Gen Y Demand a Different Landscape

February 15, 2013 | comments

Gen Y Demand a Different Landscape

With a good sense of timing following my last blog  there was a report out recently on the need to focus on the female representation at the levels below board.  Avivah Wittenberg-Cox’s latest Global Gender Balance Scorecard was quite a comprehensive update on where the world’s top 100 companies stand on the gender mix of their executive committees. Without paraphrasing the whole report (download here)it offered a pretty dark view of how Europe is faring in this area, far worse than our friends in the US although not as bad as the state of play in Asia. In Europe 90% of Executive Committee members are men and of the 10% who are women only 3% are in line or operational roles (as opposed to HR, Comms or Legal etc).

It re-enforced the length of the journey we still have to travel before we have a truly vibrant female talent pipeline feeding our executive and board level committees.  Within our work we look to coach individuals and groups at all stages of the pipeline but are increasingly seeing a welcome shift in how organisations are considering the challenge.  Whereas  once 1-2-1 exec coaching at the higher end of the pipeline dominated our conversations, we are now seeing (with a little nudge here and there) a growing number of companies establish programmes which look to develop and progress the earlier ‘pipeliners’ . This population, in our experience, tend to be mangers / senior managers in their 20s or early 30s. They may or may not have yet faced their most significant career challenges but are without question focussed on the road ahead, deciding now if they are working in the right environment to build a sustainable career.

Our recent research gave a great insight into this population (working women in their 20s) and I thought I’d share a cut of data which is not readily available, even in the full report.

What struck me most was the strength and uniformity of feeling around the key themes that emerged. The desire for greater self-confidence and belief, the need to improve networking skills and the plea for greater management support were all  shouted out by women in their 20s far more than we saw for the working population overall. With over 2500 women taking part in the study across 17 industries, the results are robust and meaningful.  With a lack of flexible working and rigid career options also scoring highly you quickly build a picture of a population who are frustrated about the current or future shape of their career. It’s no surprise therefore that over half stated they are grappling with the career crossroad pinch point and deciding what to do next.

This translates into real and tangible risk to business.  Addressing the number of women you have as non-executive directors won’t make the slightest difference to young ambitious women in their 20s. That is no form of blue print for their own future success.  They want to work for an organisation that values their career, understands what they are looking for on a longer term basis and provides the platform for their progression . If they don’t find that in their current workplace then they will leave.

Talking Talent’s progression coaching looks to work closely with these high talent pipeliners and I’m delighted that the offering is resonating so powerfully in certain quarters. We are starting to see business explore deeper and go beyond the first findings of board targets and quick wins. It’s here that we can really make a difference to the make-up of the next generation of executive committees and see a true talent pipeline emerge.

You can request the full report of our research study “Up , Out of Different – The Career Dilemma for UK Women”  from

Chris Parke, CEO of Talking Talent