Gen Y women | No Country for Young Women

Pictured above, from left: moderator Lucy Marcus, speakers Caroline Ghosn and Myriam Levain.

Deauville, France – October 11th, 2012.

Here are highlights from the debate “Gen Y Women: What Employers Need to Learn and Unlearn” – focused on the work values and loyalties of Gen Y women.

Moderator: Lucy Marcus, founder and CEO of Marcus Venture Consulting

Speakers:
- Delphine Ernotte-Cunci, CEO of Orange (France)
- Caroline Ghosn, Founder of Levo League (United States)
- Myriam Levain, co-author of “La Generation Y par elle-meme” (France)
- Nicole Seah, Central Executive Committee Member and Youth Leader, National Solidarity Party (Singapore)

Pictured above: Delphine Ernotte-Cunci (L), Myriam Levain (R)

On the differences between Gen X and Gen Y women

Delphine (Gen X): I don’t find Gen X and Gen Y so different. Gen Y react to the world we built for them in a very clever, realistic way. Finding a job is very difficult in France – the average age for finding a permanent position is 30 years old.

Myriam (Gen Y): We have a feeling we are misunderstood. I think in France – that’s what I know best – young people have always the feeling that they are useless in the company, that they are the “last hired and the first fired.” We’d love to get involved and get responsibility and sometime I feel managers don’t see it.

Caroline (Gen Y): I have a bone to pick with the assertion that “Gen Y is not passionate or motivated.” I don’t agree with that at all. I work until 2 in the morning with Gen Y’ers who are starting companies and are so passionate that you literally have to tell them to go to bed. I think there’s a hidden variable and a slightly different way at looking at this issue: “Why isn’t Gen Y loyal to employers?” What’s the point that employers are missing here in keeping Gen Y active and engaged? And the point is very clear. Gen Y is a values and passion-driven generation. The question, “Am I honing my passion with this?” If you can answer that question, for Gen Y’ers, they will be incredibly loyal to you. If you can’t answer it, Gen Y’ers will feel they are not aligned with your values and they are going to go elsewhere. A lot of companies are already creating many initiatives that will ignite passion in Gen Y’ers. Maybe there’s a women’s initiative at the company they can get involved with after-hours, maybe there is a mentorship initiative in an underpriviledged neighborhood. These things need to be better marketed. Social media is the answer to that. Social media is creating a lot of the unrest, but it is also the answer.

Nicole (Gen Y): The main difference between Gen X and Gen Y – I feel as Gen Y, we have been born into a period of instability. In the past, the government (in Singapore) used to tell my parents’ generation that if you work hard enough, you are going to get the 5 C’s: car, condo, country club membership, cash and credit card. So, because of that, I feel there were very materialistic goals. Right now the economic outlook is so bleak and our generation is starting to realize that if we don’t take matters into our own hands, things are going to get even worse and we are might face the reality that we are not going to enjoy the same fruits of our labor as our parents used to. So we’re not looking at material goods, we’re looking at a larger sense of purpose, of fulfillment in our work…

Pictured above: Caroline Ghosn (L), Nicole Seah (R)

Advice for Gen Y women

Nicole: First, be proactive. We are living in such a competitive environment, that if you don’t have any prior experience, any internships, people are going to wonder about you. Also: leverage your networks, get to know people in the industries you are targeting and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Lastly, when you get the foot in the door, you need to be hungry. Employers complain that Gen Y employees don’t have “the fire in the belly.”

Caroline: I think it’s really important to use your relationships and not feel shy about asking people for help. We did a survey with our user base [on levoleague.com], asking our users: “How often do you ask for help in the workplace? And how often do you feel comfortable reaching out and asking for a mentor or a sponsor who can pull you up the ranks?” We found that 95% of Gen Y women had never asked for a mentor, and never asked for help. I think women tend to feel uncomfortable advocating for themselves, and feel more comfortable advocating for others. If you view what you want to accomplish as a mission, and that’s separate from you as a person, there’s research that show women would feel more comfortable asking for help, for a job opportunity.

Concluding Remarks

Caroline Ghosn:

I’m an optimist. I believe that Gen Y is purposeful and values-driven.

Myriam Levain:

I’m also optimistic. I think Gen Y has the luck of experiencing a very exciting time, both good and bad. I think Gen Y is going to make many revolutions and change the way we are living.

Delphine Ernotte-Cunci:

Dear Gen X, Dear Gen W, help Y find its place in the world – we have many things to learn from them.

Nicole Seah:

Invest in Gen Y and Gen Y will invest in you.

Lucy Marcus:

I feel very optimistic because I feel we’re not so far apart. The things you want are the things we wanted when we were young. And the things I want as I grow older, I want them for my children. We also all want to make sure that our children are following and growing and thinking differently. We want more women chief executives; we want more women in the boardroom; we want you to have mentors; we want to BE your mentors, your allies and we want you to be ours as well, because we definitely have things to learn from you.

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  • http://www.about.me/tommasoarenare Tommaso Arenare

    Excellent post, Elena. It captures a number of points beautifully.

    I would like to add a reference I made yesterday at the end of the discussion. A great part of our issues, when facing choices concerning our so-called career, happen at unconscious level. I keep repeating that “career”, in its original meaning, is the road for carriages, hence a fixed set of tracks, built over time through our unconscious decisions, which vastly limit our freedom and our satisfaction.

    Also, building a bridge across different generations always require overcoming gender stereotypes as well as such unconscious biases as the snap judgement and the so-called similarity bias (we select people with similar traits to ours, given our historical and evolutionary behaviors). For those who are interested in these topics, I have written more in my blog here: http://tommasoarenare.wordpress.com/tag/choice/