Newer generations of workers more likely to call out gender-based bias in workplaces

AUSTIN (KXAN) — As Gen X, Millennial and Gen Z workers and employers increasingly take over the U.S. economy from Boomers, those generational shifts will change workplace cultures across the globe, including the increased visibility and acceptance of LGBTQ+ workers.

Nearly 20% of Gen Z say they identify as LGBTQ

At the South by Southwest conference on March 8, Lanaya Irvin, CEO of the nonprofit think tank Coqual, and Gina Chua, executive director of global news startup Semafor, discussed Coqual’s recently published research “Gender in the Global Workplace.”

According to Irvin, the study shows a “generational shift in how respondents understand gender identity, expression and prejudice.”

“You find, in global markets, that the realities of women professionals echoes what we’ve seen in research from years past,” Irvin said. “For example, women are less likely to feel that their pay reflects their experience and contributions.”

Irwin said younger people are more aware of social constructs around gender, and thus are more likely to report gender-based bias in the workplace. According to Irwin, citing Coqual’s data, only 24% of Boomers have reported such bias compared to 60% of Millennials.

“It’s not that they are experiencing more of it, it is that they are more likely to report it,” Irwin said. “They’re acutely aware of this. The challenge is that in workplaces, and in society more broadly, the [gender] binary and these gendered norms still exist. I do believe though that future generations and emerging generations are going to push back on them.”

Both Chua and Irwin share perspectives as leaders, but represent different generations.

Lanaya Irvin (Right), CEO of the nonprofit think tank Coqual, and Gina Chua (left), executive director of global news startup Semafor, talk at a SXSW session on March 8, 2024. (KXAN Photos/Cora Neas)
Lanaya Irvin (Right), CEO of the nonprofit think tank Coqual, and Gina Chua (left), executive director of global news startup Semafor, talk at a SXSW session on March 8, 2024. (KXAN Photos/Cora Neas)

Chua had already worked in news for over 40 years before she began her gender transition in 2020. She credits her leadership positions as insulating her from bias and discrimination that may have otherwise negatively impacted her.

“I’ve been incredibly blessed and lucky to not have had all the negative experiences that a lot of other people had. It didn’t hurt because I was in charge of the budget,” said Chua, drawing laughter from the audience. “Gender does matter for some things, but for most work situations it doesn’t matter who is in the boardroom, who is leading the company.”

Irwin underwent her own journey of self, which she said is an increasingly common shift in Coqual’s report.

“Younger professionals, across all the markets, are actually challenging these outdated gender norms. They’re embracing a more expansive view of identity in general. They’re experiencing the world through a different lens.” Irwin said.

According to Chua, the work of inclusivity requires conversations between gender-diverse workers and employers, and that policies by a company’s Human Resources team only go so far.

“I think it’s time to sensitize yourself to what somebody else might be thinking and what kind of resources are out there,” Chua said. “The more you can bring allies together, the more people can think about what it might be like for others who are not like them, can go a long way.”

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