Millennials see diversity and inclusion differently than other generations, and are making a pronounced effort to include more diversity in their workplaces—especially in industries that need diversity the most, or ones that have not kept up with cultural demand.
Millennials and Diversity
While no generation is perfect when it comes to diversity and inclusion, millennials are more attuned to it than previous generations.
According to a research study released by the Institute for Public Relations (IPR), 47 percent of millennials consider diversity and inclusion of a workplace in their job search, compared to just 37 percent of Baby Boomers and 33 percent of Gen X’ers.
Millennials recognize, appreciate, and encourage diversity because they’re living it. As opposed to older generations that were overwhelmingly white, today’s millennial workforce is divided across a number of races and backgrounds.
“Plainly, the millennial generation is ushering in the nation’s broader racial diversity,” demographer William H. Frey writes. “Overall, millennials are 55.8 percent white and nearly 30 percent “new minorities” (Hispanics, Asians and those identifying as two or more races). Back in 2000, when millennials were just beginning to impact demographics, this young adult age group was 63 percent white, whereas in 1990 it was 73 percent white.”
While race is certainly a big part of diversity, millennials see it as something much deeper than skin color. It’s a blending of different backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences – something researchers refer to as cognitive diversity.
“For millennials, inclusion is the support for a collaborative environment that values open participation from individuals with different ideas and perspectives that has a positive impact on business,” Lydia Dishman writes for Fast Company. “Leadership at such an organization is transparent, communicative, and engaging.”
While millennials are quickly comprising the majority of the workforce in just about every sector of the business world, the push for diversity seems to be more pronounced (or easily accepted) in certain industries – including healthcare and medicine, technology, and higher education.
In order to better understand what’s happening in these industries and what sort of impact millennials are having on the diversity and inclusion front, let’s dive deeper into the details.
1. Healthcare and Medicine
It could be argued that no industry needs diversity and inclusion more than healthcare. It’s one of the few industries that every single person on the planet needs access to. Whether you’re rich and famous or poor and homeless, you need access to doctors, medicine, and treatments.
Thankfully, diversity is becoming a bigger focus in healthcare (in more ways than one). From the ways in which doctors practice medicine to how healthcare organizations hire and promote, it’s clear that millennials are pushing diversity into the spotlight.
There are dozens of examples, but one of the timeliest is the cutting-edge cancer care that Rush University Medical Center and Chicago-based tech company Tempus are now partnering to provide. The Tempus technology analyzes the relevant genes of a patient using blood and tissue samples and then provides doctors with patient-specific guidance.
“The analysis uses machine learning and advanced bioinformatics to search for potentially relevant patterns for patients that are unlikely to respond to conventional therapies,” Rush University’s Kevin McKeough explains. “The company then makes the results available to the patient’s doctors through both a PDF file and an online portal.”
In addition to more diverse treatments, it appears that we’re also beginning to see more inclusion in leadership positions. The industry still isn’t where it wants to be, but there’s certainly a bigger emphasis on diversity than ever before.
As Becker’s Hospital Review notes, many leading medical schools and academic medical centers are now hiring chief diversity officers (CDOs). This includes Yale School of Medicine, Partners HealthCare, and Northwell Health.
Healthcare organizations aren’t the only companies hiring CDOs. Damien Hooper-Campbell, eBay’s first CDO, is making a splash in the technology industry and hopes that other companies will follow suit.
One thing that Hooper-Campbell and eBay are doing is breaking through the traditional strategy of publishing diversity reports, trying to reach certain percentage plateaus. In other words, they don’t see the value in saying, “We’re currently at X, and we want to be at X+3 percentage points.”
“When you put targets and goals out, sometimes it gets people to move,” he admits. “But it can also incentivize wrong behavior. When we all want to meet a certain target, we might not be doing things that jibe with the company culture in a meaningful and authentic way to approach diversity and inclusion.”
This is something millennials have been pushing for. They don’t want diversity for the sake of publishing crisp statistics that look good in a press release. They want diversity to actually have an impact on the company’s workplace culture. Companies like eBay, Apple, and Facebook are making this happen.
3. Higher Education
In order for there to be any significant level of diversity in the workforce – including healthcare and technology – change has to come to higher education in America.
“We must consider race in college admissions,” says Deborah Bial, founder of The Posse Foundation. “We must believe that admitting and graduating diverse student bodies from our best colleges and universities is critically important for the nation as a whole. We must act on this belief. Otherwise we perpetuate a kind of segregation that breeds severe inequities. And these inequities directly lead to the divisions and discontent we see in our country right now.”
The Posse Foundation is taking the lead in this area, providing thousands of overlooked students with full-tuition leadership scholarships so they can get the education they need and deserve.
Teach for America is another wonderful organization that’s making a change in education. They employ millennial teachers in low-income, high-risk public schools that have a hard time attracting good educators. The result is more support and targeted education that prepares students for college.
Changing the Workforce One Industry at a Time
This country is becoming more and more diverse by the day. In fact, white babies are now a minority group in the United States. And while it’ll take years for the business world to catch up, it’s good to know that millennials are pushing for more diversity and inclusion across the board. Not only are they having a positive impact today, but they’re paving the way for a much brighter tomorrow.
By Anna Johansson
It’s a persistent myth: if a company recruits enough employees from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, a sufficient number will, over time, rise through the organization to create a diverse culture at all levels. But that is not happening.
The script at BIO this year could not have been more clear: Progress on diversity is being made, but more work needs to be done. Yet still, an undercurrent of biotech’s all-boys brand-of-old tugged at the heels of efforts to bolster those long-excluded from positions of authority.
Another vital antidote to the labor shortage is fixing the care economy, made up of people who provide paid and unpaid care. (See “Overview of the Care Economy.”) Within the care economy, two related and somewhat hidden issues are crucial to the long-term health of the US labor market.