Businesses must build a strategy to attract, retain and develop talented female millennials, as by 2020 they will account for about 25 per cent of the global workforce, a PwC study says.
Forty per cent of the global workforce is currently female, and some of them are now those born between 1980-1995 who are dubbed as the "millennials" or Gen-Y.
At the consulting firm itself, by 2016 nearly 80 per cent of its workforce will be millennials.
The study shows that many global companies are lacking in leadership roles held by women, and this threatens their competitiveness and profitability.
“Thai businesses are instating more systematic approaches to retain their female talents, but there’s a lot more to be done. A possible talent war lurks as businesses seek to attract younger talent and mitigate the impact of free-flowing skilled labour that is expected once the Asean Economic Community (AEC) begins in early 2016, said Vilaiporn Taweelappontong, a partner of PwC Consulting (Thailand).
PwC’s Next generation diversity – Developing tomorrow’s female leaders, which captured the views of more than 40,000 respondents in 18 countries, found that young female workers are becoming more prevalent in talent pools. This is fuelled by their rising workforce participation and the declining rates of their male counterparts. A further one billion women are expecting to enter the workforce over the next decade.
Vilaiporn said that forming talent strategies tailored for this talent segment is critical to the sustainability of today’s business.
“It’s time businesses start doing things differently to help millennial women develop their careers and fill leadership roles,” she said.
“Female millennials matter now more than ever, not only because they’re more highly educated. They’re also growing in numbers more than at any time since the soon-to-retire Baby Boomer generation.”
Citing The World Bank’s 2012 World Development Report on Gender Equality and Development, Vilaiporn said that 552 million women joined the global labour force between 1980 and 2008, adding that female enrolment in tertiary education (college and university) increased.
Globally, women make up the student majority in 93 countries while men do in only 46. They earn more bachelor degrees, and edge out men in master degrees at 56 per cent to 44 per cent.
“Each year, PwC firms recruit some 20,000 millennials across the globe, half of whom are female,” Vilaiporn said.
She noted that female leaders are scarce, though, due to several challenges.
While organisations talk diversity, 55 per cent of millennial workers don’t believe work opportunities are equal for all. Nearly a third (29 per cent) of female millennials also thinks that employers are biased towards males when it comes to promotion. According to the study, Spanish and German employers are viewed as the most male biased, while China and Brazil are viewed as the least.
An employer’s or sector’s image, brand, and reputation also matters, with 58 per cent saying they would avoid working in an industry or sector with an undesirable reputation. The participants were least interested in working in financial services and oil and gas because of their male-centric reputations, PwC found.
“Some companies and sectors will have to work harder at communicating the positive aspects of their brands, but businesses at large must do more than talk the talk in committing to an inclusive culture, and talent processes and programmes that attract this talent pool,” she said.
Despite millennial women’s concern about the gender leadership gap, 51 per cent said they believe they can rise to the most senior levels in their current organisations.
Nearly all millennials say that work-life balance and flexibility is essential. Females find this slightly more important with 97 per cent saying it’s important and 74 per cent that it’s very important. This generation of workers is set to drive major organisational and cultural change in the workplace, given the millennial is typically unmarried and without children, the study showed.