Generation Disrupted

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Introducing the next generations

Millennials and Generation Z – anyone born since 1981 – face unprecedented challenges finding comfortable employment and, consequently, have a novel set of demands for leaders in business and politics. With an eye to this issue, #Girl2Leader and Running Start delegate Serena Saunders took to the stage at the 2019 Reykjavik Global Forum to speak at the plenary session Generation Disrupted: Earning Trust, Finding Meaning and Building Skills. Ms. Saunders was joined by conversationalists Michele Parmelee, the Global Chief People and Purpose Officer at Deloitte; Victoria Budson, the Founding Executive Director of the Women & Public Policy Program at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government; as well as moderator Elaine Quijano, an anchor at CBS News. 

The crux of the discussion revolved around the constantly changing standards of living and working in today’s society. As Millennials and Gen. Zers now comprise half of the world’s population, and over half of its workforce, the world needs to reshape attitudes toward young adults in order to effectively accommodate them as they confront challenges unseen by previous generations. As the spokesperson for the ‘Generation Disrupted’ Ms. Saunders, a student herself at the University of Maryland, highlighted this shifting paradigm. In many places around the world, tuition fees are becoming an increasing burden. Additionally, Millennials are seeking more tolerant and inclusive workplaces that consider the need to maintain a healthy work-life balance. 

Addressing the trust deficit

These sentiments were reaffirmed by Deloitte’s survey on the psyche of Millenials. Ms. Parmalee noted the marked decline in trust in businesses among young people. She called upon business leaders in attendance to heed Ms. Saunders’ words and to take millennials’ shift in priorities, namely from caring about salary to the desire to work for organisations that recognise and act upon their social responsibility, into serious consideration. 

The future job market is further complicated by a necessity to acquire technological skills – a fact that both Ms. Saunders and Ms. Budson agree places a responsibility on governments to impart this knowledge to young people. Furthermore, events such as the 2008 financial crisis, subsequent volatility in the job market and diminished job security exacerbate these concerns which disproportionately affect women, ethnic minorities and intersectional groups. 

What next?

The conversation raised the abundantly clear need for businesses to listen to the desires of Millennials and Generation Z. This can be done by creating appealing working environments for young people, but perhaps more importantly by making brands socially conscious in areas that the younger generation cares about most – such as sustainability and progressivism. By achieving this, Ms. Saunders and the panel believe that existing concerns can be alleviated to a large degree. Nevertheless, they unanimously agreed that the necessity for legislation to safeguard the needs of young people is just as crucial to restore the dwindling trust of Millennials in political institutions during these turbulent times. With this established, girls and young women can feel that they are part of a more inclusive society that values them as individuals.