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What Gen Z women want as they join the workforce

Jen Openshaw, Girls With Impact CEO, joined Yahoo Finance to discuss how to attract Gen Z and women in the workplace.

Video Transcript

- The times they are a changing. Let's invite into the the stream Jen Openshaw. She is the CEO of Girls With Impact. There's a new study, a new report, about Gen Z, and I'm going to give a little bit away here. One of the things that you discovered is that half of all Gen Z women, 55%, want to be their own bosses. That's a dramatic increase over the 43% in 2019. What's driving that increase?

JEN OPENSHAW: Well, you know, I think women, first off, want a real shot at the brass ring, right. They see so much, so many social issues taking place right now, and they really want to drive that change. The vast majority of Gen Zers said, we really want to personally drive innovation. So whether it's climate change, or diversity, racism, they want to take direct action. And you know, I think still women-- in fact, in our surveys, show that they still don't see themselves quite at the same compensation level as men. And perhaps, that's another reason they're saying, hey, I want to be my own boss. I want to drive my own destiny.

JULIA LA ROCHE: Jen, it's Julia La Roche. And it's great to hear that more women, especially young women, are interested in entrepreneurship. We know that there are barriers for women that need to go away. When you look at venture capital funding for example, the overwhelming majority goes to men. Yet, there are so many great female founders out there. How do we think about moving some of these systemic barriers, if you will, and what do you think will help change that?

JEN OPENSHAW: Well, you know I think it's really early business conditioning. One of the things that we're doing with the Girls With Impact is running a really a live online mini MBA that is allowing these young women to start ventures as early as 15, 16 years old. And we're seeing their confidence completely change. They are launching ventures to address COVID issues, climate change, LGBTQ issues, I mean, you name it. They are doing it.

The other very interesting thing is, we asked this generation, what would most drive your confidence? And aside from body issues, they said that personally launching a business venture would most drive their confidence. That, and improving public speaking skills, which is one of the biggest fears that folks have. But that's sort of interesting to see the two go hand in hand for women. So wanting to be their own bosses, but also saying that launching a product or a business would most impact their confidence. And you know, it really can happen very early.

- What about this? Nearly one half want want to work for a company that does something innovative, and then you quote though, the CEO of six feet apart, a 16-year-old teenager, who says, "People don't go to work for the money. They want to make an impact." Now, I'm going to ask this as the old guy who-- I'm not rolling my eyes, because we all love having an impact on other people. But at the end of the day, companies that if 50% want to work for a company that's innovative, that company wants to make a profit. So in the real world, what is having an impact look like with a company that still needs to have a bottom line and grow earnings?

JEN OPENSHAW: Yeah, I think they want to be at the table and they want to be heard. They also-- this is a very action driven generation. They want to be part of the solution. And so bringing them to the table is critical. A lot of HR companies leaders will ask me, you know, what can we do to become an employer of choice with this next generation? Number one is, this generation really cares about diversity at the table. And they've actually said to us, you know, it's not enough to just be talking about it. We want to see action.

Number two is, we want to be personally involved in innovation. So you know, companies like Forcepoint, for example, really understands that they need to have this generation at the table. Let's say, they're involved in big meetings with clients, or they're developing new solutions, bring that generation to the table. Let their voice be heard. And then finally, this generation is also looking-- which is not surprising with COVID, but they want to have flexible and remote work environment.

This is a very big change from last year. Last year we said, what's most important to you, and they wanted fun and experienced leaders. This time, they're looking for diversity and people who respect them at the workplace, but also a flexible and remote environment. So some big shifts.

JULIA LA ROCHE: Jen, you're right. Those are big shifts. And it is interesting. And I love just kind of getting a pulse as to what the younger generations want, and what they're thinking. And you know, as women, like, we deal with some of these issues. It's 2020, soon to be 2021, and we're still talking about the gender wage gap. And I'm wondering what sort of strategies or tips, or how you're helping these young women have this conversation. I know I can tell you I've had women kind of mentor me throughout my career, and it's an uncomfortable conversation, but it's something we all know needs to change. Would love to kind of go inside that playbook with you.

JEN OPENSHAW: Yeah, well if you train these young people early on as we do, first of all, for companies, they're a very, very powerful talent pipeline. Because companies all over saying, we want more women, and we want diversity. And that's what we're building. One way-- and just going back to the question earlier, that companies can really both impact their own ROI, but tap into this talent pipeline, is to engage their employees.

So one thing we're doing right now is we're working with US Bank. And when COVID and Black Lives Matters hit, we focus some of our effort into-- for example, New York and Girls of Color. And that's the flexibility of this kind of platform. You know, the old education of the world is partly of the past. We're showing that you know, together, we can train this generation very differently with a whole set of skills that they need for the modern workforce, with the confidence to lead really good examples.

This past weekend, we graduated a few hundred girls from seven countries around the globe, who over the past ten weeks, built business plans. And a couple of girls said, one girl said, I cannot believe how much I learned in ten weeks. It's possible. And this generation really wants the tools. They've said to us, you know, we've got the capability. We've got the digital savvy that we didn't have. We need the pathway to bring our ideas to fruition.

And so when we look at some of the ventures that these young women are creating with, you know, from a white sheet, if you will, now imagine the next stage, Julia, of them entering the venture world. It's a whole different playbook. And it's why people like Melinda Gates, frankly, should get behind this. The majority of young women who finished our program are much more able to get in front of a venture capitalist and pitch their ideas. That's the kind of training we need to bring to them.

- And we look forward to having you back say, in the first quarter of the new year to talk about the progress. But want to let everybody know too, more than just the Gen Z 2020 survey, go to girlswithimpact.org. You can learn more about what they're doing there. Thank you, CEO, Jen Openshaw, Girls With Impact for joining us.