Attitudes at work influenced by generation, not gender

Tuesday, 05 March, 2019

Attitudes at work influenced by generation, not gender

A person’s generation, and not their gender, determines their attitudes at work, according to a new study.

Egon Zehnder studied more than 2500 executives across seven countries, with research findings suggesting that women and men have strikingly similar attitudes on leadership and diversity in the workplace.

However, the study uncovered a significant gap in attitudes and priorities between generations, particularly regarding diversity, leadership qualities and career development.

“Leadership expectations are changing,” said Cynthia Soledad, Egon Zehnder consultant and co-leader of the firm’s Global Diversity Council.

“To be responsive to younger generations, today’s leaders must emphasise humility, ethical behaviour and strategic thinking.”

Results of the study were released as Egon Zehnder prepares to host Leaders & Daughters: Power Moves events in over 30 cities worldwide, bringing together leaders across generations to discuss the opportunities and challenges women face in the professional world. 2019 marks the fifth anniversary of the initiative, which over its tenure has convened more than 6000 leaders, daughters and mentees through 85 events around the world.

“Diverse organisations are more sustainable organisations, but we still have a long way to go before biases are extinct and both genders are given equal opportunities. The leaders, daughters and mentees we have brought together over the five years of Leaders & Daughters all have a part to play in helping women fulfil their potential,” said Karoline Vinsrygg, Partner and co-leader of Egon Zehnder’s Global Diversity Council.

This year’s events focus on how an emerging generation is shifting the traditional expectations and dynamics in the workplace. In addition to the events, leaders from around the world pen personal letters of wisdom to their daughters and mentees through the To My Daughter campaign.

Key survey findings include:

  • A diverse workplace is most important to younger generations: millennials (65%) and Gen Xers (61%) said it was very important, compared with boomers (51%). A diverse workplace, said 62% of millennials, is also very important to the success of the organisation.
  • When it came to equal opportunities at work, a majority believed there were equal opportunities for all, though female Gen Xers were the least likely to believe that they had equal access to equal opportunities (57% said they did) compared to female millennials (63% said they did).
  • When asked the most important qualities a great leader should embody, those under 35 rate humility the highest. This preference was even more pronounced among men, with 55% of male millennials saying this is important versus just 32% of male baby boomers.
  • Boomers are more likely to value resilience in a leader, with 35% citing it as an important quality, compared with 21% of millennials.
  • When asked if their leaders modelled the desired qualities, millennials were much more likely than other generations to say their leaders always exhibit the key leadership qualities they expected (38%), while only 22% of boomers and 26% of Gen Xers concurred.
  • The vast majority of respondents (86%) experienced some type of barrier during their career journeys — though a third of male boomers claimed they had faced no barriers to success at all.
  • Millennials show a strong desire for mentoring and sponsorship. When asked about factors that have limited their opportunities at work, more than twice as many millennials than boomers (35% vs 17%) claimed that a lack of mentors or sponsors has been a barrier to their own career success.
  • While leadership ambitions have nearly evened out between men and women (27% of women and 31% of men aim to reach the C-suite), women may have a more difficult path ahead. Egon Zehnder’s 2018 Global Board Diversity Tracker shows women make up just 3.7% of CEOs and 12.2% of CFOs globally.
  • Millennials are more likely to agree that their work-life balance is about right, with 87% agreeing, versus 80% of Gen Xers and 78% of baby boomers.
  • Men and women gave almost identical answers on personal and professional priorities, with 27% claiming their professional identity is their top priority, 17% saying their personal or family life is their priority and 56% saying they balance the two.

To see the complete survey findings, click here.

Image credit: ©

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