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Youth Perspectives

Youth Perspective: Acting on Gender Diversity Initiatives

Adeola Alade

26 Feb 2018

Raising awareness that there are women in senior leadership positions will continue to give young women the drive to carry on doing what they are doing to pursue their dreams.


We all hear key organizational buzz words such as “nurturing female talent” and “reaching gender parity” which aligns with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Despite the steps many organizations are taking to implement these initiatives, we still have a long way to go, particularly with reaching out to younger women in society earlier.

As a result, I decided to lead a project on the transition from early careers to senior leadership by comparing the general perceptions of the 2017 female summer interns and senior female leaders which eventually led to the emergence of the “20 Years On…” project. The aim of the project was to take these findings and show organizations how to be more strategic with tackling the obstacles in the middle and also to show younger women a message of hope to never give up.

KEY FINDINGS

1. Step out of your comfort zone

“Take more risks, we learn later in life that we should have taken more risks.”

Sneha Shah – Managing Director, Sub-Saharan Africa

The idea of not being afraid to put yourself out there ran through all the interviews. From a young age, we are all typically ignited with the fire to aspire to make a difference, be a Prime Minister one day and so on. However, the older we get there may be a tendency for the excuses to come creeping in about why we can’t aim high such as, “I’m not smart enough”, “I don’t know the right people”, “I am disadvantaged due to my background”, “I don’t have the right experiences” and “I’m scared of what other people will think”. However, it is those who embrace their individuality and step out of their comfort zones that ultimately stand out.

This appeared at odds with my thinking because for me, I perceived success as following traditional customs and practices get the job done and move on. Alternatively, identifying an opportunity and acting on it is the pinnacle of success. Even though things may not always go to plan, it is how you rise above these situations and defy the odds that mark success. I definitely saw this while trying to lead the video as I was stepping way out of my comfort zone and having to revise the idea and content but this also emphasizes the need to consult those around you and listen.

2. Plan 

“Think carefully about what you want to fight for and what your passions are”

Lisa Schlosser – CTO & Vice President, Technology

Thinking ahead and having a clear structure on what you would like to achieve in the long term enables you to plan strategically on how to get there. One key finding in the video is the tendency for us to micro plan – focusing on the short term results on what we are doing.

However, despite the need to take strategic steps to achieve what we want in the grand scheme of things, it is also important to highlight the need to be flexible. Both go hand in hand, in the sense that being strategic and thinking about the long term provides us with a stable foundation for any knock back that we may be confronted with, but being flexible allows us to embrace any changes that may occur which may ultimately benefit us.

3. Collaboration

“For us to reach the finish line to achieve true gender parity, we need our male colleagues to embrace this” 

Debra Walton – Managing Director, Customer Proposition

Ultimately it is not a one gender battle. Given the fact that there is a strong business case for gender parity in the workplace, it makes sense for both male and female colleagues to embrace these initiatives. From a young age, men and women need have a conversation with each other to gain a level of mutual respect to prevent the tendency to make assumptions about each other and break down societal stigmas.

4. Society

“Particularly from a young age it is important to not make assumptions about someone’s ability.”

Kunjika S. Business Summer Intern (London)

Gender equality doesn’t just stay in the workplace; this message filters down to the rest of society. The initiative requires interplay between organizational and societal support.

GOING FORWARD

While it is important to gain momentum for this initiative internally within organizations, I believe in the importance of sharing it with younger segments of society such as secondary school and university students. This is particularly important as a key theme throughout the project was an individual’s network and role models.

Raising awareness that there are women in senior leadership positions will continue to give young women the drive to carry on doing what they are doing and pursuing their dreams. While social media was often touched on as a crucial platform for engaging with young people, in my view, it is still confined within platforms such as LinkedIn. Therefore, it is important to extend engagement to platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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