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!
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.
To reduce judgment about other generations, it helps to understand them — and why members of that generation are different from members of our own. One important factor in shaping generations is how they were parented during their formative years. GenXers are independent and self-directed and want “life/work balance” because their parents were workaholic Baby Boomers and they grew up in two-career families or families of divorce. Millennials are confident, but more dependent on advice and praise, because their parents protected and praised them.
MUCH of the workforce will respond positively to changes suggested in Anne Marie Slaughter’s article, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.” Addressing the difficulty of working a demanding job and having a family, she suggest “changing the culture of face time.” This is more than a women’s issue; it is a generational issue affecting large sectors of the workforce. Members of Generation X and Millennials “want a life.” Leaders who address the need for more flexible work schedules will see improved engagement and retention; those who don’t will see disengagement and turnover.