You know what they say about women in the workplace: they’re less likely than men to demand a pay rise or push for promotion, lack the confidence – or hubris - of their male colleagues and are more risk averse. And the advance of talented women into senior ranks is often stymied by the demands of motherhood.
Yet these tropes are becoming rapidly outdated by the rise of Millennial Woman: girls born in the 80s who reached adulthood in early 2000s have entered the workforce better educated, more ambitious and in greater numbers than any previous generation. And unlike their predecessors they don’t exist in a fog of ignorance about what their peers are earning.
These young women are used to immediate and constant feedback in their work and social lives and they are the first generation to be comfortable with, and actively seek, therapy and coaching. So they are quick to grasp the opportunities offered by mentoring and sponsorship schemes adopted by companies to progress women into more senior roles.
And they are doing well: according to a study by Price Waterhouse Coopers, two thirds of women who are in a relationship earn as much or more than their male partner or spouse. But how will they fare in the upper echelons of corporate life?
Despite decades of discussion, a raft of studies, and policies designed to promote gender diversity, female participation at senior corporate level remains stubbornly low. Globally, only 29 per cent of senior management roles are held by women; although this is the highest figure ever recorded, it is hardly cause for celebration. According to January 2020 figures, a mere 5.8 per cent of CEOs in S&P 500 companies are women.
The 2019 McKinsey Women in the Workplace study of corporate America found that the greatest obstacle for women on the path to leadership occurred at managerial level. For every 100 men promoted to management positions only 72 women made the grade. And for every 10 C-suite positions – the most important senior executives - only three were held by women.
And yet it appears that women are good for business. The McKinsey report also found that companies actively supporting gender diversity were 21 per cent more likely to post above-average profitability. And according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), banks with a greater number of female board members had higher capital buffers, a lower proportion of non-performing loans and a greater resistance to financial stress. When the fund looked at two million firms in 34 European countries it found that those with more women in senior management or on a corporate board enjoyed a higher return on assets of between eight and 13 per cent.
Olga Rybalkina, Co-founder and Group CEO of Exinity believes that gender equality is key to the firm’s success, and is about more than numbers.
"In my view gender equality at a senior level is not about meeting a target, but a way to ensure that different perspectives, approaches and possible solutions are on the table."
"Talented employees are the greatest intangible asset for any company and the way to attract and retain talented women is to provide equal and imaginative opportunities, training, sponsorships and flexible work policies."
"At Exinity we value the principles of LEAP – learn, exchange, advance, prosper – for both clients and employees. For our staff this means learning what hopes and plans they have for their career with us. It means providing a platform for the exchange of ideas and feedback. We offer coaching and training to advance their development and be the best they can be. Finally, as the company benefits from the hard work and talents of its employees, so too will they prosper."
By 2025 millennials will form an estimated 75 per cent of the global workforce; it is vital that an organisation’s vision, culture and policies recognise that for these men and women equality between the sexes is non-negotiable.