I haven’t felt this degree of momentum for gender equality in my conscious lifetime. Quite frankly, as a millennial who was born into the most equitable society in modern history, I have felt surprised, as have many of my peers, both male and female.
Broadly speaking, we thought we were past the need for these movements. We thought we were much closer to enjoying equality, diversity and inclusion as social norms. Instead, #MeToo and #TimesUp have opened our awareness of our own privilege, while exposing the still commonplace sexual harassment and assault women face every day. And while these remarkable hashtags and the campaigns that have grown around them have focused on overt experiences of gender-based discrimination, more insidious, systemic counterparts are also being discussed more openly: vast gender pay gaps, the experiences of racialized women, of trans people, and myriad other issues of diversity and inclusion.
Diversity, whether of culture, race, age, sexual orientation, ability or gender, is the state of being. Inclusion is the thinking, approaches, perspectives, and knowledge necessary for diverse peoples to thrive.
This moment is less surprising for our mothers and grandmothers. Their generations lived through a more extreme era of sexism and the feminist revolution. I and my generation inherited a more equal world. For that, we millennial women are deeply grateful. We stand on the shoulders of giants.
Is ours the first inclusive generation?
As #MeToo and #TimesUp chase the lurking shadows of discrimination out into the open, the world is paying attention. It’s perhaps a more comfortable experience for millennials, because we’ve grown up in diversity.
In the UK, 26% of millennials were born abroad. This compares with 12% of Gen X-ers (1960 to 1970). Some 22% of Canadian millennials are non-white, compared to 14% of Boomers (1940 to 1960). And in the US, 54% of millennials are non-white, while only 25% of Gen X are non-white. In short, we grew up learning to appreciate diversity. Many of us have grown to be liberal citizens with extremely global perspectives.
We see the world’s problems….
Everyone—our parents, governments, teachers, media outlets—made sure we grew up knowing the troubles our generation faces: climate change, poverty, bullying, racism, and more. We became increasingly aware of how these problems manifest, and how intertwined each is with the others. We’re attuned to thinking consciously, acting ethically, and considering the needs of others and society as a whole. We’re prone to thinking progressively, always seeking to improve.
We’re empowered to fix those problems….
Our parents told us that we can do anything we want. They taught us to believe we can change things. We deeply believe we can. And while millennials are too often caricatured as entitled for this determination, we tend to take responsibility for building awareness and driving progress.
We seek first to understand….
For those of us fortunate enough to travel, we’ve crossed oceans and vast continents to experience and appreciate different cultures, histories, world views, and people. Those of us who have not travelled have still had access to an Internet-connected world—exposure to the infinite diversity of our ever-smaller world from the palms of our hands. We’ve widened and deepened our understanding of the world we live in, developing empathy and compassion for others.
We know we can’t do it alone….
Throughout our schooling we were taught that we can accomplish more through collaboration. Teamwork and group exercises played a dominant role in our education—and we all have distinctly ‘fond’ memories of the challenges of working productively together. We learned that different people and diverse perspectives add value, making problem solving, projects, and tasks easier, more efficient, and more effective.
And yes, we’re stubborn about it!
It should come as no surprise that Millennials insist on diversity and inclusion in the workplace. We firmly believe that diversity helps organisations innovate and succeed in business, because teams that include diverse perspectives are better at identifying the needs of customers and other stakeholders.
Let’s Learn Together
Millennials are driving these values, approaches and perspectives into every corner of society, alongside the progressives of Gen X and the Boomer generation. Organisations are beginning to recognise their responsibility to address issues of diversity and inclusion, but many are falling behind—to their peril.
At Junxion, we’ve worked with and learned from some incredible organisations who are setting the agenda on inclusion. Since the 70s, our client Urdang Academy has raised funds and subsidized education in order to welcome a majority 1st generation and BAME (Black, Asian, Minority, Ethnic) student population. In 2016 they gave a significant proportion of their profits to subsidise their students’ education. Reconciliation Canada is leading Canadians to acknowledge their violent colonial history and reconcile with First Peoples. And the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation is supporting inclusion through its work in social innovation, including a deep focus in Reconciliation.
Junxion continues to learn, alongside these and many other clients, recognizing that inclusion is perhaps more journey than destination. Wherever you and your organization might be on this path of learning, we will go farther together.
Shayla Meyer is a Consultant at Junxion. She writes regularly about her experiences as a millennial professional.