Barbara Annis, CEO of Gender Intelligence Group and Dr Eliza Filby, broadcaster and millennial expert, discuss the commercial value of harnessing both gender & millennial intelligence, explore the power of positive corporate culture, offering ideas for best practice and views on #MeToo.
This episode was recorded at the SWIFT Institute offices in London.
Barbara Annis, CEO of Gender Intelligence Group (GIG) is a world-renowned expert on Gender, Diversity and Inclusive Leadership, advocating the value and practice of this new type of leadership in organizations worldwide. Her insights and achievements have pioneered a transformational shift in mindsets for men and women across the globe on the importance of gender unity to organizational success.
Barbara began her career as the first women in sales at Sony and became the first woman Sales Manager with 14 Outstanding Sales Achievement Awards and Sony’s MVP Award. Over the past 30 years, Barbara Annis and her 51 associates have partnered with organizations to transform cultures and leadership behavior, while creating greater gender balance at all levels. They have facilitated over 8,000 workshops and conducted thousands of leadership assessments and executive coaching sessions.
Barbara Annis is Chair Emeritus and current member of the Women’s Leadership Board at Harvard Kennedy School and was recently conferred the International Alliance for Women, Lifetime Achievement Award. She is the author of five books: Results at the Top: Using Gender Intelligence to Create Breakthrough Growth co-authored with Richard Nesbitt; Gender Intelligence: Breakthrough Strategies for Increasing Diversity and Improving Your Bottom Line co-authored with Dr. Keith Merron; Work with Me: The 8 Blind Spots between Men and Women in Business is written in conjunction with John Gray of Mars Venus renown; Same Words, Different Language: A Proven Guide for Creating Gender Intelligence at Work; and Leadership and the Sexes co-authored with Michael Gurian.
You can follow Barbara’s company, Gender Intelligence Group, on Twitter @GenderIntGroup.
Dr Eliza Filby
Eliza is an academic, writer, broadcaster and public speaker specialising in contemporary values and generations.
She was born in south London, educated at Durham and UCL and received her PhD in history from the University of Warwick in 2010. Between 2010-2014, she lectured at Remnin University Beijing where she taught the history of capitalism, and latterly King’s College London where she taught, amongst other things, a history of the 1980s to those born in the 1990s.
In 2014 Eliza started her own business, GradTrain, providing bespoke employability training for graduates. It is now one of the UK‘s leading training organisation for universities.
Eliza published her first book God and Mrs Thatcher: The Battle for Britain’s Soul in 2015 based on her PhD. She discovered that Margaret Thatcher had been a preacher before she had entered politics and that she had been heavily influenced in her politics by her lay-preacher father, Alfred Roberts, whose sermons revealed the true religious origins of Thatcherism.
Her current project explores Generation Y and Z. Pulling together data, existing research, future trends as well as her own experiences of training grads, Eliza helps businesses, policy makers and the media try and navigate the Generation Gap dominating society right now.
She has debated at the Oxford Union, sparred at the Conservative Party Conference and led management workshops for the Church of England as well as addressed audiences at numerous universities, including Cambridge and Harvard. She has written for The Times, Guardian, Telegraph, Spectator and have reviewed for the Financial Times amongst others. Eliza has appeared on BBC News, Radio 4, Radio 3, BBC World Service, LBC and BBC’s Daily Politics as well as broadcasters in Spain, China and North America. She regularly appears on the Sky News’ Evening Paper Review show.
You can follow Eliza on Twitter @ElizaFilby.
Series Two, Episode Four Transcript
Julia: Hello, my name is Julia Streets, and welcome to DiverCity Podcast, talking about diversity and inclusion in financial services.
In each episode, we seek to shine a light on successful progress, call out areas requiring further focus, and offer practical ideas to help drive change. Our episode today focuses on corporate intelligence. All our guests claim that diversity and inclusion makes a direct impact on corporate performance, and today we explore two specific areas in as much detail as a podcast episode will allow. We explore this through two lenses – by hiring more women to senior executive positions, described as gender intelligence, and attracting, hiring, and retaining young talent, the question of millennial intelligence.
As always, I’m joined by two leading authorities in their fields. The first is Barbara Annis, the co-author of Results at the Top, and founder of the Gender Intelligence Group. Barbara first coined the term ‘gender intelligence’ in the early 1990s, and advises firms how to benefit from gender, diversity, and inclusive leadership. Barbara, welcome.
My second guest today is Dr Eliza Filby, an academic, writer, and broadcaster, specializing in contemporary values with a particular focus on helping firms attract, hire, retain, and motivate young employees – Gen Z, the new graduate intake, also the millennial generation. Firms across many sectors, including financial services, called upon Dr Filby, Eliza, to advise them on how best to appeal to young talent. Eliza, welcome.
Today’s episode is recorded from the offices of the SWIFT Institute in London, and since 2012 the SWIFT Institute has been curating debate and provides a forum where academics and financial practitioners can learn from each other.
As always, we invite our guests to take a minute at the start of the show to talk about specific initiatives that they are working on, and then we’ll open up for discussion. So Barbara, welcome. Let’s start with you. What are you up to?
Barbara: Oh my goodness, where do I start? Well, number one, I’ve really seen a big transformation in how companies and executives are looking at gender intelligence from a different perspective. It used to be why don’t we just get more women in senior positions? Why don’t we just fill the pipelines? So it has been very much a numbers game. I now see that they’ve shifted to thinking to really see it, this is actually a business imperative. The fact that we have both men and women at the table actually produces better results, and it also impacts the culture of really creating a culture of inclusiveness.
Julia: There’s a lot in there about culture that we’ll certainly return to, but let me turn to you Eliza. What are you up to at the moment?
Eliza: Well, I’m a millennial so therefore I have a portfolio career, of course. I’m primarily an academic and at the moment I’m working on research looking not just at millennials, but across the generations, trying to look at now what is dominating politics, the workplace, and the consumer space, this multi-generational landscape, trying to answer questions like why do millennial workers prize gym membership over a pension scheme? Why is it that it’s baby boomers that upload the most to Facebook? So answering those kind of questions through my research.
Secondly, I run my own business called GradTrain, working with universities, helping graduates learn the soft skills that are necessary for the workplace; communications skills, presentation skills, networking skills, which a degree does not necessarily teach them.
And then thirdly, my third strand as you referenced in your introduction, is I’m a consultant. I work with businesses from discrete private banks to major corporations offering financial services, working with them, helping them figure out how can they engage, recruit, and retain young workers? How can they get the best talent? How can they get the best out of them? And how can they keep them for the long term?
Julia: And quite often the corporate world and the academic world, but also the changing dynamics of technology in the middle, are either polarising or in fact represent an opportunity to bring those worlds together. So we’ll certainly be exploring that in the show as well.
Barbara, let me start with you. I was fascinated by your book, which is called Results at the Top, it’s about using gender intelligence to create breakthrough growth. Explain that for us a little bit further. When you talk about gender intelligence, what do you mean by that?
Barbara: Well gender intelligence is really about understanding differences, and the fact that men and women are similar, but they’re also different. When you look at the entire bell curve of differences, you’re actually going to see that women tend to innovate, make decisions, prioritise and think strategically in a different way to men – in a complementary way. So often we’ll say things like, if you look at any kind of strategy or innovation you need to have two modalities of thinking; one is convergent thinking, which tends to be more of a male approach, and the other one is divergent thinking, which tend to be more a female approach.
So the combination of those two is what actually produces better results, and that’s what we see with companies. As a simple example, there are many, many others, but once you really think about this, not from a sameness thinking, like great minds think alike, to a difference thinking, like great minds think un-alike, and what is that un-alikeness, where we see companies, and especially the financial services industry, really making a big difference to the bottom line.
Julia: Can you give us some examples of where organisations have really cottoned on to embracing that potential of getting convergent and divergent thinking to work together? And what impact has that had upon their performance? And where organisations are perhaps a little slow to embrace and wake up to the potential?
Barbara: Unfortunately, I have to tell you, it’s usually a wake up call. So for example we have one client that contacted us a couple of years ago and said, “Help.” This is an investment company, insurance investment. They said, “72% of our female clients fire their financial adviser within one year of their spouse passing away, and we don’t know why.” And I said, “Well, you probably lost them at hello, in the very beginning, because they didn’t understand what women valued in that relationship versus what men valued.” So that was a big wake up call, and they spent two years trying to get them back, and of course we all know that they got zero back, right, because women have already voted with their feet.
So that’s one example. Another one is turnover. It goes with millennials too, there’s a lot of attention around recruiting more women into companies, and we see that if they haven’t shifted how they operate or their culture, they can’t retain them. And so there’s a big turnover. We have an accounting firm that were recruiting 55 to 62% women accountants into their firm, yet they had a 27% turnover rate versus 11% men, costing them a total of 190 million dollars a year in turnover. So a very expensive proposition.
However when they get the wake up call they begin to see, we really need to stand in each other’s shoes and understand these differences, and then be able to be much more congruent with our actions.
Julia: And that’s where the concept of breakthrough growth comes in, which when you appreciate that potential and then begin to think differently and behave differently and recruit and also lead organisations differently. But is that a little simplistic? Organisations will probably be nodding along saying, “Absolutely yeah, we get all this because diversity inclusions important to us etc.” Can you shine some light on where organisations have really captured that potential and what impact that has had?
Barbara: Yeah, I’ll continue the story around the accounting firm, because that’s an expensive proposition. Within two years they reduced from 27% turnover rate to 10% women. So it saved them a ton of money. But what really was the big insight for them was that the assumptions that were being made, which often happens, is that women leave because of work life reasons or personal reasons, because that’s what women tend to say they do, because they don’t want to burn their bridges etc. But when they dug a little deeper, they saw some interesting things; they saw two things. One is that women actually didn’t feel valued by the culture or the firm, number one, and this links to millennials too for example. Also they didn’t see a future progression of their career. However in the exit interviews they didn’t say that, they said, “I’m leaving for personal reasons.” So we create that myth.
So, that’s a huge success story because they actually course correct it and were able to reduce that turnover, but they’re also the number one firm to work for for women today, and really prized. They have about a 92% increase in productivity within teams because they have better gender intelligence inside their organisation.
Julia: And in there, you talk about millennials, and Eliza you’re nodding along to that. Before we get into millennials, I mean it’s an expression that is bandied around, I would say arguably, lazily, as a definition. We talk about Gen Z, we talk about millennials, we talk about even Generation Alpha now. Can you just break down some of those definitions for us?
Eliza: Yes, and I think it’s really important to make clear distinctions about the different generations and what they stand for and what they represent and what they value, because they’re actually very different. So obviously baby boomers, the much maligned targeted now, baby boomers, are anyone born between ’42 and 1965, and then that’s followed by generation X, who are the generation that were born post ’66 to 1980. And then we get the millennials so 1981 to 1996. And then after that is generation Z, and they are post 1997 through to 2010, and then we even now coming through we have generation Alpha who are born post 2011. We don’t quite know what generation Alpha stand for just yet, but certainly the classifications of generations and the characteristics of the different generations are very clear.
Now millennials, I think, has become as you referenced, almost a derogatory term. They are and have been in the past, classified as the trophy generation, the over-privileged generation, the me me generation, the iPhone generation. There’s a tendency, particularly within the workplace to see millennials as disloyal, flighty, lacking commitment, lacking attention span, lacking a willingness to adhere to hierarchical and fixed structures within the workplace. Actually I think that’s an unfair representation and characterisation.
It’s important to understand that millennials as workers prize different things from previous generations. They are for example, the most educated generation in history, so it’s little wonder therefore, with the fact that on a global scale 60% of millennials have a first degree, 32% of them have a second degree, that they prize training in the workplace, and they want to know that the job they have will provide training and education and development for them. It’s not something that’s secondary, it’s something that’s primary to the millennial workforce.
Millennials have grown up in the era of social media, so they prize a democratic conversation within the workplace. They aren’t interested in a kind of annual review feedback-style system. They’ve grown up in the era of social media where everything they post and comment is immediately liked and you get constant feedback on social media. So therefore it’s little surprise that in the workplace they prioritise a constant interaction with management and leadership. So they are really challenging managerial and workplace structures and norms and practices.
Beyond the millennial generation, because of course already now they are in their 30s so a lot of them are themselves in managerial positions, you have generation Z coming through. They have been defined by three things primarily; firstly the recession, the longest recession in history, secondly, the rise of social media. So the average generation Zer has had a smartphone since they were 13, and so their digital footprint has been there for 10 years, so they are very tech savvy and live and breathe technology. If that technology is not translated or there in the workplace, they question the efficiency of that workplace. Then the third thing is they are living through, I believe, the biggest seismic moment in diversity and inclusion history, they are challenging gender norms. They are the most racially diverse, sexually diverse, and gender diverse generation in history. I think that as they enter the workplace now, so the average age of a generation Zer is 22, so they’re your new graduates coming through. They are questioning, not just a gender inclusion policy that includes women, but one that actually has a much more complex understanding of gender and racial diversity that reflects the world they live in.
Julia: And I’m very excited about the potential but I’m also quite concerned about this disconnect between organisations that understand … I speak at so many conferences and it’s all about data, the management of data, technology, fintech – embracing new technologies to make organisations much more operationally effective. And yet they have to hire and attract young talent that ultimately behaves and thinks and engages in a very, very different way and naturally wouldn’t necessarily want to work in financial services. They probably want to work for an Amazon or a Google or a Facebook. What I’m really interested in is how should organisations, and Barbara you referenced it as well around culture, how do we get organisations to become more appealing?
Eliza: Absolutely. I think the first thing I would say is it requires an attitude change within the organisation. You can’t just say, “Millennials need to start at the bottom of the ladder like we did and just keep their heads down and get on with it like we did.” So one of the things and one of the biggest issues I encounter going into companies is actually trying to convince them that millennials will be the best workforce you will ever have, you just have to adapt and change in order to accommodate to their mindset. So I think attitudinal change.
Within that I think there is a real issue of saying, “Oh this is just a HR problem.” So, one of the absolute core requirements of my work is I say, “I can’t just talk to the HR representative, I have to talk to the top heads of the company, because this is actually something that needs to filter down throughout the company.”
Julia: Can I just bring in Barbara at that point, because actually a lot of that’s around intelligent leadership, and your gender intelligence and looking at the higher levels. Are you seeing organisations that not only understand the value of gender intelligence, but are thinking about, in their divergent thinking mindsets (the convergent versus divergent you were talking about), how appealing and embracing this younger talent into the organisation will drive better change? And how are those worlds beginning to converge?
Barbara: Well what I’m seeing with large organisations is, I say there’s equal learning for everyone. So millennials can actually also learn from baby boomers and vice versa. So the ones that have done it really well have been able to really be much more inclusive in embracing all of these differences, whether they’re baby boomers or generation… And what we’ve seen is that if you don’t do that, you literally have a turnover of millennials because they’re not going to stick around if they don’t feel valued. But the ones that have done it really well have been able to, not say “out with the baby…”, but really be much more inclusive how they look at it and say, “Oh, these baby boomers have these values which is a huge contribution, so do Gen X and so do the millennials. How do we work and collaborate together in a win-win way?” That’s where I’ve seen it’s been effective.
What I really see is that the women within organisations are calling out these people issues. It’s the women who are really looking at, we’re not getting along, we’re not relating etc. So they’re calling that out. The men tend to say, “Look, let’s just get the job done. Bottom line, let’s just get it done.” So the complementary strength of the differences play out there as well. Even millennial women will call it out more.
Julia: And within the organisations, this is a fact that I’ve heard, there are now more generations working in industry and in business today than ever before.
Eliza: And actually Barbara’s absolutely hit the nail on the head, is that I go into companies and they tell me they have a millennial problem. And I always say to them, “No, you have a generation gap, and it’s about multi-generational, intergenerational understanding.” That can only be engineered through things like reverse mentoring and pairing up millennials and baby boomers, millennials sharing their tech knowledge, baby boomers perhaps sharing their client based relationship knowledge. I really think it’s important that companies understand that with four generations now operating within the workplace, rubbing up against each other, all having different values and different ways of doing it, you will only succeed if you bring all four generations along with you. There’s no point in just transforming the company to suit your millennial employees, because as I said, you’ve got a next generation coming through, generation Z, who actually are thinking very differently from millennials.
I think that also it’s really important that you don’t overly focus on recruitment, and that retention requires as equal attention. Because a lot of companies have really transformed their recruitment strategies, so they are now doing blind CVs, they are now attracting school leavers rather than just graduates, they are now looking at ways in which to promote their job adverts, say on Snapchat – really innovative ways to attract young people. What they’re perhaps focusing less on, and where I think the biggest problem is actually, is on that post-trainee moment. So say those recruits that have been in the company two or three years, have done the training but and now are kind of looking around going, “Is this where I want to be for the next two or three years?”
Also what I’ve seen done really well is companies, private banks, through to accountancy firms, that have almost tried to engineer that startup culture that millennials are really attracted to, within their organisations, and a much more dynamic entrepreneurial spirit being generated within that startup. Enabling millennials to think, I can stay within this organisation but also actually fulfill and explore all the things I’m passionate about and really interested in.
Horizontal promotion as well, so not just saying, “There’s one way up and that’s it.” But actually moving people around in different departments and different roles, and what that does actually is it has an additional effect for the organisation, because you start breaking down those silos, which can actually really create a stayed environment.
Barbara: So I really find this an interesting paradox that’s going on, around when you look at millennials and when you look at financial institutions. So I work a lot with financial institutions, and they always say, “Well what is Google doing or what is Facebook doing or what are they doing in Silicon Valley?” As if they’re revering what they’re doing. And they have the biggest gender issues of anyone. Sorry, sorry, sorry.
Julia: That’s a point yes.
Barbara: The women are leaving in droves, they’re not sticking around. The culture sucks for women. So we’re doing a lot of culture work in these organisations to bring in empathy, to bring in more inclusiveness, because it has been a very alpha male, young alpha male paradigm in startups. The cultural norms that get created aren’t necessarily an inclusive cultural norm, and we see that. We’ve seen that in the whole movement that has been occurring in the last year or so. I just wanted to call that out.
Barbara: So again, what’s interesting for financial institutions, they’re actually moving towards technology at an accelerated speed. The question is how can they do it in a way that’s effective? Acquire technology, but still bring the soft people values with them. That’s really the key. Does that make sense?
Julia: Yes it does indeed. Are you seeing different leadership … I don’t want to call them training courses, but are you seeing different approaches to leadership to make executives more emotionally intelligent? To be thinking about what do younger generations need in terms of how they receive information? Are you seeing some developments in that area?
Barbara: Well having done a lot of work in Silicon Valley, the main trend today is empathy. You must have empathy. Well, good luck to you. In terms of just calling it out, you’re going to be an empathetic person right? Yeah, so we’re doing a lot of training around that, but it’s a different type of training, it’s not in classrooms, it’s online, it’s e-learning, it’s real time learning, where they can actually partner with peers and education to really produce those products so that different generations, and also cultures, that’s the thing that we also want to think about because in Silicon Valley and other technology companies here, they have a lot of diversity. More men than women, but a lot of diversity. When you add those cultures in it, more gender issues can emerge. So it’s even more important to provide that training, because everybody has the best of intentions, it’s not like there’s any ill intentions, but sometimes there’s incongruence between our intentions and our behavior. So how do we create that congruence? And that’s part of the e-learning that we’re doing.
Eliza: And actually that links to a really interesting point, that in the rise of artificial intelligence, emotional intelligence is key, and often lacking and in decline. I think Barbara’s absolutely right – you need those soft skills and communication skills that often are in regression when you spend too much time with computers. The real challenge for the financial services industry is as they move into, at great speed as you said, technology and fintech, will it actually set back their gender and inclusion agenda in order to chase after that startup, Silicon Valley ethos and culture and dynamism? I think that’s a really interesting question.
One of the interesting comments I often hear dealing with millennial talent is that they cannot make eye contact, they cannot hold a phone conversation. They’re great at email, they’re great at quickfire rapid response messaging, but their core communication skills, their ability to speak one on one, their ability to nurture client relationships, their ability to really speak in a complex emotional way, in an engaging way, is often lacking. I think that’s where that intergenerational learning can really take off, is that baby boomers or generation Xers who have learnt how to nurture that client relationship, can teach millennials those core skills.
Julia: A really important part of nurturing someone’s career journey is the ability to give and receive feedback. The slight concern there is that actually if you can’t have that interpersonal engagement, but also that maturity of communication to be able to give feedback well and receive feedback well, because your life is driven by email and everything’s done through devices, that actually that could be a little bit of a sticking point.
Eliza: Yes. I think that it’s one of the key issues that certainly companies have to address. I think also, and Barbara hinted and alluded to this, is the notion of purpose, and that being a core part of a millennial worker’s outlook. My job has to have purpose, it has to have a social conscience. For the financial services industry, that’s a pretty challenging question. How does working for a big corporation, big bank, big accountancy firm, have purpose? And how can you generate that through the ethos of the company, and is that satisfying enough to millennials?
One interesting initiative I’ve seen and worked quite well, is big corporations now hiring in small companies to basically help millennials find volunteering roles and charitable roles and charitable projects to basically find purpose, and giving them the time off in order to do that, and hiring a company to do that and the soft skills, because they know if they’re a company that encourages that, gives time to that, and actively promotes it, it’s fulfilling a millennial sense of purpose without a millennial going, “I’m going to go become a teacher or I’m going to go and find a job with a greater sense of social purpose.”
Barbara: What’s interesting to me about that purpose is that women have wanted purpose their entire lives, regardless of which generation. So every time we do a cultural diagnostic and we look at how men and women view the world, men value the destination, let’s get the results, what do we do in the next quarter or this year? That’s a great value because that’s a win and it’s a huge contribution to organisations. Women value the journey to get to the destination. That is, what meaning does this have for me? So they add much more meaning, which also is a millennial or generational value too.
But it’s so interesting that all of a sudden we’re calling out purpose when women have been screaming, “Purpose, purpose, purpose,” for decades right?
Julia: Which says to me potential and a huge opportunity.
Barbara: Absolutely. The other thing we want to think about is women share, women share. So on average, when men have a positive or negative experience, they’ll tell three people, only if it’s relevant to the topic, and women will tell up to 32 people even if it’s not relevant to the topic. And that’s just verbal. I’m not saying online or with our thumbs, that’s even more so.
So women can be your best advocates or not. So I always say to women, “If you have a great boss, don’t you tell everybody?” And every woman put their hands up. “Yes, I tell everybody.” “If you have a horrible boss don’t you tell everybody?” And they go, “Yes, I tell everybody.” So it’s also important from a external market to really understand your client base in terms of the gender differences on that, because women can be your best advocates, and you can see that in the movement that’s happening right now around women speaking up.
Julia: Let’s take a pause there and turn to Cynthia Akinsanya and Robert Pinto-Fernandes who have been scouring the industry for supporting research.
Cynthia: Millennials are pro business, but they expect more from corporations. However, in Deloitte’s 2017 Millennial Survey, 76% said businesses in general are having a positive impact on the wider society in which they operate. But they also believe multinational businesses are not fully realising their potential to alleviate society’s biggest challenges.
Robert: Learning to lead is a big priority for millennials. The same survey states that 75% of respondents believe that their organisations could do more to develop future leaders, which opens a massive opportunity for organisations to develop and become known for strong leadership programs.
Julia: Thank you Cynthia and Robert, and links to the references and research can be found on our website divercitypodcast.com. You can also sign up for early notifications of future episodes, and please do follow us on Twitter @divercitypod, and you can find us on all good podcast channels. If you’ve enjoyed the show we’d really appreciate a rating, it all helps promote the episodes.
I think the #metoo is very interesting. Barbara would you like to expand?
Barbara: Yeah, I’ve seen in the last several months, a big paradigm shift in how organisations are thinking about culture and leadership behaviour, and just employee managers’ behavior. What I see first of all is with #metoo, is that we could very easily go backwards. What I mean by that are two things. One is that we could fall into a victim kind of paradigm. I’m not saying we are, but we could. The other thing I see is a lot of men are really, a lot of great, fantastic, fabulous men are really getting nervous about this, because they don’t even know if they should go to lunch, if they should do this, if they should do that, or can I touch your arm? Or can I do this and that? So they’re questioning. When I first started 30 years ago in this conversation, that was there. Men said, “I don’t know how to be polite, I don’t know how to be respectful.” So we could fall there.
What I’m seeing the shift is the how of it. How can I be inclusive and how can we hold people, behaviours, so we have a lot of people in companies in New York, and a lot in Chicago, and in Los Angeles right now, who are asking questions like how can we measure behaviour? So we actually have expanded a tool that we already have around measuring behavior, in an empowering way not in a disempowering way. Because we don’t want to go back to penalising or creating mandatory harassment workshops.
I don’t know if you know but last year the US alone, spent nine billion dollars on sexual harassment workshops, and there was zero correlation to changing attitude or behavior. It actually create a suppressed environment and it hurt both men and women.
Julia: And the opportunity there is about reframing the conversation in a different way. It strikes me that with a younger talent, and I’m deliberately using the expression younger talent to be all-embracing in that context, to be engaged with that and helping to frame that. Do you think this is something that younger executives are thinking about?
Eliza: The #metoo movement does represent a seismic shift and a seismic moment in gender relations, and there is a danger that within the workplace, men are afraid or feel constrained and don’t know how to behave, and women are bracketed as victims. That’s not healthy for either sexes.
What I see within universities, and obviously university being the sort of hotbed of talent coming through into the workplace, is this culture actually of censorship rather than openness. Trigger warnings, no platforming for speakers, an over-preoccupation with over-sensitiveness when it comes to language. material being used within university courses. All of this culture of actually censorship rather than openness. When you speak to university students, they take it very seriously. The notion of offense is now broadening, completely opening up to just a much more broader definition of what constitutes offensive language, offensive material, and offensive behavior.
Julia: That’s also not simply in gender, I mean that’s across ethnic-
Eliza: Across the board, across the board.
Eliza: Racial diverse, gender, sexuality, you name it. And so I think that culture of censorship may end up, when you have those recruits entering the workplace, changing work culture again in a different way. It’s for companies to figure out how they will navigate that.
I think that the #metoo … I’m putting a more positive slant on it. I think the #metoo campaign does represent a moment when women, and not just women actually, but primarily women, can finally say, “This happened,” or, “That’s inappropriate.” There is an empowering element to what’s going on, and I don’t think that should be lost. Because as we know, certain kinds of inappropriate behavior, be it verbal or physical, have gone on in the workplace for far too many years, and it’s been hush hushed, it’s been silenced, and it’s been allowed to be covered up. For far too long certain men, not all men, have been allowed to get away with it.
I think what’s refreshing is that millennial women and the new recruits coming through, the young talent, they just don’t have traction for it at all. There’s a sense in which they won’t even consider being silenced. They won’t even consider being hushed up. Behaviour will be called out as soon as it happens, and I think that’s such an encouraging and empowering thing.
Julia: As we come to the end of the show, I’m interested to know what are you optimistic about? What excited you at the moment? Eliza, let me start with you.
Eliza: Okay, so my reason to be cheerful is that in the last two years in the wake of Trump and the Brexit vote where the narrative was the baby boomers voted for Trump and Brexit and the millennial voters have been hard done by, the generations were somehow at war and in opposition to each other. Working with companies in the past 12 months what I’ve seen is actually a willingness and a desire to bridge the generational gap in the workplace, whether that be through reverse mentoring, whether that be through sort of changing management style or adapting leadership practices in order to accommodate to millennial workers. A desire to address the generation gap in the workplace. So it may not be happening in politics yet, but there are reasons to be cheerful and optimistic within the world of work.
Barbara: So I see a couple of things. One is that men are very engaged. In the companies that we work with, we see men very committed to wanting women to succeed. So that’s a great thing, and that’s why book number five that I’ve written I co-authored with Richard Nesbitt who’s a famous banker.
Julia: This is Results at the Top.
Barbara: Right, Results at the Top. Which really is about engaging men, and for men to really see that applying gender intelligence would actually even accelerate their own win, in terms of what they can create and impact in their own career. So I see that.
The second thing I see is a … from a mindset of thinking, oh god we got to do this, we got to create gender equality, or we got to get the numbers right, to this is actually a business imperative. This is actually a really good thing to do. So I see that positive mining the gold in having more women versus having to do that in terms of quotas, seeing it as a business imperative. So there’s two things that I see there, I feel are very positive,
Julia: Wonderful. So Barbara, Eliza, it’s been a fascinating discussion. Thank you both for taking the time to join us today.
Eliza: Thank you.
Julia: Thank you.
Kieron: This episode of DiverCity Podcast was produced by me, Kieron Yates, on behalf of Julia Streets Productions. Thanks to Cynthia Akinsanya and Robert Pinto-Fernandes for their insights. You can find out more about the guests on this week’s show on our website, divercitypodcast.com. Whilst you’re there you can also sign up to our newsletter for all our latest updates. To be sure of catching all our future podcasts, subscribe to our feed in iTunes or your favourite podcast app. And if you’ve enjoyed this episode of DiverCity Podcast, remember to give us a rating or review in iTunes. It all helps promote to show to a wider audience. Finally, our Twitter handle is @divercitypod. Thanks for listening.