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Gen Y worry about ageism in business

03 August 2015

Gen Y feels ageism acutely

Fostering young female talent will be critical to long term business diversity.

New research has revealed almost three in five (58 per cent) young Australian leaders have experienced age discrimination in the workforce.

in fact, 96 per cent of Gen Y female leaders believe gender-based discrimination is a barrier to women staying in the workforce

The Westpac Women of Influence Report has found Generation Y are more likely to experience ageism by being paid less (41 per cent), employers not providing the same training or development opportunities (32 per cent) as fellow employees, or missing out on a pay rise (27 per cent).

In addition, almost all (96 per cent) young female leaders believe gender-based discrimination to be a barrier to women staying in the workforce.

Westpac Director of Women’s Markets, Inclusion and Diversity Ainslie van Onselen says that Gen Y women face discrimination on two fronts.

“The report shows that Australian women feel they not only have to combat the gender divide but also ageism at multiple points in their careers. It is critical that businesses address this to ensure a pipeline of female talent to transition into senior leadership positions. Pushing for smart, effective female leaders in this country is not only smart business; it is a commercial imperative,” Ainslie said.

“Leading by example is crucial to influencing wider change in Australia. Westpac Group implemented a number of programs to support women at different stages of their careers from mandating that 50 per cent of all our graduates be women, to ensuring an equal gender split on all our high potential talent programs.

“We support parents, promote flexible working hours, encourage networking and empower women to make confident career choices through the Women of Westpac Employee Action Group. We have an extensive mentoring program, a number of initiatives to connect young leaders, including a Youth Network Employee Action Group, and sponsor Out for Australia, which seeks to support and mentor aspiring female lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and questioning professionals as they navigate the early stages of their careers,” she said.

The Westpac Women of Influence Report also revealed there is a generation disconnect between Gen Y and their older counterparts, with 59 per cent of Gen Y feeling like older workers aren’t sharing enough knowledge and skills with the team, whereas 83 per cent of baby boomers feel they are open to sharing.

Ainslie said, “Diversity in business is important. Each generation brings to the table a different set of insights and skills, which can help drive growth. While it is not necessary for everyone to see eye to eye, business needs to bridge the divide between young Australians and older workers to reap the benefits of each generation.

“Businesses that see the advantage of diversifying their workforce create a more agile and robust culture from which they can profit. Key to this is showcasing and celebrating the breadth of female talent across all generations, which encourage women to take hold of leadership positions, whatever age they are.

“Increasing the visibility of women’s leadership in Australia is critical to allow other women to envisage pathways to reach their own full potential. This will ultimately shift the dial towards a more diverse and inclusive society,” she said.

The Australian Financial Review and Westpac 100 Women of Influence Awards program celebrates outstanding and influential women across corporate, community, culture, public and not-for-profit sectors. Nominations for the 2015 100 Women of Influence Awards close on 9 August 2015. Entries can be submitted online at

Notes for further interest

Key statistics

Ageism is most prevalent in Gen Y with almost 3 in 5 (58%) of Gen Y leaders saying they have personally experienced ageism in the workforce (cf. Gen X 31%, Baby Boomers 43%)

41% of Gen Y are more likely to have experienced ageism by being paid less

32% of Gen Y have not been provided the same training or development opportunities as other generations as a result of age discrimination

27% of Gen Y have missed out on a pay rise due to ageism

96% of Gen Y female leaders believe gender based discrimination is a barrier to women staying in the workforce

3 in 5 (59%) Gen Y also feels older workers aren’t sharing enough knowledge and skills with the team, where 83% of baby boomers feel they are open to sharing

Westpac Women of Influence Report

Fieldwork was conducted between 25 May and 10 June 2015 among 1,701 senior Australian businesspeople aged 18-65. Respondents were made up of 1,178 women (416 earning over $85,000 a year) and 523 men (303 earning over $85,000 a year) working in a leadership role. This was defined as: business/owner, manager/executive with responsibility for overall business performance; or manager/executive who is responsible for managing a team of people (e.g. more than two employees).

The Australian Financial Review and Westpac 100 Women of Influence Awards

The Australian Financial Review and Westpac 100 Women of Influence Awards is committed to increasing the visibility of women’s leadership in Australia, highlighting the important contribution women make in creating a bold and diverse future for Australia. Launched in 2012, the program has a new category this year - Culture. 

2015 Categories:
1. Board/Management
2. Public Policy
3. Diversity
4. Business Enterprise
5. Young Leader
6. Global
7. Local/Regional
8. Innovation
9. Culture
10. Social Enterprise and Not-for-profit

Key Dates and How to Enter:

Entries close – Sunday, 9 August 2015
Finalists announced in The Australian Financial Review in early October
Entry forms can be downloaded at
Completed entries can be uploaded online at

For more information about the 2015 100 Women of Influence Awards, please visit

Winners announced – Thursday, 15 October 2015 at a gala event held in Sydney’s Town Hall


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