This is another look at the intersection of gender and generational differences in the workplace. There are values and perspectives that women in general share with those of younger generations (Gen X and Millennial). Views of gender roles have evolved, causing a natural alliance between women and the younger groups, who are more likely to see women as equals and even to demonstrate more balance between masculine and feminine approaches. This could mean a critical mass to create workplaces where both men and women can reach their potential — and thrive!
At the intersection of gender and generational differences are commonalities among women of all generations; there are also areas where conflict is more intense than for men of the different generations. Differences in masculine and feminine approaches do not change much generation to generation. Perspectives value and needs cut across the generations. The generational tensions over balancing work and family is more intense among women who have made different choices. And women are more bothered by the informal, revealing attire of younger women. Awareness of this may help women be more supportive of women of other generations.
I teach others to value difference, particularly gender and generational differences. I need to learn to value one type of difference that is unrelated to gender or age – the difference between “A-type” and “B-type” personalities. As an “A-type,” I move quickly from one task to another and want things done now. “B-types” take things more slowly and like to do one thing at a time. We can drive one another crazy – or we can recognize difference and appreciate strengths different from my own.
In this guest blog, Rich Grenhart looks at the evolution of attitudes about gender relations. As we better understand the value of masculine and feminine approaches for both genders, we can observe and even affect the evolution of thinking. There are vestiges of the “might makes right” world of the caveman in businesses that value competition over collaboration. John Gerzema thinks it is time to have a balance of masculine and feminine ways of thinking and leading. Understanding that masculine and feminine qualities arise in both genders frees men to demonstrate feminine strengths and women to demonstrate masculine strengths. The pace of reaching gender equality has been too slow. We need to contribute to the evolution toward gender equity!
I recently read about a theory called “stereotype incongruity.” It means that stereotypes of leaders “match” stereotypes of men more closely than they do stereotypes of women. This kind of thinking is real; it is behind the gendered view of leadership. The thinking is flawed, first, because stereotypes are not true; many women fit masculine stereotypes. Second, it is flawed because the stereotype of leadership fails to recognize the value of feminine leadership strengths. I agree with John Gerzema that leaders today need to have both masculine and feminine strengths!
I am fortunate to have been able to travel a great deal recently. When I travel, what I read in history books or hear on the news becomes more real. I pay attention to news of places where I have been. I can imagine people in Delhi, Munich, Beijing, Cairo and Istanbul. Awareness and appreciation of difference makes me glad I am in the field of diversity and inclusion.