A new era of female talent is entering the workplace. These women are more career confident and ambitious than any previous generation and want to reach the top of their careers. It is the responsibility of businesses to fulfil those ambitions, but we know from experience and research that things are getting in the way.
To start, businesses can’t just talk the diversity talk, they need to act on it. In our research with female millennials (those born between 1980 and 1995), over eight in ten said they actively seek out employers with a strong record on diversity and inclusion, and opportunities for career progression tops the list of most attractive employer traits. But the reality is that two thirds do not feel that opportunities are equal for all.
Given the way this generation think and act, they won’t hang around if businesses don’t act on their diversity and inclusion promises. So businesses could be losing out on their next generation of business leaders at the start of their careers.
To shift the balance, businesses need to ask themselves some tough questions. Are our recruitment processes really free of bias? Are we holding women back by unintentionally blocking them from the experience they need to succeed, such as global assignment opportunities? Why do we have a gender pay gap and what are we going to do to close it? Do we offer flexible working arrangements and opportunities that don’t pose any potential disadvantage to career progression?
The Government’s drive for all large companies to report their gender pay gap is one important step on this journey. We have measured our gender pay for 10 years and took the decision to publicly report it two years ago, the first in our industry to do so. It has been a really positive move for us and has dramatically increased awareness across our firm of the underlying issues allowing us to implement some bold actions as part of our wider programme of diversity and inclusion initiatives. Furthermore it’s caused other organisations to follow our lead!
We also get our different business units to set their own gender and ethnicity targets and action plans for how they’re going to achieve this. If we want to see real change, accountability needs to be shared across the business, rather than just lead from the top.
Businesses aren’t going to be able to change their gender balance overnight. But with sustained focus, effort and clear actions, the next generation of females entering the workplace will, I believe, see alignment between their ambitious and workplace.