Are obstacles for women in the workplace likely to disappear when Millennials run the world? In our workshops, we address the unconscious “mind-sets” that still affect women’s ability to reach their potential. We are often asked if these issues are disappearing in the younger generations in today’s workforce. Do young people truly have a less “gendered” view of leadership qualities? Will their images of leadership and success be less predictably masculine? Will gender diverse leadership be the norm?
Generations are created and influenced by experiences in the formative years. They are shaped by ongoing change. Traditionals’ world view and values were shaped by World War II. In their lifetimes, the views of women’s roles have undergone dramatic change. “Retirement” has been redefined. They have seen and been affected by unprecedented technological change. Many women Traditionals today are actively involved, working and contributing. What changes will affect women now in their 20’s?
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!
Women often complain about having a bad woman boss, generalizing their criticism to all women. In a difficult relationship between a woman boss and female subordinate, there is often a generational difference. While inter-generational differences can play a role, I think, the conflict is mostly based on deeply rooted gender issues. Women are less comfortable in a hierarchical relationship with another woman. And women share a culturally-based sense that men deserve top positions more than women.
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.