Written Tuesday 7th April 2020

Will Gen Z Smash The Glass Ceiling In The Workplace?

There may be splinters and cracks in the metaphorical glass ceiling over every woman and minority group, but it’s still there.

26% of British workers say they’ve experienced discrimination in the workplace. In the tech sector, just 19% of employees are women, and a meagre 13% of C-suite positions are held by people of colour.

But with studies showing that Generation Z – currently aged seven to 22 years old – care more about discrimination than their predecessors, will they smash this ceiling once and for all and create truly equal workplaces? 

What glass ceiling?

Interestingly, not everyone believes there’s a glass ceiling to conquer. Just one in six Baby Boomers believe it exists; making it all the more prevalent that almost one in three from Gen-Z believe it does. What older generations accept as normal, whether consciously or otherwise, is being challenged.

Despite only beginning to enter the workplace, Gen Z isn’t afraid to call out what it sees. 49% of Gen Z believe their employers should do more to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace, and 29% believe progression for women and diversity groups is limited by a glass ceiling.

Gen Z’s outlook on diversity and inclusion in the workplace

Of course, many of the differences in attitudes between Gen Z and older generations are relative. Baby Boomers may not be worrying about their company’s inclusion policies (33% of workers aged 55 or over have no idea what they are), because they’re preoccupied with what feels like more pressing issues, like raising children and paying the mortgage. 

Add into the mix the fact that Boomers first entered the workplace in 1962 – a time when one American airline openly ruled stewardesses had to meet certain weight requirements and retire at the age of 32 – and you can see why they may feel we’ve already made significant progress. 

Each generation to enter the workplace puts a bigger focus on diversity and inclusion than their predecessors. Today, 83% of Gen Z believe it’s important to work with people from a range of cultures, education and skill levels. Millennials share a similar awareness of diversity and inclusion but see it as slightly less of a priority; 27% of those working at a non-diverse organisation would still consider staying there for the next five years.

What this means for the tech industry

Many Gen Zers want to work in tech, presenting positive implications for the notoriously white male-dominated industry. The majority of Glassdoor job applications from this age group are for tech companies (the top five most popular companies being IBM, Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Deloitte), and 19% of all Gen Z job applications are for the role of software engineer. 

While there are some key differences between millennial and Gen Z workers – the former are, for example, more concerned with a healthy work life balance – the two groups demand similar traits of potential employers. Both cite ‘work environments’ as their biggest workplace consideration, highlighting the mounting pressure on companies to adapt if they want to attract top talent from those aged under 39 years old (and rising).


Gen Z-ers may be interns or the most junior members of the team now, but they won’t be forever. In five years, they could be dictating the culture of workplaces that attract top talent; in ten, they could be leading them. And, with 77% of Gen Z saying a company’s level of diversity influences their desire to work there, this bodes well for the future. 

It’s still early days for the Gen Z workforce, but the data so far suggests their emergence into the workplace bodes well for the future of diversity and inclusion, tech sector included. There is, of course, always the danger that their definition of glass ceiling will differ from those who succeed them – only time will tell.