Tolerance beats intolerance, but it is merely “putting up with.” We must move to valuing and appreciating difference – not tolerating it.
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?
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.
My company, DifferenceWORKS is celebrating three years in business. Although women have been in the business world for decades, women are far from proportionally represented at upper levels in business. There is a compelling business case for gender diversity; businesses do better with women and men leading together. I set out to make a difference in this area. Birthdays are good times to review accomplishments; I chronicle what DifferenceWORKS has done in its first three years.
Differences can be the source of judgment and tension. Understanding can lower judgment and enable appreciation and leveraging. The sequence is: awareness, understanding, appreciation, leveraging. If we can understand and appreciate masculine-feminine differences, we gain insights and skills that enable us to appreciate and leverage all kinds of differences.
Recent discussions on the “Millennials” (Generation Y) focus on (negative) stereotypes and on similarities. An HBR blog says we exaggerate differences and should focus on similarities. I agree that we exaggerate differences but do not think the solution is in ignoring them. We can be “generation blind” no more than we can be “color blind” in dealing with racial differences. Recognizing differences enables us to see strengths and to leverage differences.