What can be done to help young women reach leadership positions?

What can be done to help young women reach leadership positions?

Globally organisations are challenged with a lack of women in leadership positions and are fast becoming concerned with the competitive and financial toll this could mean for their companies.

Meanwhile they are also facing the challenges that come with the vast numbers of millennial talent entering and reshaping the workforce, according to a report issued by PwC today.

To mark International Women’s Day on Saturday 8th March 2014, PwC’s report focuses on what organisations can do to create the right environment for millennial women to flourish in the workplace. The report ‘Next generation diversity – Developing tomorrow’s female leaders’ identifies six key themes which are integral to the successful attraction, retention and development of the female millennial.

This compliments other research carried out by PwC on the millennial generation. Our observations have been fine-tuned to focus on the female part of this generation – helping us to better understand how millennial women can be developed into the leaders of tomorrow. Born between 1980 and 1995, female millennials make up a significant proportion of the current and future talent pool. Attracting the best of these millennial workers is critical to the future of an organisation.

Gugu Mtetwa, PwC Transformation Leader for South Africa, says: “Millennials matter because they are not only different from those that have gone before, they are also more numerous than any since the soon-to-retire Baby Boomer generation.”

Between 1980 and 2008, 552 million women joined the global labour force and a further one billion women are anticipated to enter the workforce over the next decade. The make-up of the labour force is not the only thing that has changed, enrolment in tertiary level education has also soared. Globally women now account for a majority of students in 93 countries while men are favoured in only 46, earn more bachelor’s degrees than men and have an edge over men of 56 to 44 percent in master’s degrees. In Hungary, South Africa and the US women are awarded 68, 61 and 60 percent of tertiary degree qualifications respectively while in Saudi Arabia and China they earn 44 and 48 percent respectively, according to OECD statistics.

Dennis Nally, Chairman of PricewaterhouseCoopers International says: “Diversity is a key issue for us, which is why we were keen to focus on female millennials. We recruit a rich diversity of talent every year from schools across the world, including thousands of very talented millennial women. We want to think about the environment that will help those women succeed now so they’re primed for the future.”

Mtetwa adds: “To achieve sustainable change, a focus on women in leadership is not enough. We must tackle diversity at a leadership level but also focus efforts on our workforce from day one. But to get this right, we must first better understand how to attract, develop, and retain millennial women.”

The report shows that female millenials matter because they are more highly educated and are entering the workforce in larger numbers than any of their previous generations. With 40% of the global labour force currently female never before has a generation entered a workforce with such high levels of female participation. While South Africa has made some strides in terms of addressing employment equity in the workplace, more work remains to be done. PwC’s 2013 Executive Directors’ Remuneration report shows that the percentage of women in South Africa operating in executive roles has increased from 4.2% in 2012 to 8%, and last year it improved to 10%.

A growing number of CEOs globally are concerned about the threat the availability of key skills presents to their growth prospects. Meanwhile, female millennials look set to form about 25% of the global workforce by 2020.

The report also shows that millennials tend to seek out employers with a strong record on diversity. This is important to the female millennial, with 82% identifying an employer’s policy on diversity, equality and workforce inclusion as important when deciding whether or not to work for an organisation. The perception of gender bias in the workplace also remains a concern for female millennials.

Worklife balance is important to nearly all millennials, and appears slightly more important to the female millennial with 97% identifying it as important to them and 74% saying it is very important. One of the strongest millennial traits is that they welcome and expect regular feedback on their job performance. More than half (51%) of female millennials said feedback should be given very frequently or continually on the job, while only 1% said feedback was not very important to them. “Setting clear targets and proving regular and structured feedback will be very important to the female millennial,” adds Mtetwa.

International experience is in high demand from this generation of women. An employer or sector’s image and reputation also matters to the female millennial.

Female millennials are projected to form approximately 25 percent of the global workforce by 2020, according to the study. “Forming talent strategies tailored for this talent segment will be a vital step to the sustainability of any organisation,” says Mtetwa.

In addition PwC has also released its Women In Work Index. This index ranks 27 OECD countries on a measure that combines five key indicators of female economic empowerment: the equality of earnings with men; the proportion of women in work, both in absolute terms and relative to men; the female unemployment rate; and the proportion of women in full-time employment.

The Nordic countries continue to lead the Index, with Norway still taking pole position, followed by Denmark and Sweden. These three countries have consistently occupied the top three positions in the Index ever since 2000, the first year for which it has been calculated.

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