Social impact
min read

How Gen Z is leading the way on gender equality in the workplace

Written by
Izzy Hall
Published on
March 1, 2024
Last updated
March 1, 2024

What this article covers

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In 60 seconds… 

  • Gen Zers are advocating for better gender equality in the workplace, from more flexibility and financial fairness 
  • If a company doesn’t have women in leadership positions, they run the risk of losing their best talent due to a lack of perceived progression opportunities
  • Gen Zers are entering the workplace at a faster rate than before, partly thanks to their business-savvy mindset and eagerness to found companies and spearhead start-ups

A recent survey by Ipsos and King’s College London revealed that 46% of women aged 16-29 think that feminism has done more good to society than harm. This, obviously, is good news. We’re heading in the right direction. 

But women and non-binary people still face many challenges, both in and out of the workplace. From inequalities when it comes to promotion opportunities to concerns around maternity leave, this is a community that is still suffering at the hands of a male-centric society. 

But where does Gen Z fit into all of this? And, as more and more young people enter the workplace, what about their futures?

In this blog, we’ll be exploring gender equality and Gen Z, looking at young people in the workplace, discussing the importance women in leadership, and sharing our tips on how (and why) businesses can promote gender equality. 

The state of gender equality and Gen Z 

Young girls are still experiencing situations and double standards that their male counterparts don’t - after all, social media continues to be filled with horror stories of women feeling unsafe when out in public and sharing their tips on how to defend themselves.  

Gen Z men, in general, are considered to be more emotionally literate than their elders, and are generally encouraged to accept and address their feelings. Not only does this protect their mental health more, but it also inspires an awareness and understanding of what women and non-binary people are experiencing.

However, it’s not all good news: with stories circulating the internet detailing the downfalls of men and comments like ‘Ugh, men!’ being commonplace amongst Gen Z, some young men are growing up feeling ashamed of their gender, burdening the weight of those harmful individuals; this is where we begin to see the rise of ultra-male influencers like Andrew Tate. 

But, in the grand scheme of things, this is rare - while not a monolith, on the whole, young people are open-minded, tolerant, and inclusive. They want equality for all, and that includes in the workplace. 

Gen Z in the workplace 

Gen Zers are entering the workplace at a faster rate than before, partly thanks to their business-savvy mindset and eagerness to found companies and spearhead start-ups; some of the most notable include August (Nadya Okamoto), f*** you pay me (Isha Mehra), and Depict.ai (Oliver Edholm). 

Gen Z is, in general, a diverse, inclusive, progressive generation, and, thanks to their youth, they aren’t weighed down (for better or for worse)  by experiences - experiences that may deter Millennials and Gen Xers from taking risks or championing innovation. Gen Zers entering the workplace now bring fresh perspectives, new approaches, and a fresh mindset. 

Interestingly, these young people are increasingly bringing their full selves to work (more so than any generation before them), and this may in part be because they grew up online. They’re comfortable in themselves, don’t take themselves too seriously, and believe that there’s more to life than a 9-5 office job. To quote one Gen Zer on TikTok: ‘Gen Z are like ‘Oh, this job isn’t serving me? I’ll leave.’’ 

Gen Zers want to work for enjoyment, and won’t settle for toxic work cultures experienced by previous generations. This is something we’re seeing particularly amongst Gen Z women, who are taking to social media to document their work lives and how they bring their personalities to a corporate environment. 

Gender equality in the workplace 

Nonetheless, gender inequality in the workplace is still rife. Charlie Welman, Head of Legal and Privacy at Pion, shared with us: “As a very junior lawyer I was told that to make it in a man’s world, I’d have to act more like a man. You can imagine what I did with that advice…”. Not the most progressive advice…

Pushing back against this ingrained disparity, Gen Zers are advocating for better gender equality in the workplace, from more flexibility and financial fairness to increased progression opportunities and feedback. This in part is thanks to the enforced remote working that many of us experienced in past years -  it gave us a taste of freedom.  “Recent global events including the pandemic resulted in increased working flexibility and in turn fuelled further ambitions of women to progress in their careers”, said Pion’s Head of B2B Marketing, Amie Edwards-McLean. “We’re finally beginning to operate in a working world that wasn’t just built for men.” 

And if a company doesn’t offer what Gen Zers want? Well… they’ll leave. Or they won’t apply in the first place.

Why should businesses advocate for gender equality in the workplace? 

Aside from it just being the right thing to do, there are several business benefits to having a diverse workforce, including more innovation, employee retention, and increased financial returns. 

To address diversity and equality issues, companies need to look inwardly, using data to understand the inequalities, from pay to promotion, by gender, level, and intersectionality (e.g. the promotion rate of women of color). This data then needs to be used to inspire change, from challenging everyday inequalities to kickstarting greater systematic change. More on this later. 

Women in leadership 

“Some of the world’s most exciting and growing businesses have women sitting at the head of their tables!”, says Charlie. And she isn’t wrong: Jas Schembri-Stothart, co-founder of luna, the world’s first digital and health wellbeing app for teens as they navigate adolescence, and Emily Jack, CEO of Bookmark Reading Charity, recently joined us for our Think Like a Zalpha webinar, where, as women leading businesses, we discussed career milestones, the resilience of Gen Z, and (of course) Gen Zapha. 

The world of work has been known to present women with many challenges, from maternity leave/’returnity’ to promotions, but Gen Zers have the added complication of being young. Women often find themselves taken less seriously in the workplace than men. And Gen Z women? Well… they’re fighting a real battle there. 

So why is having women in leadership important? “The more women that see women in positions of influence and authority, the more normalized this becomes”, says Charlie. “We all have a role to play in championing the diverse workforce and challenging outdated perceptions of what it means to be a leader in a modern working environment.” 

“If women in leadership positions aren’t visible, a company can run the risk of losing their best talent due to a lack of perceived progression opportunities”, adds Amie. “It’s important to ensure women are well represented at all levels, the compensation structure is fair, and flexible benefits are offered up front.” 

How can businesses promote gender equality in the workplace? 

So we know why gender equality is so important in the workplace, particularly in leadership positions, but where to start? 

In this section, we hear from Pion’s Chief People Officer, Jenny Crawford, on how businesses can promote gender equality in the workplace, pulling on examples from Pion:

1. Give equality a genuine focus

A fun fact: Research shows that while men apply to jobs when they meet 60% of the requirements, women and those in underrepresented groups tend to only apply when they tick every box.

“Equality has to be something that is genuinely seen as a priority. At Pion, we are still very much on the journey and we are deepening our focus on equality at every step of the employee lifecycle, from blind applications to offering development opportunities to talent of all levels and providing safe spaces for coaching and mentoring discussions which enable us to better support our aspiring leaders.” 

2. Make equality part of your DNA

“We have a really strong set of values that are part of our DNA and drive our inclusive culture. Our values also form the basis for our Leadership Charter which sets out what our employees can expect from Pion Leadership, including specifically in relation to ED&I matters”, says Jenny.  

And that’s not all: “Transparency in the workplace is pivotal in ensuring that women have the same opportunities for career growth as men”, adds Sasha Ricki, Head of New Business US, EMEA & APAC at Pion. “Companies need to be open and clear about promotion and advancement criteria, salary ranges, and other relevant information. This provides a safeguard against gender bias in decision-making processes and promotes fairness; fostering a more equitable workplace for everyone involved.”

3. Lead by example and celebrate success 

“Female leaders all have a part to play to support each other in the workplace. That can start with very small things that actually have a big impact, such as encouraging some of the quieter voices in the room to be heard in meetings through to encouraging our female talent to play an active part in our mentoring program.” 

4. Put your money where your mouth is 

“We’ve overhauled our pay review process and introduced role and pay bandings to ensure greater gender pay parity. We also offer enhanced maternity and paternity leave and other family friendly benefits to try to make it a little easier for people to balance work and home life. “ 

So there you have it: a deep dive into the world of Gen Z and their approach to gender equality in the workplace. And remember: it’s important to acknowledge that it’s okay if you have a long way to go - it’s a journey! The essential thing is to acknowledge what you’re doing wrong and where there’s room for improvement… and to take action. 

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