New research: Gen Y Men in the City
Our first research report captured views of young professional women and their career aspirations and what would stop them from pursuing their careers in the City. The results were quite surprising and uncovered two main issues:
- The first was that although employers have acknowledged that the problem is linked to the impact of motherhood on women’s careers, they didn’t understand just how early on this became an issue – with many women deciding at the very outset of a career that career progression was something they could not balance with motherhood.
- The second is that although firms are starting to put in place practical support for women before and after a maternity break, they typically don’t go far enough in understanding or addressing the full range of issues which impact on gender inequality. The dearth of female role models, a lack of supportive managers and “mummy-tracking” returners were just three of the wider barriers we identified.
In doing this second round of research in March this year, we wanted to examine the extent to which this view is a gender issue, by contrasting the views of young male professionals with their female peers in the City. We explored attitudes and career aspirations, and how this influences both men and women.
We found that, for employers who want to make a real difference to gender balance in their organisations, men as much as women must be the focus of policy and support. Generation Y men have high expectations around gender diversity and their role as parents and there is much to be gained by employers who listen to this.
Our findings are explored in four key areas:
- Career expectations and progression
One of the big challenges we uncovered in our first round of research into Gen Y women in the City was the extent to which women are either not interested in or lose their ambition to progress into senior positions early on in their career. Our new round of research found this to be an issue for men too with a quarter of men (25%) saying they couldn’t see a future at their current employer beyond the next five years with a further 7% unsure.
The research finds that for men, dissatisfaction is centred around a perceived lack of support they will have to develop their careers around their individual strengths, transparency about how they can progress and, like women, a desire for better work/ life balance and flexible working arrangements.
So, although City firms are delivering what men and women want when they start their careers, they are failing to provide the type of career trajectory and support which Generation Y employees expect.
- Role models and culture
The presence of female senior leaders and managers is a key driver of gender diversity in organisations – and this is something many Gen Y men say they want to see improve. When asked whether they wanted better gender balance at all levels of their organisation, the overwhelming majority agreed (71%) they would with only a minority disagreeing (7%).
But according to our research, firms are not only failing to promote enough women to senior positions but there is also a lack of good role models. As is the case with Gen Y women, only a minority of men (35%) say there are good female role models in many or all the senior positions in their firms and a quarter saying there are very few or no good ones at all. This compares to an almost identical view from men and women (57% and 58%) that good male role models are abundant.
It is clear from our research that the behaviour of female role models has a substantial impact on ability to retain the 26% of women who can’t see how they can maintain their career and balance family or other interests. But it is also starkly apparent that men have the potential to play a major role influencing women and men in their early careers by demonstrating they can juggle work/life/family and ensure it is seen as a quality which is valued in organisations, at every level. At present, this is very much not the case.
- Combining careers and parenthood
For women in the City, parenthood presents the biggest challenge to keeping a job and maintaining their career with some 86% of women saying that having children holds them back compared to 55% of men. And it is clear, as evidenced by the number of those whose careers stall or who fail to maintain the original trajectory, that looking after children and juggling a career remains primarily a job for women more than men.
However, that may be about to change as Generation Y men appear willing to reject this ‘traditional’ delineation of roles and get more involved in parenting.
The majority of men (78%) wanted to explore the idea of shared parental leave but they are significantly more interested than the number of women (62%). This is a large difference even taking into account that we surveyed men and women either side of the introduction of shared parental leave. Both men and women see barriers to shared parental leave, with financial consequences and the impact on their career the top concerns.
Of course, women and men come at this issue from different perspectives and it could be that because men’s careers are not generally seen to suffer as a result of parenthood, they have more confidence that parenthood should not be a barrier to career development for either gender whereas women are more attuned to the issues which hold back their careers. Men typically don’t see peers and senior leaders of their own gender suffer the parenthood penalty and therefore could be said to have not yet developed a detailed appreciation of how hard it is to combine career and family.
- Flexing work, life and family
With or without a family to consider, the desire for flexible working and the need to balance work and non-work commitments is one of the stand-out things Generation Y men and women want from their employers.
The research suggests not only that many City employers have yet to take flexibility seriously but there is also a failure to understand its role in instilling a culture of work-life balance and the importance that Gen Y men and women attach to this style of working.
Encouraging a culture of flexible working
While men and women agree that the attitudes of managers are critical in making flexible working arrangements a success, there are also some nuanced differences for employers to address. The first is the clear perception among women that flexible working carries a potential penalty when it comes to career progression, leading them to say they want more equality in career opportunities and clarity around promotion paths for flexible workers.
This top concern of women is less of an issue for men. Men appear to believe it’s more do with investing in technology than women do.
In conclusion: An agenda for change
Our research points to four actions City employers need to consider in order to ensure they have the right pipeline of talent to support their organisations in the future.
1 – Understand that female-only policies won’t work
2 – Acknowledge that Gen Y men are part of the solution
3 – Senior men must step up as role models
4 – Make flex part of your culture