they were more established.”
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This post originally appeared at Harvard Business Review.