Generation Y – or millennials – expect diversity and equality. We walk into an office and expect to be challenged by our employers, expect to work with the best minds on the best jobs – the identity of the individuals those minds belong to are irrelevant. We expect to work with people of all genders, races and religions. We expect our male and female managers and directors are paid the same and when they both go for the same job, we expect the best candidate will be chosen for the role, period. Most of all, we expect a rich diversity of thought. We wonder why these simple things are not already a reality.
For young people, there can be a sense your views make you appear unsupportive of diversity initiatives, and the reaction can therefore be to steer clear of the discussion. But I don’t think this perceived apathy is necessarily born of ignorance or entitlement as some suggest.
The same problems plague the effectiveness of social causes as is often the case with charitable ones. There is a ‘day’ for everything now, so much so that many pass you by without a second thought. They are causes that deserve attention, time in the sun and support. But the push for diversity can become tiring, not because it isn’t important but because we think it should already be achieved. Millennials of all genders, orientations or backgrounds often love the makeup of our workplaces, who our managers, directors and colleagues are, so long as they are equitable.
I have spent years firm in the belief forced equality measures such as gender quotas on boards or racial quotas in sport are flawed because they undermine the basic premise I was taught to build my life upon: the best person for the job will get it. Recently, and importantly, my view has softened. Whilst I still think lasting change will emerge as a generational shift, I have realised reverse engineering the broken diversity model may just be the necessary policy for immediate change. My gut tells me it is a band aid solution but if I am to sit here and suggest time will be the best remedy, then a band aid is a good start.
The most immediate solution has to be for us all to lift our heads and realise there are a great range of solutions to the problems we face, accessible within our immediate network of friends and colleagues. Naturally the best of them will emerge when we are able to borrow the brain of somebody who does not think the same way we do. This is what I mean by diversity of thought. When we’re busy, we take the easy route and default to the solution we have applied countless times before. But openness to new ways of thinking and receptiveness to the people who endorse them will enhance our performance in the long term.
Lacking the experience of different times, most millennials are not jaded by yesterday’s troubles, we are willing to try new solutions. Some of these solutions will fail and it is important we experience these failures for ourselves, because our experience of them will inform our leadership moving forwards. We can certainly learn from the past, repeating the mistakes of our mentors is folly, but making new mistakes is essential to our development.
It is my great hope the growth of millennial influence will begin the realisation of our common expectations. I am confident we will not repeat the mistakes of the past.
Read the 2016 Diversity & Inclusion Report, Bringing the future forward.