In Episode 117, Dima Ghawi, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Influencer at Dima Ghawi, LLC, joins Melinda in an informative discussion on how to bridge the generational divide in the workplace. They explore the four main generations in the American workforce, what motivates employees from different generations, and why organizations should recognize diverse work styles across multigenerational teams. They also discuss how managers can support the incoming younger workforce to build well-rounded teams and create a purpose-driven workplace.
- Learn more about Dima Ghawi
- Read Dima’s book, Breaking Vases: Shattering Limitations & Daring to Thrive
- Watch the TEDx talk, “Breaking glass- a leadership story: Dima Ghawi at TEDxLSU”
- Read Dima’s blog, “Can We Learn From Other Generations?”
- Read Dima’s blog, “5 Tips To Engage Gen Z”
- Read Pew Research Center’s article, “On the Cusp of Adulthood and Facing an Uncertain Future: What We Know About Gen Z So Far”
- Read Pew Research Center’s article, “Early Benchmarks Show ‘Post-Millennials’ on Track to Be Most Diverse, Best-Educated Generation Yet”
- Watch or listen to EP45: “How To Address Ageism In The Workplace With Jeff Tidwell”
This videocast is made accessible thanks to Interpreter-Now. Learn more about our show sponsor Interpreter-Now at www.interpreter-now.com.
- “Millennials and Gen Z… value diversity, equity, and inclusion. So if an employer is not showing their dedication related to this topic…, it’s going to be very difficult for them to attract individuals… from these generations. This is the generation… that grew up and are used to seeing diversity, whether it is from kindergarten, from school, from universities, so if they go to work for an employer and everybody is homogeneous— especially at a leadership role— they’re just not going to stay.”
- “Talk with each other, be curious about other generations; don’t assume things about other generations and generalize…. It’s a matter of us really being curious about each other, asking questions, learning about each other, and adapting…. It is knowing who we are, knowing who other people are, and adapting to get the best out of them.”
- “Explain the ‘why’: this is very frustrating to many Gen Xers and Baby Boomers because they…, automatically…, would assume that the younger generations… are resisting work if they keep asking…, ‘Why do we need to do that? Why do we need to do it this way?’ It’s not that they’re resisting, it’s just they need to understand why the work needs to happen a certain way, and to add value; maybe they can bring technology or improve the process so they can do it better. So anytime you’re meeting with a team, make sure… [to] build a relationship where you’re helping them understand your thought process, and get their input on how it can be done better.”
Dima Ghawi (she/her)
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Influencer at Dima Ghawi, LLC
Dima is Middle-Eastern in her genes, American in her heart, and a global citizen in her spirit. She ignites the untapped potential in individuals across the globe, empowering them to shatter limitations and become courageous, purpose driven leaders. Her own journey is one of escaping confinement, crossing continents, and transforming her life’s purpose. Harnessing the power of her story, Dima is committed to inspiring individuals to attain personal and professional growth.
Through keynote speeches, workshops, and executive coaching, Dima shares her unique leadership transformation journey with one goal in mind: motivate and activate those around her to reimagine their potential and grow into leaders.
Dima draws from two decades of corporate experience leading global teams and developing future leaders worldwide. She has worked across the United States, Europe, Asia, Middle East, and Africa for several Fortune 100 companies including IBM, Merrill Lynch, and Intuit. She has honed a keen expertise in developing leaders to meet the demands of the global workforce.
Dima’s memoir Breaking Vases received many awards including Writer’s Digest 2018 Grand Prize Award, Best Indie Book Award, Readers’ Favorite Award, National Indie Excellence Award, and Nautilus Book Award.
She has been recognized for her services with the 2014 President of the United States Bronze Volunteer Service Award, the 2019 Baton Rouge Business Report “Influential Women in Business,” 2014 Baton Rouge Business Report’s “Forty Under 40” Award, and the 2016 Louisiana State University “Esprit de Femme Award.” She has been featured in numerous publications for her professional and philanthropic work.
MELINDA: Hello, everyone. I’m Melinda Briana Epler, Founder and CEO of Change Catalyst and author of How to Be an Ally. I’m your host of Leading With Empathy & AllyShip. Welcome!
Allyship is about learning, showing empathy, and taking action. That process often includes learning, unlearning, and relearning, then building empathy for people with different experiences, and above all, taking consistent action. So each week, we’ll learn from somebody new. Please be open to new ways of thinking and understanding. You can learn more about my work and sign up to join us for a live recording at ally.cc.
Let’s get started.
Today our guest is Dima Ghawi, who is a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Influencer at Dima Ghawi LLC. We’ll be discussing generational inclusion in the workplace. So we’ll talk about the different generations, some generational divides that can come into play in our workplaces, and then we’ll also get into the details, specifically about Gen Y, or millennials, and Gen Z. As Gen Y And Gen Zers can rise in our organizations, how can we all put aside our biases or assumptions about each other, support one another, and then set ourselves up for success so that everybody thrives together?
So welcome, Dima, I’m glad to have you here.
DIMA: Thank you, Melinda. I’m so excited to be here.
MELINDA: All right. So can you tell us a bit about your story, from where you grew up, to your path to doing the work that you do today?
DIMA: Yeah. I am Middle Eastern American. I was born in Turkey, and raised in Jordan in the Middle East. I moved to the US in 96, and I’ve been here since then. My background is, I was raised in a very, very conservative Catholic community. A lot of people automatically have certain assumptions related to the religion when they hear about being Middle Eastern. But as a woman from that community, I had to deal early on with a lot of biases and discrimination. That’s why I’m so passionate about my work in DEI; giving voice to individuals, and opening doors of opportunities that many people have not had in the past. So I believe my work is helping individuals grow and develop and improve their skills, but at the same time, work with executives, and helping them understand the biases that are happening in the workplace, and addressing these biases so they can create these opportunities.
MELINDA: Thank you for sharing that. We’re talking about generational diversity today. Can you share a bit about why you started working on that specifically?
DIMA: Yeah, it is one of the aspects of DEI. It is that diversity of age. In the last few years, right after the murder of George Floyd, there was a lot of focus on race, which is so good and so much needed. So now organizations are trying to look into other aspects, in addition to race, of diversity. So whether it is generational, whether it is neurodiversity, whether it is a lot of these other things. So now we have Gen Z, and Gen Z, they are between 7 years old and 23. The ones that are in their early 20s, they’re either interns at organizations, or they are just finishing college and they’re starting their full-time jobs, and so many employers are not ready for them. They assume that they’re going to have Millennials forever. They didn’t realize that Millennials are one generation, it’s going to be done, and then we’re going to have a whole new group of individuals, a new group of employees, that will have different values, different things that they’re looking for in an employer. They are very, very different. Even a lot of Gen Zers, they get offended when we call them Millennials. They say: “No, I’m not a Millennial, I am a Gen Z.” So that’s why I’m passionate about it. It’s an aspect of diversity, and it is a way of creating an inclusive work culture, regardless of the age of the employee.
MELINDA: Awesome. So can you share a bit about the different generations within our workplaces today, what are those different generations?
DIMA: Yes. So currently, we have six generations that are alive. I’ll give you the names and the ages real quick, and then I’ll dig deep into them. I’m going to read the ages, just so I wouldn’t mess up anything. So we have the Builders, and the Builders, they are 75 plus. We still have some Builders in the workplace. Either they absolutely love what they do, or they cannot afford retirement. But not a lot.
Then we have the Baby Boomers, and the Baby Boomers, that was the last generation that was named by the government. So it’s interesting, where do the names come from, and that was the last one. It’s that big boom in babies after the war. Baby Boomers are interesting, and to give the age, they’re 56 to 74 years old. All of the numbers I’m going to give related to the age, they’re not set in stone. So different research may have different ages, but they’re close. The interesting thing about Baby Boomers, 10,000 Baby Boomers are reaching retirement age every single day in the US. So that is interesting. Because half of them, based on this research, they say that they’re going to continue to work beyond 70 years old, and 35% of them state that they never imagine retiring because of the financial burdens that they’re dealing with. So that, as employers, it’s so important to think about, from different aspects. One is, for the ones that are ready to retire, and we’re going to see major retirement, do we have a transition plan? If not, then we need to do that. For the employees that are not ready to retire, what do we need to do to keep them feeling included, and to continue to motivate them? But also, not to inhibit the growth, especially in the hierarchy, for individuals that are waiting for the Baby Boomers to retire in order to get the job. So it’s interesting, the different dynamics that are going on.
Now, Gen X, and this is my generation, Gen X is anyone between 39 and 55. We’re called the middle child. Like, we’re the ignored middle child, because we’re between these two humongous generations, the Baby Boomers and the Millennials. In many cases, we did not get as much attention, whether it is from the parents, but also from the marketers; the marketers are so fascinated by these generations. The names like the Gen X and Millennials, they’re all given by marketers, because they need to know what we value so they can target us and make us buy stuff.
MELINDA: Make money off of us.
DIMA: Make money, yeah. It is knowing your audience. It’s interesting, because with the Millennials, they initially called them Gen Y. But then they’re like: “Whoa, this generation is so cool to be called just a Gen Y! We’re gonna call them Millennials.” But now a lot of Millennials, they don’t want to be associated with this generation because of the negative stereotype that we have about it. They’re like, “No, we’re Gen Y.” So it’s so confusing, depending on the person we’re working with. So I mentioned the Millennials, they are 24 to 38. The interesting thing about Millennials, we still call them the kids. Like, these kids, the young generation, they’re about to turn 40. They’re not kids anymore. Many of them are in leadership roles, and they’re decision makers. So that is a humongous generation.
Then we have Gen Zers, and that’s the one I was mentioning. Gen Z, they’re 7 to 23, and this is a whole new generation. A lot of research is being done on them right now to figure out how they’re going to be in the workplace, and you and I will get to talk about that. They are very different. They’re determined. They know they’re supposed to be driving change. They’re so focused on diversity and inclusion. Again, we’ll spend some time on that.
Then the youngest generation is between 1 and 7, so they’re called Alpha. They’re still babies, they’re still trying to figure out things; they’re still playing with Legos and little kid toys. But it’s interesting, sometimes I see research about Alpha in the workplace. I’m like, how do they know? It’s so early to even say that.
So I’ll just share a few interesting things, and then we’ll dig into the Millennials and Gen Z. So the Millennials tend to be the children of Baby Boomers, and Alpha tend to be the children of Gen Xers. That’s why whenever I have Baby Boomers complaining about the Millennials, I tell them: “You raised them! Now you have to work with them.”
MELINDA: Interesting. I am Gen X too, and back when Gen Y or the Millennials were just starting to come into the workplace, we were called the translator generation, that we could translate between Baby Boomers and Gen Y. Because we knew a time before computers and before smartphones, we could kind of understand Baby Boomers, and also, we were transfixed in technology. I mean, we’re fully in technology. So we can be that translator between the two. But we are the smallest in there, too, which is interesting, as you’re talking about it. Baby Boomers retiring, then the next wave is the smallest generation of all of them that’s coming up. So that’s an interesting thing I hadn’t really thought about before.
So we spoke about ageism in the workplace with Jeff Tidwell in Episode 45. So if anybody’s interested in that topic, please go check out that episode too, we’ll put it in our show notes at ally.cc. We talked about significant age divides in our workplaces there too, and there, we focused more on Baby Boomers and people who are nearing retirement age that are being discriminated against in the workplace. So here, we’ll be focusing more on Gen Y, or Millennials, and Gen Z.
Before we get there, though, can we just talk a bit about where you see some workplace issues coming up between the generations? What’s happening between generations that makes it so important for us to work on this, and to actively create change in our workplaces to be more inclusive for the younger generations?
DIMA: Yeah, that’s such a good question. The main issue is related to communication and our work style. So for example, with Baby Boomers, their value, the most important thing for them is hard work. You may have heard Baby Boomers brag about being the first person in the office and the last person to leave. Because that legacy creation is so important to them of how hard they work, that is a big part of their identity. If we look at the absolute extreme, for example, with Millennials, work is important, but they’re not living to work; they want to have a life, they want to have a quality of life. To them, what is so important is a balance. That’s when we start seeing Baby Boomers complaining about the Millennials and saying things like, “Ah, they’re lazy, they’re entitled!” It’s not that they’re lazy and entitled, they’re just not willing to dedicate every second of their life to work, because like the Boomers, they believe that this is part of their identity.
What’s important for us to keep in mind, with the Boomers, there was the concept of lifetime employment. So they worked for a company, and they were so loyal to the company all their life. At that time, they had the gold watch. Remember, when you work 25 years for an employer, you’ll get your gold watch, and it was a big deal. But a lot of organizations, they lost this loyalty, because they stopped being loyal to their employees; they were laying off employees, offshoring, automating. We started seeing, for example, Gen Xers and mainly Millennials observe the more senior generations, and they’re like, “I don’t want to dedicate all my life to an employer, where they’re going to cut my job in a heartbeat.” So the lifetime employment changed, and as a result, now we have a lot of people shifting jobs.
So when we talk about the generational clash, this is one: how we value the loyalty to an employer. But another one related to the generational clash, and this is so tough, where Baby Boomers, they like to have face-to-face meetings. They like to have the body language, and the interaction, and to debate things, and to talk about all of this. Whereas, if we look at the extreme, the Millennials, many of them when they went to college, if they went to college, they were doing their homework from Starbucks. So to them, they cannot understand why can’t they just work from home or from Starbucks if the work gets done? While the Boomers, they want to make sure everybody’s in the office; they’re watching them, they’re counting the hours. It’s very, very different. To Millennials, it’s just a matter of getting the work done, doing it well, and using technology. That causes a lot of conflict right now. So it’s interesting. Go ahead.
MELINDA: Yeah. I think you’re going to go there, too, is there are so many companies now, after the pandemic, who are going back to the workplace and trying to force people to go back to the workplace or strongly encourage people to go back to the workplace. There is this push and pull that is happening, where companies are losing talent as a result of that, or they’re losing that loyalty. Because you’ve now taken that away from people that found that natural, and there’s so many different reasons why people would rather work remotely. Is that where you were going to go with that?
DIMA: Yeah, that’s such a great point what you said. To a lot of them, they saw during the pandemic that they were able to work from home, and get the work done, and accomplish things, and the team didn’t fall apart. So it’s interesting. As long as we have Baby Boomers and Gen Xers in senior leadership roles, I believe we’re not going to see as much flexibility as the Millennials and Gen Zers. It’s interesting when we talk about Gen Z, when we get to that point, Gen Zers are an interesting generation. Can you believe they like face-to-face interaction? They’re very different than Millennials. They’re like Baby Boomers with a lot of technology. They love technology, but they’re hungry for the connection, and they want to have the in-person interaction.
Related to technology right now, with these generations, we have a major gap, also focused on technology. I’m repeating myself. So I work with some clients that still use fax machines, which is hilarious.
MELINDA: What is that?
DIMA: Good question. One client has 55 fax machines in their office, and they maintain them every year; they pay for somebody to go there and maintain it. And we have a whole new thing going on, related to AI (Artificial Intelligence). So you see a major gap. I’m not saying that the younger generations are going to be more towards the AI. But you’re going to see some individuals that are still having filing cabinets and printing stuff and putting it in the filing cabinet, while others are doing all of these cool things, like with ChatGPT and technology and all of it. So to answer your question, there’s a lot of dynamics going on that are causing that generational gap.
MELINDA: Yeah, it’s very interesting. I think it depends, too. There’s definitely different industries that are moving faster and changing faster than others, too. I know in some industries, you’ll find more file cabinets, more fax machines, and in others, they’ve never been there.
DIMA: Yeah, it’s so funny.
MELINDA: Today, we are going to focus more now on Gen Y or Millennials, and also Gen Z. So let’s talk about attracting and hiring, and then we’ll talk about retaining and managing as well. So in terms of attracting and hiring the people from those two generations. Actually, before I go further, I just want to note that we’re talking generalizations here. No one, no generation, no person is a model, no generation is a model. There’s ebb and flow. Definitely as a Gen Xer, there’s a lot that resonates for me when you talk about Gen Y, or Gen Z even. So I think it’s really important, we’re talking in generalizations so you can have a better sense of how to create systems and processes and cultures that are more inviting, welcoming, safe, and create a sense of belonging for folks. But of course, it’s really important not to make assumptions about people based on their generations, too. These ideas can help you think about creating change, and then when you’re interacting one-on-one, get to know people, allow them to be who they are, support them in the unique human beings that they are. So I want to just make a note of that before we continue.
DIMA: Yeah. Before you go to the next question, I am so glad you brought this up. Because sometimes, I have Millennials that associate more with the Baby Boomer quality, or Baby Boomers say: “No, I feel like a Millennial.” That takes us back to, what is a generation? I should have started with that. It is a group of people that are born around a similar timeframe, at a similar place. So for example, I mentioned earlier that I am a Gen X, based on the years that I was born. But I was born in the Middle East, so I would be very different as a Gen X, with the social aspects, the political aspects, the economical aspects that I had to deal with, compared to you as a Gen X being in the US.
One time, I remember, that was before the pandemic. I was giving a keynote about this topic, and I had a global audience. So people from all around the world meeting in the US, and we got to talk about the generations. It was so fascinating for me how they did not relate to any of the things I was talking about. So the Americans were like, “Yeah, this makes sense, this makes sense.” So when we’re talking about these generations, just keep in mind that they’re American-specific here in the US. You take the same information, it’s not going to apply in other countries.
I mentioned earlier, the political, economical, social, and technological factors that shape us. So this is called PEST. Think about every generation, how they have been influenced with these political, economical, social, and technological, since they were growing up, and how that shaped them, shaped their values, shaped what motivates them? So for example, like with the Baby Boomers related to growing up with a war, and after the war, the depression. Think about the Gen Xers, and how we were influenced with a lot of things, like with 9/11, so that was major for us. When you think about the Millennials, and how they were influenced with technology, social media. Even a lot of them, after they finished college, if they went to college, they hit The Recession in 2008, so that shaped part of who they are. Now Gen Zers, with like the school shooting, that’s affecting them as a generation related to their sense of safety and the fear that they’re constantly feeling, going to school and worrying about school shooting. That’s going to shape them as a generation, not just as an individual, but also as an employee. So keep that PEST in mind as you’re thinking about these different generations.
MELINDA: Yeah, absolutely. So back to where we were, in terms of attracting and hiring Gen Y And Gen Z, what should we be thinking about? What can folks be thinking about as they’re trying to attract and hire Gen Y and Gen Z?
DIMA: Okay. So one of the things that is so important that I’m going to start with is, Millennials and Gen Z, and I’m looking for the things that are in common with them; we’ll talk about things that make them different, if you want, later. But they value diversity, equity, and inclusion. So if an employer is not showing their dedication related to this topic, I can tell you that it’s going to be very difficult for them to attract individuals, again without generalizing, from these generations. This is the generation, both of them, that they grew up and they’re used to seeing diversity, whether it is from kindergarten, from school, from universities. So if they go to work for an employer and everybody is homogeneous, especially at a leadership role, they’re just not going to stay.
That’s why it is frustrating for a lot of employers, where they automatically assume that these generations are lazy and not committed. Well, maybe we need to look inward and ask ourselves: are we really creating an inclusive work culture? So they’re checking the website, and if the website doesn’t show information about the organization’s value for DEI, the social media is not showing that, if they go to see their leadership team and they see the board being homogeneous, they automatically know that this is not going to be an organization that they’re going to fit in. So this makes me very happy, and it makes me extremely hopeful for the future. Right now, we live in a world that there’s still a lot of resistance to DEI, as sad as it is. I believe that once we get more Millennials in decision-making roles and leadership, and now Gen Z. Gen Z, they’re going to be on steroids related to their value for DEI. We’re going to see a major change.
So before I go to next one, tell me what are your thoughts about this? Like, what are you seeing related to what I just mentioned?
MELINDA: Interesting. I was going to ask you what the differences were, because I think that’s really important too. I think that in general, the Gen X and Gen Y, and Gen Z, increasingly so, are more focused on social impact, wanting to have purpose attached to their work. This is general. But I see also, in addition to purpose, that workplace we talked about earlier, where you can be flexible, where you can live your life and integrate work into your life however you want to, whether you want to and however you want to, those three things are really key for me. So what are some of the differences?
DIMA: I’ll tell you the differences in a second, but there’s one point I want to mention. To a lot of them, and this is still the similarity, they want to make sure that their employer’s focus is not just on the bottom line. The bottom line is so important. But they want to make sure that their employer is focused on making a difference in the community, that they’re not causing pollution or issues in the community. To them, it is beyond just the bottom line, beyond even just the salary. That also makes me very hopeful. I know it makes it very difficult for employers, especially if they are being led by Gen X and Boomers, and we’re thinking, like, “Can’t people just go to work and do their work and go home? Like, why do we have to be doing all of these other things?” But their mentality is: they want purpose, they want meaning, whether it is within their job or within what the organization represents. That is really, really good.
So now let’s talk about things that make them different, and to me, it is so funny. So now, when we started working on helping organizations understand the Millennials, we talked to them about importance of teamwork. Bring down all of the separating walls from the offices. Open this infinite space for everybody to get to work together and to engage. Now a lot of organizations, they did that. They took out offices, they created open space, I think they call it agile work environment. But the tricky thing is, with the Gen Zers, they don’t want that; they want their own office.
MELINDA: Does anybody really want to be in an open land? I don’t know, maybe the extroverts did this. Because really, the introverts are not ready.
DIMA: Yeah. They want their own space, and they don’t want everybody to get an award and a trophy. They are very competitive, and that is similar to the Baby Boomers. So when I mentioned to you earlier, Gen Zers are like Baby Boomers with all the technology, this is one of the qualities of Baby Boomers. They’re very competitive. In general, they want to win. They don’t want the whole team to win, they want to be the person that wins. That is another quality related to Gen Z. Competitive, they want their own space, they don’t want everybody to get the trophy, and they want to prove themselves. I think that’s wonderful. It’s just different than what we’ve been doing the last few years.
MELINDA: Yeah. I will circle back to what I was thinking about earlier too, because I think this is really important for folks to realize too, is the number of LGBTQIA+ folks who are coming up in the generations and actively identifying and coming out sooner and earlier in their lives and feeling safe to do so. A lot of people obviously still don’t feel safe. But there’s a huge percentage, a much bigger percentage of Gen Y and Gen Z, who are out as they get into the workplace. It’s significant. Just looking at Baby Boomers, it’s 2.8%. Whereas, Gen Z is 20 something percent. So that’s a significant difference. So as you look at the different LGBTQIA+ folks and the different ways that people identify, it’s also significantly different as you get into Gen Y and Gen Z. So I think that’s something for people to be aware of, too. Often, the Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, it’s newer for a lot of people, and we just didn’t have role models when we were growing up. Now there are role models, now there is more active media presence for people who are LGBTQIA+, and as a result, we have a lot more people who are out in the younger generations.
DIMA: Yeah, and allies too. That is something I’m so impressed with. My assistant, she is so supportive to the LGBTQ+ community. I am so happy, but I could not understand the extent of how or why she wants to be such an ally. I asked her one time, and especially in her situation related to the transgenders. So I asked her like, why? Help me understand. She said, “Dima, it’s social media.” So in her situation, on Instagram and TikTok, she’s able to hear their stories, and that is so powerful, the power of stories. When she connects with their stories and their pain and the depression and suicide rate, and how many of them they get to be homeless, being kicked out of their homes, she resonated so much with that. As a result, she wants to be an ally.
That is different than when I grew up, and I’m curious to hear about you as well. When I grew up, it was a very protective environment. We didn’t obviously have social media, the media didn’t cover any of that, and the parents were so protective related to who I interacted with. So I didn’t get exposed to other people’s stories. I did not feel their pain, specifically the LGBTQ+ community. So most of my life, I didn’t understand, and that’s different now with the Millennials and Gen Zers. So what is your thought about that?
MELINDA: Well, I’m bisexual, but I would say that I didn’t know terminology to define that for years. It just wasn’t something that people talked about, and certainly, there were no out bisexual people in the stories that we hear. I think the issue, too, is there is a divide by generation. A digital divide too, or a social media divide maybe, where the people who are on social media follow transgender issues and learn and build empathy and understanding for people’s unique experiences. But the people who are not on social media may not ever have that experience, because they still didn’t grow up and learn and understand what are the different letters in the LGBTQIA+ alphabets, what do they mean, and what’s possible, what are those different terms that might fit my identity? So I think that we still have a divide there within our workplaces, where some people know that terminology, have role models, and understand, and other people just still have not been exposed.
DIMA: Yeah. I want to mention one thing. With my clients, there’s still a lot of resistance related to the LGBTQ+ community. Many of them, they’re still not comfortable to celebrate Pride months, or to even talk about it or acknowledge this topic. It’s still a big challenge where the employees are asking for this, but the leadership team, they’re in a whole different place and they’re not ready for it. There’s still a big gap. I’m glad that you mentioned the statistics, I want to give you bigger statistics related to diversity. So with the Baby Boomers, 22% of the Baby Boomers are diverse.
MELINDA: Can you define diversity, meaning people who are underrepresented?
DIMA: Yeah, related to race, related to ethnicity. With the new generation, Gen Z, almost half of them are diverse, related to race and ethnicity. So that shows you the major shift that is going on as well right now.
MELINDA: Got it. So 50% of those generations are from underrepresented racial and ethnic identities.
DIMA: Yeah. So I want to mention, we were talking earlier about what makes them different, the Millennials and Gen Zers. So I’ll mention one more thing, because this is going to be a major impact for employers. So education, the value of education is so important. So my generation, we were taught early on: “Get educated. Bachelors is not enough. You need to get Masters. You need to keep getting certifications.” I love education. Education changed my life. But now, we have a lot of Millennials graduating with big student loans that they have to keep paying off for the rest of their lives. I know one person that finished a history degree from LSU (The Louisiana State University), and she has $150,000 in student loans. That’s unrealistic. She got a government job that’s paying her $30,000. So imagine how much she has to pay? So now, the Gen Zers, they’re starting to question that. They’re not questioning the value of education. They still see that it is important, but they don’t want to live all their life paying student loans. So we’re going to start seeing a lot of Gen Zers choosing not to go to college. What that means, either they’re going to go to community college, so they’re not going to a university, a four-year institution. Instead, they may go to a community college, or they may choose to go to a technical college. So we’re going to see more demand for this one-year program or six-month program.
So what that means is, a lot of organizations, they need to improve their training and development programs. Because a lot of these Gen Zers are going to join, and they’re going to expect their employer to train them. So that’s a new thing, that many are not ready for that. We haven’t seen the significance yet, because a lot of the Gen Zers that we’re getting, as of now, they’re still influenced with the Millennial way. But when you’re starting to see more and more finishing high school, this is going to be a big shift. They don’t want to go to a four-year college. If they do, they just learn theories, which I know I got a lot of that. When I finished my Bachelors, when I worked on my Masters, tons of theories, and things, really, that did not apply in the real world. So they want a return on investment. If they go to a university, they want to make sure that what they’re learning, they can go out and they can apply it.
So I love that. I absolutely love it! I think it is very much needed. It’s going to challenge the universities, and it’s going to create a new dynamic for employers, because now they have to work on their talent development. Unless if it’s like for being a doctor or an attorney, for sure. I hope they go to the university. But a lot of other ones, they don’t need it, we can train them on that.
MELINDA: So as a manager, if I have Gen Y and Gen Z team members, what are the top three things that you would say I should be thinking about, as I’m looking to support them?
DIMA: A very important one is discussing their career path and giving them feedback, constant feedback. When I was in the corporate world, I was getting, initially, feedback once a year in the annual performance review. Thank goodness that didn’t happen to me. But a lot of people, they thought they were doing a good job all year long, and then they would meet with their manager and the manager says: “You’re bad, I’m not happy with your performance.” But they never got feedback, they never knew that something was going wrong. Then, some organizations, what they started doing is doing the mid-year review in the summer. Just most of the time, it is informal. That doesn’t work with Millennials and Gen Z. They need feedback. Not because they are a pain and they constantly want us to give them awards. They want to make sure that they are doing a good job, and if there is an issue, that they would improve it before waiting for the official review and then they would be shocked. So talk about their career, make sure you’re doing one-on-one. Talk about training, development, and performance, how they’re doing. Some companies, what they started doing is, they created an app where the manager can provide constant feedback, like thumbs up or something to their employees to keep providing them with input. I love it. I love it because I don’t think the old way really worked for many employees. Now, just as managers, we need to make the time to focus on the growth, to focus on development. So that is one of the topics.
The other one is, explain the why. This is very frustrating to many Gen Xers and Baby Boomers. Because they’re like: “Why do I need to keep explaining the why? Why do these Millennials and Gen Z keep asking why?” Automatically, my generation would assume that the younger generations, they’re resisting work if they keep asking why, why, why. “Why do we need to do that? Why do we need to do it this way?” It’s not that they’re resisting, it’s just they need to understand why the work needs to happen a certain way, and to add value; maybe they can bring technology or improve the process so they can do it better. So anytime you’re meeting with a team, make sure. I know sometimes that we have an urgent task, and we don’t have the time to pause and explain the why. But when it’s not urgent, build a relationship where you’re helping them understand your thought process, and get their input on how it can be done better. Because I know I used to hear this a lot where I was told, “Well, this is how it’s always been done.” But with this new generation, they don’t want to do it the way it’s always been done. The world changed.
MELINDA: Yeah, absolutely.
DIMA: Then I’ll give you a third one, because I know you asked for three. The third one is flexibility, and that is so important. Because with these generations, they’re trained when they are in school, that they can do their work from home, they can do it from Starbucks. I understand that some jobs cannot be done virtual. So if a person is a teller, how can you be a teller doing this work from your home? But the managers need to be flexible related to making sure if an employee, let’s say they have a family situation, maybe even change their work hours. Instead of everybody starting from eight or nine to five, maybe some employees would want to start a little later and end a little later. So flexibility. Understand from the team, what do they need, and how can you support them as a manager? So these are some of the things I recommend.
MELINDA: Awesome, thank you. The last question for you is, this is a show about action, so we learn and we take action. We have people from probably every single generation in there. Maybe not the youngest ones, maybe the Alphas not yet. But the rest, we have listeners in all of those different generations. So what is one action that you would like people to take, coming away from this talk?
DIMA: Yeah, I think it is just like anything related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Talk with each other. Be curious about other generations. Don’t assume things about other generations and generalize, and also judge them. Not every Baby Boomer is bad in technology, and not every Millennial loves avocado toast. So it’s a matter of us really being curious about each other, asking questions, learning about each other, and adapting. It’s so important. It’s really emotional intelligence, everything we talk about. It is knowing who we are, knowing who other people are, and adapting to get the best out of them.
MELINDA: Excellent. Where can people learn more about you and your work?
DIMA: They can go to my website, it is my name, DimaGhawi.com. I have information related to my keynotes, my coaching, and my workshops.
MELINDA: Excellent, we’ll put that in our show notes at ally.cc. Thank you, Dima, appreciate you!
DIMA: My pleasure. I appreciate you and all the wonderful work that you’re doing.
MELINDA: Excellent! All right, everyone. Find a new action that you will take, and we will see you next week.
We’ll share resources and a transcript from this discussion at ally.cc. And please make sure to subscribe to our channel and rate this show, it makes a difference for us. Thank you for being part of our community.
Remember, the more we take action, the more we grow as humans and as leaders, and the more we transform our communities. So what action will you take today? Let us know your actions by emailing podcast@ChangeCatalyst.co or reaching out on social media.
Leading With Empathy & AllyShip is a show by Change Catalyst, where we build inclusive innovation through training, consulting, and events. You can learn more about us at change catalyst.co. So let’s keep building allyship across our communities and around the world.
Thank you for listening.
Host: Melinda Briana Epler
Melinda Briana Epler has over 25 years of experience developing business innovation and inclusion strategies for startups, Fortune 500 companies, and global NGOs.
As CEO of Change Catalyst, Melinda currently works with the tech industry to solve diversity and inclusion together. Using her background in storytelling and large-scale culture change, she is a strategic advisor for tech companies, tech hubs, and governments around the world. She co-leads a series of global solutions-focused conferences called Tech Inclusion, where she has partnered with over 450 tech companies and community organizations and hosted 43 solutions-focused diversity and inclusion events around the world.
Previously, Melinda was a Marketing and Culture Executive and award-winning documentary filmmaker – her film and television work includes projects that exposed the AIDS crisis in South Africa, explored women’s rights in Turkey, and prepared communities for the effects of climate change. She has worked on several television shows, including NBC’s The West Wing.
Melinda is a TED speaker. She speaks, mentors and writes about diversity and inclusion in tech, allyship, social entrepreneurship, underrepresented entrepreneurs and investing. She has spoken on hundreds of stages around the world, including SXSW, Grace Hopper, Wisdom 2.0, the World Bank, Obama White House, Clinton Foundation, Black Enterprise, Google, Indeed, Capital One and McKinsey.
Watch Melinda’s TED Talk
Change Catalyst Co-Founder Melinda Briana Epler has spoken across the globe in hundreds of venues and virtual events. Empathy, Allyship, Advocacy, Microaggressions, Inclusive Leadership, and Building Inclusive Teams are just some of the topics Melinda has spoken on. Let us know about your next speaking engagement needs! Melinda has also spoken on how to build organizational capacity to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion, such as how to lead behavior change or how to build allies and advocates.
This show has given me clear opportunities to learn in the midst of 2020’s numerous social and personal challenges, including engaging remote content. I’ve learned new terms, heard new voices, diversified my interests and internalized personal narratives that have inspired me to get more active.
The show shaped my scope of reasoning on the dynamics in the corporate world, brand building, harmony across board with team mates. Your series has helped me feel less alone and less daunted by the challenges I face as a leader at a company that is used to moving fast with decisions and making swift progress across the board. I so earnestly want to grow and deepen my perspective when it comes to diversity and allyship; it’s not always clear how to do it. This series has felt like a path I can follow and revisit and draw strength and insight from. Thank you.
I watched many of your live shows in 2020, and I learned something from every discussion. They were inspiring on many levels. Early on during the pandemic (especially), the show also provided me with a sense of community that I was sorely needing. Thank you.