Why The Most Successful Organizations Have Women And Millennials In Charge

A new global study shows that when women and twenty-somethings lead, big things follow.

Gender and generational gaps have recently become big buzz words in the business world. According to a new study, it's not a passing trend: Having millennials and women in leadership positions directly correlates with the success of a company.

The Global Leadership Forecast looked at the workforce issues affecting 13,124 leaders from around the world, representing 48 countries and 32 major industries.

Millennials present a unique catch-22: Their presence in leadership positions related to the company's growth rate. Companies with a 30% proportion of young people in higher roles saw "aggressive growth," according to the study. When it's more like 20%, they saw "little to low growth" rates. At the same time, they were the least engaged of all the age groups studied, and the most likely to leave within a year.

The researcher suggest strategies to keep this catalyst-generation engaged and loyal, including social learning opportunities, virtual workshops, and ways to connect in person with mentors. See the millennial breakout section of the study below:

Women in leadership, like millennials, are a sign of successful companies. Of the participating organization, those in the top 20% financially had almost twice as many women in leadership roles, as well as more high-potential women holding those roles. Visualize that gap below:

The main issue holding these high-potential women back, it seems, is a lack of opportunities. Women had the edge in development plans and in knowing where they needed to improve, but men had more chances to lead in visible ways: In multinational teams, geographically dispersed groups, and in international assignments. These missed chances to shine mean that women, on average, get fewer shots at big projects and promotions.

"To improve business outcomes, bolster current development programs so that all leaders, including women and millennials, can improve their skills,” study coauthor Evan Sinar, Ph.D. said in a press release. “Development opportunities build confidence. Provide opportunities for stretch assignments, ensure formal practices are in place to facilitate those opportunities and fully commit your support to mentoring programs to develop and prepare new leaders.”

From the study, the takeaway from all of this number-crunching:

These gaps are worth noting and addressing. Encouraging gender diversity in your leadership pool means greater diversity of thought, which, in turn, leads to improved problem solving and greater business benefits.

[Image: Flickr user keith ellwood]

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12 Comments

  • yadabbado

    This article is total bullshit. No examples are cited and it does not define what makes a company successful.

    How about baking this crap up with some real world data?

  • drumster113

    So according to this article I guess men over thirty should just pack it in and find someplace to die?

  • mk

    Don't fear, Drumster! It's true, we men need to give up the affirmative action program that has benefitted us for 8000 years. But by doing so, we're helping create workplaces that are better for us all. And homes too! Women's demands for childcare and parental leave is now directly benefitting men: more and more countries have father's leave programs that, in some cases give men a year off work, still receiving pay, so they can do their share of parenting. So, don't panic! Don't fear! Celebrate what gender equality is bringing to us all. It's only fair. Michael Kaufman www.michaelkaufman.com

  • Interesting study. Thanks for sharing, Samantha. I'm a 27-year-old CEO with a staff that is 90% millennial, and aggressive growth is about the best way to describe our last 24 months. I think these numbers reflect the rapid expansion of tech and entrepreneurial opportunities for younger leaders, and I believe we'll soon see a huge rise in female leadership in these realms, too. Millennials are more forward thinking and interested in companies that are always moving, adapting, and growing -- which many large corporations are not. Most young professionals are focused more on being agents of change, so they value professional development and push for constant engagement to foster growth.

  • Tom Kipps Kippenberger

    Very interesting article (male, 28 yo). Would be very interested to know more about the psychological explanations behind this, and the traits that underlie this pattern. Given how young people learn at a different rate, and in a different way, to previous generations, it does not surprise me that they are a key generation (watching my nephews and nieces is scary). However obviously these things need to be tempered with wisdom, maturity and experience... which i feel could be degraded in a faster moving generation. For gender, you see a suggestion here that women "had the edge in development plans and in knowing where they needed to improve". Personally I've put a huge focus on my own self-development through self-awareness, honesty and a drive to improve my weaknesses, and it has paid off immensely. After my own experience, I value this trait greatly, and it's interesting to not a gender difference there.

  • Jack Strap

    I completed my MBA last year. During those two years I came across an academic study which exposed that, on average, a company's stock value declines when a female CEO is in charge. It also increases when a man takes over from a female. It was very enlightening. Too bad I can't remember the source.

  • Barry Quinn

    Is it really that they specifically have woman or Millenials in charge? Or is it that they put the best person in the job no matter what their age or sex? There is a difference.

  • Charlotte McPherson

    Agreed, their definitely is a difference. However, in this particular instance the study states: "There was no was no significant difference between the men and women in our study regarding leadership skills or ability to handle management and business challenges."

  • Emily Bird Davis

    Yes, there is a difference. But that's just detail. The point is to get the need for the distinction out of the way - so that we can get out of our own way and realize how we are viewed in the workplace and work to change it. The decision makers are not sitting in a big office saying to themselves - before or after reading this article - that they need more millenials/women in their leadership roles and then filtering the candidates based on that. However, we know that millenials/women ARE filtered out for the reasons stated above: confidence, engagement, commitment, motivation. SO - we need to be aware of this perception to overcome it.

  • markyhwh

    Just detail? It is a critical one. Drawing the right conclusion from data is also the hallmark of successful people and companies. If the conclusion is diversity equals more access to qualified people then it is a positive takeaway, if the conclusion is women are needed to run a a successful company it does no one any good (other than women, and temporarily at that).

  • "If the conclusion is that women are needed to run a successful company it does no one any good (other than women)"

    Women are half of the population... why are they "no one"?