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Egon Zehnder Finds Generation, Not Gender, Determines Attitudes at Work

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An international study of business executives highlights the growing challenge facing businesses as they accommodate the personal and professional priorities of younger generations. The findings challenge traditional gender stereotypes; showing women and men have strikingly similar attitudes on leadership and diversity in the workplace.

Egon Zehnder, the world’s leadership advisory firm, conducted a study of more than 2,500 executives across seven countries. The study uncovered a significant gap in attitudes and priorities between generations, particularly regarding diversity, leadership qualities, and career development.

“Leadership expectations are changing,” said Cynthia Soledad, Egon Zehnder consultant and co-leader of the firm’s Global Diversity Council. “To be responsive to younger generations, today’s leaders must emphasize humility, ethical behavior and strategic thinking.”

Results of the study are released as Egon Zehnder prepares to host Leaders & Daughters: Power Moves events in over 30 cities worldwide, bringing together leaders across generations to discuss the opportunities and challenges women face in the professional world. 2019 marks the fifth anniversary of the initiative, which over its tenure has convened more than 6,000 leaders, daughters, and mentees through 85 events around the world.

“Diverse organizations are more sustainable organizations, but we still have a long way to go before biases are extinct and both genders are given equal opportunities. The leaders, daughters and mentees we have brought together over the five years of Leaders & Daughters all have a part to play in helping women fulfill their potential,” stated Karoline Vinsrygg, Partner and co-leader of Egon Zehnder’s Global Diversity Council.

This year’s events focus on how an emerging generation is shifting the traditional expectations and dynamics in the workplace. In addition to the events, leaders from around the world pen personal letters of wisdom to their daughters and mentees through the To My Daughter campaign.

Key survey findings

Diversity

  • A diverse workplace is most important to younger generations: Millennials (65%) and Gen Xers (61%) said it was very important, compared with boomers (51%). A diverse workplace, say 62 percent of millennials, is also very important to the success of the organization.
  • When it came to equal opportunities at work, a majority believed there were equal opportunities for all, though female Gen Xers were the least likely to believe that they had equal access to equal opportunities (57% said they did) compared to female millennials (63% said they did).

Expectations of leaders

  • When asked the most important qualities a great leader should embody, those under 35 rate humility the highest — a preference even more pronounced among men, with 55 percent of male millennials saying this is important versus just 32 percent of male baby boomers.
  • Boomers are more likely to value resilience in a leader, with 35 percent citing it as an important quality, compared with 21 percent of millennials.
  • When asked if their leaders modeled the desired qualities, millennials were much more likely than other generations to say their leaders always exhibit the key leadership qualities they expected (38%), while only 22 percent of boomers and 26 percent of Gen Xers concurred.

Career development

  • The vast majority of respondents (86%) experienced some type of barrier during their career journeys — though a third of male boomers claimed they had faced no barriers to success at all.
  • Millennials show a strong desire for mentoring and sponsorship. When asked about factors that have limited their opportunities at work, more than twice as many millennials than boomers (35% vs. 17%) claimed that a lack of mentors or sponsors has been a barrier to their own career success.
  • While leadership ambitions have nearly evened out between men and women (27% of women and 31% of men aim to reach the C-suite), women may have a more difficult path ahead. Egon Zehnder’s 2018 Global Board Diversity Tracker shows women make up just 3.7 percent of CEOs and 12.2 percent of CFOs globally.

Career priorities and motivations

  • Millennials are more likely to agree that their work-life balance is about right, with 87 percent agreeing, versus 80 percent of Gen Xers and 78 percent of baby boomers.
  • Men and women gave almost identical answers on personal and professional priorities, with 27 percent claiming their professional identify is their top priority, 17 percent saying their personal or family life is their priority, and 56 percent saying they balance the two.

Further information

To explore the complete findings of this year’s survey, visit https://www.egonzehnder.com/leaders-and-daughters/explore-the-data.

For more information on the Leaders & Daughters initiative, visit https://www.egonzehnder.com/leaders-and-daughters.

NOTES TO EDITORS

About the 2019 Leaders & Daughters Survey

The 2019 Leaders & Daughters Global Survey explores findings from more than 2,500 people in management and leadership positions in the U.S., Australia, Brazil, China, Germany, India and the U.K. Fieldwork was conducted in January and early February 2019.

About the Leaders & Daughters 2019 events series

Egon Zehnder introduced the Leaders & Daughters event series in 2016 to mark International Women’s Day and bring generations of leaders together.

This year’s theme, Power Moves, explores how the priorities of tomorrow’s leaders will reshape the workplace.

About Egon Zehnder

Egon Zehnder is the world’s leadership advisory firm, sharing one goal: To transform people, organizations and the world through great leadership. We know what great leaders can do and are passionate about delivering the best leadership services for our clients. As One Firm, our more than 470 consultants in 68 offices and 40 countries globally bring our individual strengths to form one powerful collaborative team. We partner closely with public and private corporations, family-owned enterprises and non-profit and government agencies to provide board advisory services, CEO search and succession, executive search, executive assessment, leadership development and cultural and organizational transformation. We share a commitment and pride in doing work that contributes to shaping successful leaders, stronger companies, and a better world.

Contact information

Egon Zehnder
Hilary Crnkovich
Global Head of Marketing and Communications
T: +1 312 260 8978
E: hilary@egonzehnder.com

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