This year the oldest of the baby boomers turn 65 and this hard working generation begins its long descent into retirement.
Leading KPMG demographer, Bernard Salt, predicts that the impacts of this Baby Bust will be far reaching.
- The available pool of talent that business can draw from will start to diminish.
- The rate of growth in the tax base will start to slow down.
- The Baby Boomers who choose to remain in the workforce will create an increased demand for flexible working arrangements and the re-engineering of existing positions.
Employers are already feeling the impact in sectors such information and communications technology (ICT), nursing and mining and engineering.
Pressure is on the Government to increase the intake of skilled migrants in particular from countries such as Latin America, India, Africa and the Middle East, who did not experience the post World War II baby boom and are consequently ready to step up and fill the gaps left by the Western Boomers.
Closer to home, Generation Y appears to have very different set of expectations around work and life that are increasingly challenging employers. This includes an unwillingness to work the same long hours in the same inflexible environment as their bosses at the expense of family and recreation.
There is a growing awareness of the benefits of, and the need for, diversity at senior levels in organisations. Those working in sectors where entry rates for men and women have been all but equal for years, are asking the obvious question “where did all the women go?”
Leading gender equity advocate and author, Avivah Wittenberg-Cox, calls this quiet fading out of women ‘gender asbestosis’ – literally women being absorbed into the walls. She argues that it is largely the result of a corporate culture that treats everyone ‘equally’ and fails to recognise that the careers of men and women need to be managed differently – but with no less equality in terms of access to opportunities and reward. In other words, have male and female employees running on different, but parallel, career pathways.
What we have seen instead is years of career resilience programs focussed around ‘helping’ women to understand and adapt to the dominant cultural work norm (male) within a company. While this has been important in assisting women to appreciate what it takes to get ahead, it has allowed companies to get away with making only marginal changes to their work practices and culture, which on the whole continue to support and favour men. It has also led to a notion that gender and diversity are female issues.
Avivah Wittenberg-Cox, who works with CEOs and business leaders across Europe, always prefaces, her discussions with a robust analysis of the global business imperative to increase the participation of women in the workforce. She makes several key points:
Economic growth is being driven by the world’s women, who will collectively earn $18 trillion by 2014 and are a dominant force in the rapidly rising middle class in emerging economies.
Trends in birthrates show that women who work are the ones having more children, challenging old style government and business policies enabling women to more easily opt out of the workforce.
Following the GFC, greater percentages of women have taken jobs in the high growth services area as male dominated manufacturing and other manual work have declined.
All of this bodes well for women looking to fulfil their personal and professional ambitions, either by looking at a career change, returning to work or moving up the ladder – either in an existing company or a new one that has better and more flexible work practices.
The ThinkWomen© workshop and lunch series will look at how men and women and their companies can ‘Get to Grips with the Gender Gap’ and understand how to work and lead with diversity. It will be held in Brisbane, Perth, Sydney and Melbourne in August 2011.
For more information go to: www.thinkwomen.com.au
Claire Braund is the Executive Director of Women on Boards. Women on Boards (WOB) is the leading advocate for improving gender diversity on Australian boards. WOB works to improve women’s access to, and opportunities to be selected for, board positions in ASX listed & private companies and in the public unlisted (NFP), Government, sport, rural and community sector.