PwC research reveals that while organisations talk about diversity, over half of the millennial generation of workers do not feel that work opportunities are really equal for all. 

PwC’s report Next generation diversity – Developing tomorrow’s female leaders, which is based on a survey of over 40,000 global workers born between 1980 and 1995, reveals that nearly a third (29%) of female millennials think that employers are too biased towards male employees when it comes to promotion. 

The perception of gender bias in organisations remains a concern for this generation of female workers, who are set to make up 25% of the global workforce by 2020, as they actively seek out employers with a strong record on equality and diversity. 82% of female millennials said an employer’s policy on diversity, equality and workforce inclusion is important when deciding whether to work for an organisation. 

Jon Andrews, head of HR consulting at PwC, said: “It is worrying that millennials’ experience of the workplace is not matching their expectations. This generation is image conscious when it comes to picking an employer and if they feel the reality is not consistent with what they’ve been promised, organisations risk losing their best talent to competitors. This is particular true of female millennials, with over half saying they would completely avoid working in a particular sector if they believed it had a negative image. 

“Female millennials are entering the workforce in larger numbers than any of their previous generations and will be vital to an organisation’s future success. If we want to develop a strong pipeline of future women leaders it is vital we understand what motivates this generation and therefore what organisations need to do to attract, develop and retain millennial women.”

The research reveals that despite a significant number of female millennials experiencing unfairness in the workplace, the majority are confident about their career progression. Over half said they believe they will be able to rise to the most senior levels with their current employer. This is only slightly behind men (61%). Female millennials also consider opportunities for career progression as the most attractive employer trait. 

Laura Hinton, HR consulting partner at PwC, said: “Despite many millennial women believing that their employer’s diversity policies and practice don’t quite match up in practice, this is a confident generation who believe they can fulfil their career aspirations and get to the top of their chosen profession. Organisations need to work hard to ensure this aspiration is not matched with disappointment the further up the management level they get. If we want to see sustainable change, a focus on women in leadership is not enough. We must also focus our efforts on the workforce from day one, so that we can develop millennial women into the leaders of tomorrow.”

This generation of workers is set to drive huge organisational and cultural change in the workplace. Their work priorities are different to previous generations, with work/life balance and flexibility in high demand for both female and male millennials. 

Jon Andrews, head of HR consulting at PwC, said: “Workplaces that view flexibility and a good work/life balance as solely a female or parent demand will fail to attract and retain millennial talent, male or female, who no longer subscribe to outdated gender-based policies.”

PwC’s report reveals six key themes which are integral to the successful attraction, retention and development of the female millennial:

  • Female millennials matter because they are more highly educated and are entering the workforce in larger numbers than any of their previous generations.
  • The millennial woman is more confident than any female generation before her and highly rates opportunities for career progression.
  • Female millennials seek out employers with a strong record on diversity.
  • The millennial generation can be expected to drive unprecedented work/life organisational culture shifts.
  • The female millennial expects regular feedback and despite being extremely tech-savvy, prefers important feedback discussions to take place face-to-face.
  • International experience is in high demand from this generation of women.
  • An employer or sector’s image and reputation matters to the female millennial.