Kim Parker, Director of Social Trends Research at Pew Research Center, joins the program to discuss the results of some of Pew’s research, including the differences among male and female leaders. She reveals some of the differences that exist between Generation Z and Millennials, and some of the broader trends that leaders will need to understand about the emerging workforce.
In this episode you’ll discover:
- Kim’s journey and how she came to work at Pew Research (3:00)
- Results of research on male and female leaders (11:00)
- Reasons why the gender wage gap persists (23:00)
- Gender differences in the Gen Z population (27:00)
- Broader trends among Generation Z when it comes to diversity and inclusion (30:15)
- Generation Z attitudes towards social protests (34:30)
- Millennial vs. Generation Z attitudes towards social media (36:00)
- What leaders will need to keep in mind about the emerging workforce (38:30)
- How to learn more about Pew’s research on social trends and demographics (40:00)
Listen in now, or read on for the transcript of our conversation:
JENNIFER BROWN: Welcome to The Will To Change. This is Jennifer Brown. My guest today is Kim Parker. Kim is the director of social trends research at Pew Research Center. She oversees research on emerging social and demographic trends, manages major survey projects, and writes and edits reports.
If you’re not familiar with this organization, it’s a nonpartisan American fact tank based in Washington, D.C., providing information on social issues, public opinion, and demographic trends shaping the United States and the world. Pew is considered one of the least biased, most reliable polling organizations in the country.
Kim is an author of studies on a variety of topics including gender and work, the changing American family, generational change, higher education, the Great Recession, the middle class, aging, military veterans and Asian Americans. She frequently discusses social and demographic trends with journalists and has been interviewed by broadcast outlets such as NPR, NBC, MSNBC and C-SPAN.
I was excited to get connected to Kim, because both of my books and a lot of our content and insights for clients is informed by Pew’s data, and by association, Kim’s particular research. I reference it so much that their Social Trends tab is favorited in my browser. In this episode, we get a guided tour through some of my go-to pieces, such as their deep dive from the Fall of 2018 into Generation Z, also referred to as Post-Millennials, which compares and contrasts their views to Millennials on key social and political issues (spoiler alert: they are very similar). It was also important for me to hear Kim’s description of the state of women in leadership, also from 2018. Not surprising to me was the fact that wide gender and party gaps exist in views about the state of female leadership and the obstacles women face.
Because it’s hard in our short time together to explore all of the fascinating topics Pew researches, I’d recommend for listeners of the Will to Change that you make time to read through their research on Race in America, from the Spring of 2019, which describes what Americans see as the advantages and challenges in the country’s growing racial and ethnic diversity, and the public’s currently more negative views of the country’s racial progress. Important reading indeed. Kim, welcome to The Will to Change.
KIM PARKER: Thank you for having me, Jennifer. I’m thrilled to be here.
JENNIFER BROWN: I am thrilled to have you. I have a lot of questions for you. I’ve been reading your amazing research that you lead at Pew. I’m coming out with my second book and Pew’s research has been a real source of information for me as I’m asked all the time about workforce dynamics and whether those are generational or the impact of Me Too or the leadership gap or pay gaps when it comes to gender equity in organizations. We have a lot to discuss today. I’m glad that you’re here. You’ve actually led this research, so you can give us a bit of a highlight about what we really need to know. The Will to Change audience members are workforce architects, they are passionate advocates. We all know the important role of being armed and equipped with data and research – particularly when we’re advocating for programs and investments in organizations with our organizational leaders.
Thank you for joining me. As we always do, we try to make it personal when we first start The Will to Change. You have been passionate about data for a long time. You’re now Director of Social Trends Research. Take us back and let us know a little bit about your career path and how it led you to be so passionate about what you get to study these days.
KIM PARKER: Sure. I started out studying political science in my undergraduate college years, and really loved understanding the political system and the role that the public plays in that system and wanted to learn more and potentially go into teaching. So, I went to graduate school at Georgetown University to get a PhD and I ended up not finishing the PhD – being ABD they call it, all but dissertation – because along the way I had some great work opportunities.
I worked at the American Enterprise Institute, and there I learned more about political institutions and a little bit about public opinion and really got interested in public opinion and wanted to learn more about that. Then, I was fortunate enough to meet a wonderful person named Andy Kohut, who was the founding president of the Pew Research Center. And I worked for him towards the end of my graduate school days and really learned from the master. He had been the president of the Gallup Organization, and then as I mentioned, started the Pew Research Center. He was a wonderful mentor to me and taught me so much about public opinion and about politics.
In my early days working at the Pew Research Center, I actually directed our Political Research Unit, which was fascinating and fun and I covered a few presidential elections, including the 2000 presidential election, which ended in a bit of a stalemate and went on and on for months after that. Did all kinds of other interesting things having to do with politics and public opinion.
Then, I actually took a break from working for about five years when my kids were young and came back to Pew working part time. Went back into the politics unit, but I was sort of at that time drawn to other types of research about gender and family and the workplace – some of the things that were playing out in my own life I became really interested in.
I transitioned over to the Social Trends Unit at Pew. As you mentioned, I am now the director of that unit. Here, I get to study all kinds of fascinating topics – gender, generations, marriage and family, race and ethnicity, changes in the workforce. We study some special populations, the LGBT community, veterans, we’ve done studies of multiracial Americans and Asian Americans, so we just do all kinds of really interesting things here.
I love working at the Pew Research Center because we are what we would like to refer to as a “fact tank,” a little bit different from a think tank. We generate facts and research and study important trends and topics and try to provide valuable information, reliable information, that we can inject into the public discussion, the debates that are going on on important topics, and that can inform policymakers and other decision makers as they go about impacting the way that things are run in this country.
You may notice through the course of our conversation that I don’t take strong positions on some of these issues. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have opinions, but we are strictly nonpartisan and non-advocacy and we take that very seriously. We love to talk about our research and let other people draw conclusions and make recommendations based on the information that we can provide.
JENNIFER BROWN: Perfect, Kim. I’m glad that you gave that disclaimer. We will dance back and forth and I will have plenty of opinions. You can inform my opinions or not.
KIM PARKER: Okay.
JENNIFER BROWN: I do think you will end up informing them. I think that from where we sit as consultants to organizations, we are hearing so much about the kinds of things that you are quantifying. And, yet, I learned some surprising things from your research as well, which challenged me to rethink some of the advising that I’m doing to workforce leaders.
KIM PARKER: Great.
JENNIFER BROWN: Yes. Absolutely. It’s very helpful. And there are, frankly, some dispiriting data, too, that we have to mitigate, investigate, and manage. In some ways, the workforce and the workplace is sprinting ahead of where social issues are or the public is. And then there are other areas in which the reverse is true.
I think that’s actually a really good place to start. Your piece called Many Americans Say Women are Better than Men at Creating Safe, Respectful, Workplaces is where I’d like to start. You did some work that touches on how we view female leaders versus male leaders in terms of their ability, skill, et cetera, of building and maintaining this safe, respectful workplace. It’s taken on a particular urgency in the age of Me Too. Is the assumption being made that if women were in charge, cultures would be less toxic or there would be less harassment, et cetera, there would be more attention paid.
And where I end up on that is, well, I wish we had more female leaders in powerful positions to actually build those safe and respectful workplaces because we still have very much a leadership gap and a representation gap, too.
Can you give us an overview of what this research told you, some highlights? And then perhaps you can spend a bit of time talking about the impact of Me Too specifically on openness in the workplace, perhaps how we see the lens through which we can view how women and men are experiencing work differently and their opportunities differently, which I think is where we really need to laser-in. Let me hand that over to you. Tell us a little bit about the research.
KIM PARKER: Sure. That sounds great. In the fall, we released a study on gender and leadership. We did it a little bit before the midterm elections because we knew that gender was going to be an important theme and an important outcome of those elections. And it certainly was, as we had a record number of women coming into congress in that new freshman class.
We asked a series of questions about leadership in politics and in business. And we found one interesting finding was that the similarities between the questions about what’s going on in politics and what’s going on in business were uncanny. People’s responses were almost identical, whether we were asking about leadership in politics or business. That, I thought, was really interesting. People see similar dimensions, but I’ll focus on the business findings because those might be a little more relevant for your audience.
We did have a basic question where we asked people whether they thought there were too few women in leadership positions in business, too many women, or about the right amount. And we did find that a majority of the public thinks that there are too few women in leadership positions. Women are more likely to say that than men, and there’s a big party gap on that as well. Democrats are much more likely than Republicans to say that.
We also found that a majority of the public thinks that it’s easier for men to get top executive positions in business than it is for women – 67 percent of adults said that. That’s the basic framework.
Another interesting finding which might be a little bit disheartening for some women out there is that we asked, “What’s the long game on this?” With more women going into managerial positions, will we eventually reach a point where there’s an equal number, an equal share of women and women in these positions? The public was pretty divided about that. About half said, “Yes, we’ll eventually get there.” And the other half said, “Even looking forward indefinitely, it’s doubtful that women will eventually be represented in equal numbers with men in top executive positions in business.”
And then we asked about a series of competencies and characteristics that men and women might have and bring to positions of leadership. We asked whether men or women were better at these things or whether there wasn’t really any difference. On many of them, we found pretty significant share saying that there wasn’t any difference. But there were a couple that really stood out where women had a significant edge. One was being compassionate and empathetic. A majority of the public thought that women are better at that than men in leadership positions. And the other is the one that you mentioned at the beginning, which was this idea of creating a safe and respectful workplace. 43 percent of our respondents said that women are better at that. 5 percent said men are better at that, and 52 percent said there isn’t really any difference.
And another related item was mentoring young employees. While most adults thought that there wasn’t a difference between men and women, among those who did see a difference, by about a three-to-one margin, people pointed to women as being stronger mentors than men.
Another one that I think would be interesting for your audience is when it comes to valuing people from different backgrounds. 35 percent of our respondents thought women in leadership positions in business are better at that, and only 3 percent said men are better at that. The public sees women as being stronger at creating safe and respectful workplaces, valuing diversity, and also at mentoring.
There were just a couple of items where people thought that men had a stronger hand than women, and those were negotiating profitable deals, working well under pressure, and also being willing to take risks. And that risk-taking one was the biggest gap we saw in favor of men.
JENNIFER BROWN: That’s very interesting. It’s fascinating to think about negotiation skills. We talk a lot about the ability for female talent to be able to negotiate more often, more effectively, and more comfortably – particularly when it comes to salary. Maybe that’s not the kind of deal this is referring to, but particularly when it comes to salaries and raises. It’s interesting, we’re making a lot of investments in that kind of skill set because we’ve come to understand that without doing that, we fall behind even worse in the pay gap, which then magnifies and compounds itself over time. It’s the reason, actually, that there is so much legislation being passed now making it illegal to collect salary history. It ends up perpetuating the gap and anchors somebody’s salary in an unfair threshold and then perpetuates it as well.
It’s interesting. When I saw that people perceive men better at negotiating deals than women, it reminded me of all of that body of work, which we’re really investigating now, and trying to shore up that skill set or those competencies amongst women and acknowledging that for whatever reason, that skill set or competence wasn’t built, somewhere along the way as we all grow into adults and hopefully successful leaders, we didn’t develop that skill set.
KIM PARKER: That’s really interesting. Another item that I didn’t mention that could be a valuable tool in negotiating is that women are seen as better able to work out compromises, and that’s obviously an important aspect of negotiation. The negotiation piece, mentioned the words “profitable deals,” and that’s where men seem to have a stronger hand. But then when it came to being able to work out compromises, by about a four-to-one ratio, people saw women as stronger in that area both in politics and in business.
JENNIFER BROWN: That’s the key word, then. Your research says, “negotiating profitable deals,” right? The question is, profitable is one metric of successful deal. It’s not just the destination, but it’s how you arrive at the destination and how everybody feels about the journey to the destination. That’s where I think that talent of working out a compromise allows everyone to fell perhaps included, heard, and valued along the way, which honestly is a different metric to look at, but you could argue it’s just as important as reaching a destination.
KIM PARKER: Yes, that makes a lot of sense.
JENNIFER BROWN: The other one that you mentioned, too, that men index higher on is being willing to take risks. It’s such a double-edged sword with risk-taking. We talk a lot about how women in particular, as they get up the pipeline, what’s so important is to take stretch assignments and to be particularly in P&L roles. We talk a lot about how women end up in support roles, even at the executive level. Maybe they’re in HR, maybe they’re heavy in marketing roles, but they’re not running a P&L, which is the single most important experience point in order to get into the C-suite is having run that P&L.
And to me, the risk-taking piece is are you supported – is somebody pulling you through and mentoring and sponsoring you to put you in a stretch role where you do learn how to take risks, you have to take risks as part of your day-to-day job. And then when you take those risks, are you set up and supported to succeed? And I think that’s the biggest thing I’m thinking of. Say you’re the only woman at a certain level in your organization. When you take a risk, it is so much more weighted with consequences if it doesn’t work. If you fail, there’s less give for you because you are also representing many, many people that aren’t at the table, like you are. The stakes are enormously high for any talent that is the first to be at a certain level.
It’s interesting, it’s one thing to say, “Take more risks. We want to see that behavior.” You know, in your performance review when somebody says, “I want you to be more of a risk-taker.” The question is always, “I want to take risks, I’m ready to take risks. I need to have somebody choose me to take a risk and I need that risk to be a healthy and reasonable risk. And I need the consequences to be equally applied to me as they are to others.” With risk comes failure. That is just part of the game, but organizations don’t tolerate failure, particularly on the part of certain demographics of talent that haven’t held that seat before. I think the consequences are very severe. Any thoughts on that or data that that reminds you of?
KIM PARKER: I’ve definitely heard these things anecdotally and in some of the research that I’ve read that’s been focused on business executives, you definitely hear these things.
I think for me to be able to do a survey of female leaders would be fascinating.
JENNIFER BROWN: Yes.
KIM PARKER: Because then you really could dig into these types of very specific experiences that you might not be able to tap into in a study of the general public with women who are doing all kinds of different jobs.
JENNIFER BROWN: That’s a good point.
KIM PARKER: We did a study of women and minorities in STEM occupations about a year ago. I’m trying to remember, some of the data that we collected on women in the engineering field, computers, and some of these higher-end STEM occupations, we got some qualitative data from them. We did hear things about the environment being less forgiving. And even in our gender and leadership survey, one of the things we found, which I think speaks very much to your point when we ask people about the factors that are holding women back from top positions, the major factor we identified in our poll was that people said women are held to higher standards than men or they’re expected to do – let me look at what the exact wording is for that, because it’s important.
JENNIFER BROWN: Yes, there is a narrow band of possible behaviors and performance.
KIM PARKER: Yes. Women have to do more to prove themselves than men. 60 percent said that’s a major reason why there aren’t more women in top executive business positions. Then, of course, the women in business face gender discrimination was the second most important factor. Women having to do more to prove themselves than men is sort of related to this idea that you were talking about with regard to risk-taking and women being out there on a limb by themselves and not necessarily being given the same amount of slack or benefit of the doubt that a man might get. That’s captured by this category that we have about women having to do more to prove themselves.
JENNIFER BROWN: Thank you for that. That’s really helpful. We do really see in our work that it’s sort of the pressure of perfectionism. When you are, we might say, the “only and lonely,” whatever demographic you are. You may be one of the only on several demographics, actually, in one person. Therefore, you’ve got double or triple headwinds that you’re managing in terms of the expectations of your performance.
And then this double whammy of not being adequately supported in the same way that people, quote/unquote, in the majority are. And then the necessity, how I advise anyone in these positions, is your support network has to be really carefully cultivated because you have to realize the risk. You’ve got to realize that certain standards are going to be applied to you, there’s not as much forgiveness for failure. At that level of performance, it becomes so much about relationships, it becomes so much about who has your back, and honestly, who protects you and who has power who’s protecting you. You don’t have power. As you said, you’re out on a limb.
You just have to be very careful, cautious, intentional and then making sure you’re seeking feedback. That’s the other really interesting thing is women and people of color, it’s been shown, are in a feedback vacuum in terms of performance, which that’s the triple-whammy part of this because if you’re not doing – you’re taking a risk, you are in a stretch assignment, it’s a growth opportunity, there’s failure that could happen, and then nobody is warning you about what is ahead of nobody’s saying, “Well, here’s what people are really saying about how you’re doing.” Nobody to level with you because there’s so much – and I don’t understand it exactly, but it’s intimidation to give honest feedback across difference, and that’s been well documented.
Literally, the isolation, the lack of feedback, the exposure, the lack of protection I think all leads to this pretty risky situation. When you say, “Women need to take more risks,” that’s how I would unpack that.
KIM PARKER: Yes, it’s interesting.
JENNIFER BROWN: It is interesting. You also said, we were chatting earlier about the way society views gender roles and the way we talk about gender roles in the workplace and there being this disconnect. One is lagging behind the other. I think that’s really interesting because some companies are really trying to be more progressive, and yet it always feels like they’re fighting against what’s happening outside their four walls. Or in other cases, the companies are being super progressive and it feels like the public is lagging or they’re not progressive enough, and the public wants them to do more.
What do you see in your research related to that? Whether that’s the take-the-knee issue and companies talking about that or not, whether it’s about women taking flexible work arrangements, leave, and parenting dynamics.
Where is there a mismatch that you see? Or where is there alignment between where society is and public opinion is and where the workforce is?
KIM PARKER: Yes. I’ve been thinking about this a lot because I actually just did a presentation yesterday for some government and military folks. It was a big summary of a lot of the work that we’ve done on gender and work. I walked through a discussion about the gender wage gap and some of the reasons why it’s narrowed, which have to do with women’s educational advancements and movement into more lucrative fields that definitely has happened in recent decades. But then some of the reasons why the gap still persists.
As you know, I’m sure, many of those reasons are difficult to measure, but some of them do have to do with the responsibilities that come with family that tend to fall more heavily on women, still.
We did a study a couple years ago about paid family medical leave where we had a large sample of people who had taken paid leave in the last two years. And we asked people who had taken parental leave, both men and women, how much leave they took. We found that men on average took one week of leave, and women on average took 11 weeks of leave. And we also asked that people who had taken parent leave, whether that had been helpful or harmful for their career in the long term. I think a narrow majority said it hadn’t made much of a difference, but among those who did say it made a difference, women were twice as likely as men to say that it had hurt their career trajectory.
Men were more likely than women to say it had actually helped, which I thought was really interesting. And then we also – you know, I was thinking about some of our more fundamental research on gender and gender roles. We had a question that we asked a couple of years ago, trying to find out what the public sees as the pressure points that men and women face.
So, we asked people whether in society today men and women face a lot of pressure to support their family financially. And we found a big gap. So, 76 percent of the public said that men feel a lot of pressure to support their family financially, and only 40 percent thought that women feel that same pressure. Similarly, 68 percent thought that men feel a lot of pressure to be successful in their job or career, and only 44 percent thought that women feel that pressure.
On the other hand, the public thinks women feel a lot more pressure than men to be involved parents. And, of course, the public thinks women face a lot more pressure than men to be physically attractive.
So, you can see that the public mindset is still sort of wedded to these, for lack of a better term, more “traditional” views of the gender roles. But then when you look at the reality of what’s actually happening on the ground and in American households, we looked at households with children in the U.S., and we found that in four in ten of those households, women are the sole or primary breadwinners. And that’s a really big number. That’s a number that when we came out with that finding, it really resonated because people just thought, “Wow, four in ten? That’s almost half.”
Of that four in ten, a pretty significant chunk are single mothers who are the sole breadwinners in their households, but the other chunk are married mothers who are out-earning their husbands. Again, you see this contradiction with the public not really feeling like women are feeling that much pressure to provide financially or to focus on their careers, but on the other hand you’ve got women in all these households who really are doing that. You can kind of see the pressures that women are facing in terms of managing all of these roles.
We do see in our data, particularly on time use, the way that men and women are spending their time really has changed. For families where there are both a man and a woman in the household, men are doing more childcare, they’re doing more housework, and that’s a big change from past decades. But there still are gaps there. There just seems to be – you know, women are pressured on multiple fronts. I think that we see that playing out in our data in a lot of interesting ways.
JENNIFER BROWN: I read somewhere in your research that you studied young people. There was some statistic about how girls and boys spend their leisure time and how many hours they spend doing chores and studying and personal beautification, to your point that you just made. I was struck by some of that – homework. Do you have that data handy? What did that tell you about the changes of particularly generation Z, which I think was the generation you were looking at. Are girls and boys spending their time doing different things? That was really interesting.
KIM PARKER: Yes, it was really interesting. Recently, we’ve been doing some research on teams and also on the post-millennial generation, which we’re calling generation Z. One of the reports we put out recently focused on time use and how teams are spending their time, how that’s changed, and also how boys and girls are spending their time differently.
We found that some of those same societal gender gaps in terms of where women and men are spending their time and what their pressure points are, we can sort of see that evidence among teens as well.
We found that teenage girls spend significantly more time doing housework, chores, and errands than teen boys do. Teen girls also spend more time on what we labeled “grooming,” which is taking care of their appearance. They also spend more time on homework than their male counterparts do, which is interesting, because we know from other data that young women are really outpacing men right now in terms of educational attainment. Young women are more likely to have bachelor’s degrees and more likely to be going on to graduate school. Maybe some of that effort is starting in high school, based on our data.
We also found that teenage boys spend a lot more time in leisure, and specifically more screen time and more time playing video games and that kind of thing. We did find some pretty significant differences in the way that teens are spending their time.
When we looked back over time in terms of the way that things are changing for teens today versus teens about ten years ago, we found that today’s teens are doing more homework than teens in the past and they’re spending less time working for pay, which is interesting and speaks to some changes in the labor force, but I think also some of the added pressure that’s on teens today to focus on school work and to be involved in a lot of different extracurricular activities. I think that’s really ramped up in the last decade.
In the survey of teens that we conducted, we actually found that they do feel a lot of pressure to do well in school. We find that teens today are doing more homework than teens were doing about a decade ago. We see that reflected in some of our survey data as well. In our survey of teens, we asked them about how much pressure they’re feeling in their lives. Teens said that they’re feeling a lot of pressure to get good grades in school, and we found that that was true of both teenage boys and teenage girls.
We did a study more broadly looking at generation Z. Just to give you a little bit of definition information here, we’ve done a lot of work on generations. We find that’s a really useful way to understand the public and understand the ways in which the country is changing. We have done a lot of work on millennials, but we realized that there’s a whole new generation coming along, and some of them are actually adults now.
In the last year, we’ve really focused on where do we want to put the end point of the millennial generation and where do we think this next generation starts? I should say, this is not an exact science at all, but we have some pretty helpful guidelines and parameters that we use to figure out what we think the size of a generation should be and what we see as the broader cultural forces and historical things that are shaping a certain generation and how the next generation might be experiencing things differently.
That’s just a long way of saying that we decided that anyone born after 1996, we’re going to consider part of this next generation, generation Z. We took a look at them in a couple of ways. First, we looked at their demographic characteristics to see what do they look like and how are they different from millennials? And the most important thing we saw there is that this generation will be the most racially and ethnically diverse generation we’ve ever seen before.
Now, millennials were more racially and ethnically diverse than the generation that came before them, so this has been a gradual process. But looking at generation Z, we can see that only a bare majority – 52 percent of them – are going to be non-Hispanic whites. So, almost half are going to be something else. That’s a significant change. That will definitely shape their perspectives, their experiences, and that will mean that they’re going to have a big imprint on the country and what the country looks like.
Another interesting demographic characteristic of this generation is that when we look at the older end of generation Z, the high school and college-age end, the upper end, we see that they are more likely to graduate from high school than millennials were at a similar age. And they’re also more likely to be enrolled in college. If they continue on this trajectory, this generation might be the best-educated generation that we’ve ever seen, which will also have interesting implications for what they’re able to do in the workforce, what their earnings will be and all kinds of other economic outcomes going forward.
We also spent some time separately from demographics, we did a survey looking at generation Z and their attitudes about politics and social issues and how they differ from millennials and generation X and baby boomers and the silent generation.
What we found overall was that they’re very similar in some ways to millennials. They have more progressive views on issues about race and ethnic diversity in the country and other ways in which the country is changing. They’re very accepting of same-sex marriage. They are not really concerned about some of the other changes that are taking place in society. They are accepting of interracial marriage. They are not really worried that fewer people are marrying these days. There are the ways in which the country is changing around them, they’re experiencing it in real time. It doesn’t seem to phase them as much as it does some of the older generations, which I think is interesting.
Their views on race I think are really interesting. They are much more likely to think that the increasing racial and ethnic diversity that we have in the U.S. is a good thing for the country. Six in ten generation Z and millennials think that that’s a good thing, and you see smaller shares of gen X, boomers, and silents, only about four in ten members of the silent generation, which is the oldest generation, feel like that change is good for the country.
We also asked specifically about the treatment of blacks in society. And we found that generation Z and millennials are much more likely than older generations to say that blacks are treated less fairly than whites in the U.S., about six in ten gen Z’ers and millennials feel that way compared to half or fewer among older generations.
We asked specifically about the NFL protests and players taking a knee protesting the treatment of black Americans in the U.S., I think specifically by law enforcement. And there we found that members of gen Z and millennials were much more likely to approve of those protests than gen X’ers, boomers, or silents. And, again, we see about that six in ten majority among those younger generations saying that they approve of those protests, compared to less than half among the older generations. I already mentioned the finding about racial and ethnic diversity being a good thing for society. They definitely have a different orientation towards the changing racial and ethnic makeup of the country, and also towards the treatment of racial and ethnic minorities.
There were a couple of ways in which generation Z stood out from millennials, and to some extent, they reflect the cultural context in which generation Z has come of age. We had a couple of questions about gender identity. One asked people whether they knew someone who preferred to be called by gender-neutral pronouns. And we found there that among gen Z, 35 percent said that they knew someone who preferred that others call them by gender-neutral pronouns. That share was significantly higher than the share for millennials and certainly higher than the share for older Americans.
35 percent of gen Z’ers said that they know someone who prefers that others call them by gender-neutral pronouns, and that compares with 25 percent of millennials and significantly smaller shares of gen X’ers, boomers, and silents.
Another interesting thing related to that was gen Z and millennials are much more likely than older generations to say that they would feel comfortable using gender-neutral pronouns to refer to someone. More of them have had the opportunity or been in a situation where this has been something they’ve done, whereas for older generations, it’s probably not something that they’ve experienced.
There was another way in which gen Z was different even from millennials that I thought was interesting and, again, speaks to the world in which they live. We had a question where we asked people whether having people get more news from social media was a good thing or a bad thing for the country. Gen Z’ers were much less likely than other generations to see this as a bad thing. For them, this probably is the way in which they consume a lot of their news, either online or through social media. They didn’t see it as either good or bad, they just thought it was normal. Other generations were more wary about this because we’ve heard a lot about this in the news and the way that when you’re consuming news on social media, do you know if it’s accurate and this whole “facts matter” and all that kind of stuff that older generations are a little bit more concerned about than younger generations.
JENNIFER BROWN: This is all really making me hopeful. We’ve got older generations in the workforce in particular who are not really anticipating the sea change that’s happening as not just millennials, but this generation Z starts to enter the workforce and bring a lot of these expectations to the work environment, and then to be rudely awakened, most often, by an employer or leadership that doesn’t prioritize a lot of the things we’ve talked about, doesn’t say anything about social issues, right? They’re being advised by their lawyers, “It’s a slippery slope, don’t say anything in the public. You’ll get hauled out on social media.” That’s a world, though, that this generation is really comfortable with, and they expect that transparency. If you have something to hide, you shouldn’t be hiding it, you should be admitting that you have work to do and being honest and truthful about the real challenges that are faced when it comes to diversity and inclusion.
I’m really excited to think about the threshold of inclusiveness that they’re bringing in with them. I heard a statistic that 20 percent – I’m not sure where the cutoff is, but 20 percent of younger talent coming in identifies in some way as non-gender-binary or normative.
KIM PARKER: Wow.
JENNIFER BROWN: When we think about organizational leaders, where I go in and ask everybody if they know what “cisgender” means, and I ask for a show of hands. I see no hands. There is zero awareness about this. I’ll tell you who does understand, it’s parents who talk to their kids about it, and many, many kids are bringing these stories about a friend or they are coming out to their parents as trans or gender-non-normative or LGBT. These parents will come up to me after a keynote and say, “It was really helpful to hear you talk about this, my kid is going through this, my kid is going through that, I want to be supportive of them.” They’re still trying to put the language together.
These kids are really teaching us. And, yet, our organizations are very slow to take this on board, to consider it. Maybe they’re waiting for this trend to go away or something. It’s the ostrich with the head in the sand strategy. Change is coming. The companies that are starting to build the muscle of being able to speak about some of these values that are important to this new generation are going to stand a better chance of retaining them over the long term, which is, honestly, the lifeblood of every company. This is really interesting.
I wish I had so much more time with you, Kim. Where can we find some of the research that you mentioned today? I want to make sure we point people to the right place. Certainly, your website is comprehensive. Can you mention a couple things?
KIM PARKER: Sure. The website is PewResearch.org. Everything that I’ve talked about is on that website, but as you mentioned, there’s a lot on there because there is a lot more than social trends research that goes on here.
There is a tab on the homepage for PewResearch.org that says, “social trends.” If someone were to click on that tab, they would see the highlights of the social trends. There is also a search bar on the website where if you typed in “gen Z,” you would find the stuff that we’ve talked about on gen Z. If you typed in “women in leadership,” you would probably find the women in leadership study. Either go to the social trends page or use the search function on the PewResearch.org page. Always, you can use Google. That works, too.
JENNIFER BROWN: You’ve also done a couple other studies in domains we didn’t talk about today like older adults in the workforce. Is that all on there as well?
KIM PARKER: Yes. We’ve got some research on older adults and more coming. We actually have a big study coming forward about the changing culture of work. I’d love to talk with you about that once we’ve done it. We’re going to look at generations in the workforce and a lot of the issues that we’ve talked about today. We definitely have more work to come on this topic.
JENNIFER BROWN: Great. That can be part two because this was not enough time. Yes, we will have you on again and allow you to tell our audience about your latest research. We learned so much from you. Thank you for everything you do and arm us with in order to make the arguments for change, Kim. Thanks so much for joining me today.
KIM PARKER: Great, Jennifer. Thank you so much. I really enjoyed it.
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