multigeneration womenI recently attended a luncheon, a gathering of about 50 women. The audience included women from their 20’s to their 80’s. The speaker was a writer, talking about her novel about World War II and its impact on American families. The topic obviously hit home most with women (Traditionals) who had memories of Pearl Harbor, rationing and personal loss. It affected those of us (Baby Boomers) who had heard such stories from our parents somewhat differently. For the younger women (Gen X and Millennials), it probably was a bit of remote history.

I saw a graphic display in how generations are created and influenced by our experiences in our formative years – and shaped by ongoing change. World War II influenced the world view and values of Traditionals. Baby Boomers were more influenced by Vietnam, the Civil Rights and feminist movements and the availability of the birth control pill. The changing configuration of families (as a result of women entering the workplace and divorce rates) helped shape members of Generation X. And Millennials were shaped by technology (instant communication and answers) and more affirming styles of parenting.

How much change has occurred since these Traditional women experienced World War II as young people! I thought particularly about changes in the role of women in the workplace, the meaning of “retirement,” and the impact of technology. Nearly all of the women over 65, including women in their 70’s and 80’s, were active, involved, working and contributing. The views of women’s roles that were prevalent in their youth (and mine) are long gone. I was impressed by the continuing work of these women and struck by how “retirement” has been redefined.

Just think of the technological changes these more senior women have seen! My mother (she would be a decade older than the oldest woman in that room) was young in a time of “ice boxes,” telephone operators who knew your name, and Model T Fords. She, like many of the women at this luncheon, saw our landing on the moon and the development of the internet and cellular technology. At the luncheon, one woman was the creator and publisher of a magazine. It has gone the way of many publications – to online versions. She is now involved as an online publicist and social media adviser. Her career has kept up with big technological changes!

What will the world be like when the 20-somethings in that room are 80-something?


holidays year-end

 

 

When you read this, Thanksgiving will be over, and shopping for holiday gifts will be gearing up. When my next newsletter comes, we will be in a new year. The meaning of each of these holidays, to me, is:

  • Thanksgiving: gratitude
  • Christmas: celebration and giving
  • New Year’s: a new start

The mission of DifferenceWORKS is to help create workplaces that value, in both men and women, both masculine and feminine ways of thinking, working and leading. It is a niche, a part of the broader area of diversity and inclusion and a small part of the global issues related to women’s rights. My thoughts for these holidays are based on this mission.

For Thanksgiving, I am grateful that American women have made more advances than in many areas of the world. At DifferenceWORKS, we focus on eliminating unconscious mind-sets that keep women from reaching their potential – not on issues, also very important, like governments that deprive women of the right to drive, vote or hold a job. We focus on the goal of gender diversity at the top in business – not on other critical issues like the poverty rate of U.S. women or violence against women. I am grateful for the progress of women, but very aware that there is far to go and much else to do.

I am grateful that my health has returned enough that I am back out there doing workshops and have momentum going into 2015. I am grateful for you for following me and supporting me in my mission.

For the season of giving, I give you a copy of the masculine-feminine continuum. Click here. The continuum forms the backbone of our workshops and shows the “poles” of masculine and feminine behavior in eight dimensions of the workplace. I give you a commitment to keep at my mission; to develop new workshops that address different needs; and to improve our delivery and follow-up capabilities.

And I give you my best wishes for the best holiday ever. May you receive all you desire!

For New Year’s, I am celebrating the end of one year and a fresh start in 2015. This year has been challenging for me. A big surgery that was predicted to slow me down for a month slowed me down for three; and I still have impairments. So happy farewell to 2014. Here’s to a fresh start in 2015 that builds on the momentum I experienced in October and November.

May anything negative for your in 2014 be left behind. Here’s to a great start to your new year!


diversityMy colleague Rich Grenhart and I recently did a workshop for a major U.S. company. Instead of jumping right into the value of gender diversity in leadership, we started by defining diversity broadly and talking about the business value of diversity. We noted that working with a diverse group can be much harder than working with people like ourselves. It is less comfortable; there is more tension. But it pays!

As in most groups, these participants almost unanimously agreed that diverse groups make better decisions than homogeneous groups. They said that the reason is that a diverse group will offer more different perspectives than a homogeneous one. That is part of it. We told them about research published by the Kellogg School of Business at Northwestern University that shows more precisely why diverse groups, in fact, do make better decisions. The study showed that heterogeneous groups process information more carefully.

Think about it. You are in a group of people who look like you and tend to think like you do. You are a “homogeneous group.” In working on a problem, you tend to assume you know what the others will say. So you may as well check your text messages! When someone different from the group arrives, you aren’t sure how they think or what they will say. So you pay attention!

A recent article in Scientific American confirms this multiple times over. In this article titled “How Diversity Makes Us Smarter,” author Katherine W. Phillips reviews several research studies that confirm that diverse groups listen and process more attentively. She cites studies involving racial, gender and even political diversity.

In her own study of racial diversity, Phillips found that “Being with similar others leads us to think we all hold the same information and share the same perspective. This perspective . . . stopped . . . all-white groups from effectively processing the information, [hindering] creativity and innovation.” “Diversity,” she says, “jolts us into cognitive action in ways that homogeneity simply does not.”

She cites jury studies finding that diverse juries are “more diligent and open-minded” than non-diverse juries.

One study found that a dissenting opinion from someone like us has less impact than “when we hear dissent from someone who is different from us.” The better results of diverse groups are not because the “diverse person” always brings the right answer. “Simply adding social diversity to a group makes people believe that differences of perspective might exist among them and that belief makes people change their behavior” (emphasis mine).

This article is a must read!

 


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