Rise of the millennials

Barbara Kasumu is the leader of O2 Think Big project ‘Visible Women‘. Here, she writes about being part of a pretty special generation…

If you had asked me two weeks ago if I’d heard about the term ‘millennials’ I would have looked at you slightly bemused. Just when I thought I’d passed the threshold of being ‘young’ (by UK standards that is) I am now part of a new generation of movers and shakers. Millennials are the children of the baby-boomers, typically born between the 1980s and 2000, the new cool word for Gen-Y.

So when I was invited to the FT-Telefonica Millennials Summit hosted at the Royal Opera House it was an opportunity I couldn’t refuse. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, the line up of speakers looked impressive and I was keen to find out more about what it meant to be a millennial and how it affected how we saw and interacted with the world around us.

With 90 million of Telefonica’s customers being made up of millennials I can see why  ‘we’ are high on the agenda and the results from their recent survey brought up some interesting results.

The figure that resonated with me most pertinently was that just under 1 billion people in the world still have no access to the internet. Now this is a staggering fact and one that really lays bare the digital divide, we are living at a time where technology is creating a greater divide between the rich and the poor than ever before. So while millennials spend an average of 6 hours online per day and the majority will have access to the latest smartphone, for many young people and households even in the UK this is far from their reality.

In addition the survey did reveal another divide this time around gender. I was quite surprised to see that men were more likely to identify with technology as a key factor in any future success. Considering that technology is a sector that is still only made up of 17-18% of women at best, I would have liked to have seen a wider discussion on the gender divide during the summit and more women speakers in general. On an event on millennials it was hard to differentiate between the authentic millennials and the millennials ‘at heart’. As someone that is passionate about diversity and inclusion I’m always interested in who’s not in the room and how such imbalances can be redressed in a positive way to ensure that perspectives and voices are not lost by the majority.

Despite such challenges I’m glad to be part of a generation that weild such hope and great optimism, what panelist Alan Mak described as a people that aspire to “not only do well but do good”, Ash Wilson, one of the younger millennials in attendance captures the essence of the summit: “it was incredible to see a community of inspirational people come together and deliver engaging stories, discussions and a raw passion for what they do. Coming away from the summit I feel motivated to push my business and project to the next level, following the advice of those who spoke on the day”.

So I’m here’s to joining my fellow millennials in changing the world for the better.