The Female Millennial: Celebrating a New Era of Female Talent

A look at the current state of women in business and the role that all of us can play to improve gender equality and opportunities in the workplace.

By Karen Loon, Partner and Diversity Leader of PwC Singapore


In March this year, both men and women in Singapore were busier than ever celebrating International Women’s Day, giving much deserved recognition to all the incredible achievements of women in Singapore. It was also an important opportunity to reflect on the current state of women in business, and the role all of us can play to improve gender equality and opportunities for women in the workplace.


While global and local research and media attention appear focused on the lack of women in leadership and on corporate boards, I couldn’t help reflecting that, if we want to achieve sustainable change, we must shift the discussion and commit to two parallel efforts: tackling enhanced leadership diversity along with driving change in the workforce.


With female millennials making up an ever larger part of the global talent pool, diversity and inclusion (D&I) strategies must take this talent population into account. Our research confirms that female millennials (women born between 1980 and 1995) are entering the workforce in much higher numbers than any previous generations. They’re a highly educated and much more financially empowered generation.


But this isn’t the only thing that’s changed. These women also enter the workforce with a different career mindset. They’re more career-confident and ambitious than previous generations. They rank opportunities for career progression as the most attractive employer trait, and are most likely to have left a former employer due to a lack of such opportunities.



Today, all organisations are facing numerous uncertainties in global markets. Being an open economy, the future of Singapore will be dependent on its ability to continue to enhance its international competitiveness, support its enterprises for innovation, and internationalise.


A key attribute for Singapore’s future success will be adaptability. This includes having a good mix of talent and the ability to alter the mix depending on business needs. It also means having people who can think and work in different ways and who can lead cross-functional, cross-sector and cross-cultural initiatives. Diversity is not only a ‘soft issue’, but becoming a crucial quality in the talent pool across all dimensions, whether it is gender, ethnicity, knowledge, skills or experiences.


As leaders, we should also not forget that one of the most important sources of talent will be the one billion women who are set to join the workforce over the next decade. This group’s impact on the global economy will be at least as significant as that of the billion-plus populations in both China and India. But it gets much less attention.


Fortunately, the talent agendas of organisations worldwide are focusing more on D&I, with over half of Southeast Asian CEOs stating they now have a formal D&I strategy in place. Promoting D&I has helped their organisations reap the benefits, including attracting talent and enhanced business performance.


However, despite all these efforts, almost three quarters of female millennials surveyed believe that, while organisations talk about diversity, they don’t feel opportunities are really equal for all. It seems that saying the right things on the topic of gender diversity will no longer suffice—female millennials want to see visible action from their employers.




What can leaders do? It appears that the lesson for leaders is to move beyond soft D&I programmes and commit to inclusive talent and advancement strategies that demonstrate visible results—and that includes tapping into the confidence and ambition of the female millennial.


These strategies could include initiatives such as making D&I a regular feature on the agendas of leadership teams, looking at measures (both qualitative and quantitative) that ensure leadership accountability to a D&I culture and ensure tangible progress, driving awareness for D&I with leaders responsible for setting the tone from the top, and engaging men on the topic of gender diversity, for example supporting the HeForShe initiative.



When talent rises to the top, everyone wins.


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