It’s been almost two years since Viviane Reding, the European Union’s Justice Commissioner, proposed measures to ensure that women occupy 40 per cent of non-executive board seats on public companies across Europe. Today, new research by Hudson has revealed that Generation Y females – those in their twenties and early thirties – are best placed to be the first to break the glass ceiling.

The report, The Great Generational Shift, which analysed 28,000 psychometric tests, documents the shifting dynamics in Britain’s multi-generation workplaces, where 60-year-old Baby Boomers work alongside Generation X-ers in their forties and the twenty-somethings of Generation Y. It outlines a change in the nature of leadership, with younger females ideally positioned to excel in the leadership race of tomorrow.

Generation Y women top the charts when it comes to being ‘socially confident’, ‘helpful’, ‘organised’ and ‘meticulous’, compared to their male counterparts. Far removed from ‘traditional’ leadership skills (persuasion, confidence, extraversion), they bring a completely different, and more relevant, set of skills to the business environment of today – and tomorrow. Skills that will help them navigate a data-driven future, where leaders will be required to sift through mounds of information and translate it into meaningful insights.

Male vs female – the domination of Gen Y women

Generation Y females scored higher than Generation Y males on organisation (18% higher), people skills (10% higher), social confidence (12% higher), altruism (15%), optimism (4%) and ambition (2% higher).

When compared to Boomer males, the difference in these skill areas become more acute: Generation Y females ranked 16% higher on people skills, 22% higher on social confidence, 22% higher on altruism, 16% higher on optimism and 21% higher on ambition.

With their chart-leading altruism and optimism, and their progressive people skills, these women will lead by laying out a vision and welcoming those who want to take part.

Tim Drake, head of talent management at Hudson UK, which compiled the report, said: “Britain’s workforce is now truly multi-generational, with some employees separated in age by half a century – the implications of this are huge, in terms of the psychological differences in how these generations think, act and lead.

“This is especially the case for younger females, who today display the attributes of tomorrow’s leaders. 80 per cent of executive directors on the boards of the FTSE 100 may currently be male, but the findings of this research show that, as business practice continues to evolve and progress, Generation Y women are better placed than ever before to position themselves at the top of businesses over the next decade.”

The generations at a glance

Baby Boomers: 1946 – 1964

Strong on traditional leadership skills including ‘leading’, ‘decisive’, ‘motivating’, ‘persuasive’ and ‘strategic’. Open-minded and innovative.

  • DECISIVE 28% higher than Generation Y
  • LEADING 34% higher than Generation Y
  • MOTIVATING 28% higher than Generation Y
  • PERSUASIVE 21% higher than Generation Y

Generation X: 1965 – 1979

Confident but culturally sensitive. Generation X is the counter balance to the more dominant characteristics of other generations.

  • AMBITIOUS 13% higher than Baby Boomers
  • STRATEGIC 12% higher than Generation Y
  • AUTONOMOUS 11% higher than Generation Y (females only)
  • PERSUASIVE 15% higher than Generation Y (males only)

Generation Y: 1980 – 1994

Masters of abstract and conceptual thinking. Generation Y is highly ambitious, socially confident and relational but scores significantly lower than other generations on traditional leadership traits.

  • PEOPLE ORIENTATED 27% higher than Baby Boomers
  • AMBITIOUS 32% higher than Baby Boomers
  • ABSTRACT THINKING 12% higher than Baby Boomers (males only)
  • ORGANISATION 22% higher than Baby Boomers (females only)

Hudson’s Tim Drake continued: “By comparing the personality traits of these three generations, this research identifies what’s needed to thrive – and survive – in a multi-generational workplace. Through it, we can clearly see how the nature of leadership is changing, and businesses will need to be prepared to understand, support and manage the behaviour of people from each group.

“Baby Boomers, for instance, will need to embrace change and avoid early judgment, whereas Generation X members should move to become a much-needed interface between Boomers and Generation Y. Those at the youngest end of the scale should seek workplaces where they can experience motivation and persuasion in action, two things highly suited to their personality type.

“Organisations need to understand what it is that motivates their employees and connect the dots between the motivational drivers of those in different ages and career stages. Any business that wants to formulate the right strategy for acquiring, retaining and developing its people must first understand who they are and what makes them tick. As this report shows, the boss of the future looks very different to the boss of today.”