Outlook on 2007: Anita Campbell
Go Red Rally All Around

Mind the (Age) Gap

by Guest Blogger, Lena West & Lipsticking Editor, Yvonne DiVita

Mindthegap_3 When I received the survey invitation from Diane Danielson of the Downtown Women's Club (DWC), I knew I would particpate in the survey because I am a member of DWC myself and hey, I support my own.

Little did I know what kinds of undercurrent emotions would come up for me the further I got into the survey. By question 4, I felt compelled to pick up the phone and call Diane directly. It hit home that hard.

The survey, "Women in the Workplace: Talkin 'bout My Generation", supports some research that Diane is doing for a magazine article she's writing about what Gen Y, Gen X and Boomer businesswomen really think about each other and some of the issues like "opting out", "mommy wars", "glass ceilings", "gender gap", etc.

I won't spill all the beans, I'll let you take the survey for yourself, by clicking here but, here are some of the things that came up for me:

* I feel that the women who are a generation ahead of me (Boomers) have literally slammed the executive suite door behind them. With the exception of a few women who have been very helpful in my life and career, almost every Boomer I've encountered has felt threatened by me or has gone out of her way to try to make my life hell.

* I'm tired of taking up the slack for my counterparts who have children. When I was a full-time, on-site consultant, I would invariably be asked to work extra hours because a woman in my department had some sort of committment or emergency with her children. When I mentioned this to management, I was told that we all need to be team players. And, hey, I'm all for that but, when did the office Mom's ever run interference for me so that I could get home early and prep for my hot date?

Now, I'm no idiot, I know there's a difference between a sick kid and a hot date but, you get my point. That said, I'm the child of a single mother and I know how hard it is when you DO have a partner - much less when you don't. I should also mention that the Moms in our company are highly respected (as anyone should be) and work in a very understanding, supportive environment.

* I wish the generation behind me (Gen Y) would stop expecting everything to fall in their lap and get out and hustle to improve their careers. Again, there are exceptions to this but, this is what I see more often than not. Gen Y'ers need to realize that they are going to need to have some "dirt under their fingernails" to impress me. Stop resting on your sheepskin!

The DWC survey was more than just a survey for me. It helped me to think long and hard about the relationships I've developed - and not developed - over the years and what they really mean to me and my career. Thanks, Diane.

I have more things to say about this survey but, I'll let the Editor of this blog, Yvonne, chime in with her feedback...

Ooohhh... this is going to be fun. Yvonne here, with some of MY thoughts on Diane's survey.

First, the survey was totally focused on younger generations. The boomers (I'm a boomer) were not represented well in the questions. It was clear they did not talk to a real boomer when formulating the questions.

I am going to talk to Lena's points, cause I took the survey a few days ago and didn't save my answers. I was disappointed that I couldn't answer properly, on several of the questions, because the answers I wanted to give weren't there, and the dialogue box provided did not allow me to type more than a few words into it. But, I think Diane will be fixing that.

Before I talk to Lena's points - well, specifically to ONE point, the one about her picking up the slack for women with children - I want to say I hope those of you who can, will take this survey and help Diane out. She will likely report it on the website, and or blog, and help us all gain better understanding into this still volatile issue. And, I want to go on the record as saying that I adore all women, (not THAT way!), but I relate most to younger women. Maybe that's cause I envy their energy and can-do attitude.

But, I have to respond to one of Lena's answers: the one where she starts, "I'm tired of taking up the slack for my counterparts who have children..."

Hmmm... so, Lena, should we all just stop having children? Or, should we all rely totally on daycare to raise our children? Should working Moms give up their parental rights because women who choose not to have children don't want to 'fill in' when we have to leave for a soccer game, a sick child, or a school meeting? If we don't do it - who will? Did it ever occur to you that by allowing us the time to tend to our children properly, that you're helping create a better future for all of us?

Could it be that by allowing us to tend to the next generation, and the next generation, you're making sure those kids will be contributing members of the society you hope to retire into? Stop and think: those are the kids who will be running for office in the not-so-distant future - and will have a lot of control over your world - when you are my age. Shouldn't you be concerned over who is taking care of them? Shouldn't it be their Mom?

Now, I don't think parents, male or female, should abuse the privilege of having flexible work hours, or a workplace that grants them time off to care for their kids. And, I think women in those workplaces who choose not to have kids should have a perk associated with the extra time they spend covering for the Moms - like extra time off once a month, or accumulating an extra vacation day or even a bonus after they reach a certain amount of time put in, over and above what they would normally have put in. Until that can happen - complaining about it just makes everyone's life unpleasant.

I guess I think we ladies, Moms and not Moms, should be thinking hard about how to make it work - to everyone's advantage. Child-rearing will forever be a woman's job (even though men are more involved these days, this is a duty that most often falls on the Mom), so... women should work together, Moms or not, to see that the children in America have a good home, enough to eat, and lots of love and attention.

It's not about us. It's about them - tomorrow's children. Consider your time covering for the Moms in your workplace as your donation to a better tomorrow - for all. And, just so it's obvious, the Moms already did that - by giving birth.



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I do not see comments that relate to my situation. I am a 50+ boomer, married, PhD, career changer (multiple times) and parent of two adult children (23 and 25). I was a PTA officer, served on the board where I worship, worked out a few times a week and traveled for business.

Early in my career, I hired an in-home care taker who supervised my kids full-time when they were young and then part-time when they entered Kindergarten.

I never worried about the kids missing out on anything while I was at work and I did not miss out on late meetings or professional development, as my husband pitched in when alerted in advance. We had evenings after dinner to read, do homework and play games. On weekends we visited museums and family; we attended birthday parties, the occasional piano recital and chess tournament. As the girls grew older, they traveled via public transportation to after-school activities and did not require me to ferry them around. It was not ideal, but we made it work, at a cost to my pocketbook to pay for a loving caretaker who was with us for 12 years.

Now, companies in my city provide emergency back-up care for sick kids and sick babysitters. That would have been great at the time I needed it, but somehow I pulled it together.

Do I resent the younger generation having access to this life-saving service? No, they are benfitting from our generation's struggle.

I've long felt that until CEOs had daughters who were unable to advance in the corporate workplace, and until more women rose through the ranks to be able to implement change, there would be limited improvement. More women are moving ahead, but others are stymied and follow their own path.

Corporate life is not for everyone, but neither is entrepreneurship.

Employers, whether male of female, however, adhere to the traditional model. Taking time out for children or elderly parents bewilders them, as much as gaps in employment due to economic downturns.

Until that changes, until zig-zaggity career paths become the norm, women will remain at a disadvantage for employment, promotion and compensation.

In addition, I resent the media who think that four of their friends represent a trend. Women of color and of lower socio-economic status are rarely included in the picture. Their resources are fewer, their kids are more at risk and government and the private sector are not doing enough.

Finally, men have wives, women have housekeepers. And as Carrie Bradshaw said, "Sometimes you can solve a problem by throwing money at it." It works for individuals, but not collectively.


I am really enjoying this discussion. Much like Lena, I didn't know I had such strong feelings on this topic.

I don't think the gender thing is really such a 'thing' with my generation (X). I have never had a job where a man doing the same work made more $ than me. I was a single parent with daycare and schedule woes, but those are really just 'life' woes and as was pointed out earlier, everyone in every situation has a version of them. (The only set of workers I ever resented was the smokers because they took so many more breaks than I did--til I realized it was my own problem and that I could take breaks too.) The recent shift of companies to create a better work-life balance for both women and men is a positive one. So, to the Boomers who paved the way, thanks.

It occurs to me as I read others' posts who don't feel like they have a good work-life balance, that you have the power to change that. We all have decisions to make. If you feel you are really getting a raw deal at work compared to moms where you work, speak up and give the company a chance to fix it. If they won't, I recommend finding an employer who is more on the cutting edge of the whole work-life situation.

Now that women are 'here with a sneer, get used to it' in the workplace, men have to manage more of their own lives so we all need a little flexibility.

Oddly enough, I do business with lots of women-centered groups. It's odd because I don't subscribe to this, "we're going to oust the men" mentality I see in increasing and disturbing doses (mainly from the Boomers).

I don't think we need to stage a coup. The struggle is over. We won. (Again, thanks Boomers) We don't need to run the men out on a rail.

I think gender diversity is every bit as important as cultural, generational, and racial diversity. We, as women, should be as proud of our gender as we are our heritage, but not to the exclusion of others.

Dionne Fawcett

As a single without kids, I mostly feel the frustration Diane mentioned earlier. People will acommodate the mothers for their lives and responsibilities. It's a significant challenge to be a self-sufficient single woman with appointments and a house to manage on her own, when the corporate organization doesn't recognize this as it's own struggle. When a mother wants time off, it's understood for the most part - a single woman asks for too much time and it reflects poorly on her professionalism. Without a support network to help me with all of the daily issues that a family unit might otherwise handle collectively, I am often overwhelmed and actually think working and advancing myself would be easier were I not single, or if I had children. Which is a frustrating and backwards mindset!
I also sympathize with the working mother. I nannied for 4 children in my teens and after seeing that stay at home mother in action, I am amazed and give kudos to any woman can juggle both work and raise a family as an active participant in her children's lives. I have many friends that are new mothers and each have struggled with the decision about staying at home, working full time, or working reduced hours. They each have struggled with insecurities about being respected for taking time away from work to focus on motherhood. In fact, from my perspective, their biggest anxiety is about how others will perceive them if they do put a focus on their family.
I agree with mothers being allowed their personal time, but I do think there does need to be a balance and an offset for those that do pick up the slack.

Barbara Payne

Love this discussion. The passion and the power of women has never had so much reason or opportunity to blossom as with today's increasing numbers of single women. By choice or by chance, the fact is we have to create lives for ourselves--and why shouldn't they be the best they can be?

At SWWAN our total commitment is to enhancing the single working woman's lifestyle--thereby ALSO making the world a better place for everyone. We welcome your contributions and participation--your stories are the inspiration!

Please add www.swwan.org to your blogroll of supporters. Bless us all as we proceed to apply our gifts and our love to change the world...

Lena West - xynoMedia

This is top-notch dialogue.

I think it's so interesting that a post about a survey (albeit an engaging survey) has got us all talking about our own individual scenarios and our challenges therein.

It's a shame that we don't get a chance to connect like this more often. I know some of you who have commented really well and some not so well but, after this posting series, I feel closer to you all.

Am I the only one feeling this way? If you wanted to continue the dialogue about this would you want to keep writing via the blog or would you want something informal like a teleclass? I'm serious here. We should have the opportunity to express ourselves about this a lot more often.


Mary Schmidt

Good points re single women and the challenges (with or without kids). While I've got a great family of friends, one can only impose so much. I was thrilled to find a good mechanic literally around the corner. Otherwise, just taking the car in for a "simple" repair can turn into a complex planning exercise. One person, one car, multiple responsibilities - ah-yahhh!

And as a single woman home owner - when I hear a bump in the night, I'm not worried about crime. I wonder, "Is that going to cost me money?"

Aside from the ongoing discussion/debate re childen - our society is changing in dramatic ways. A growing number of people (of both sexes) chose to remain single; to work on their own; to buy real estate; make investments; and when/if they want to have families. However, our society is still largely designed for couples with traditional jobs - from tax breaks to vacations to car repairs.

Oh - and I just can't resist this one. So, if we are supposed to put others' children first in our personal and work lives - it logically follows we should have a say in how they're raised (and expect they'll stop by the nursing home and wipe the drool off our chin when we're 85.)

Diane Danielson

Toby -- you really hit on something that struck a nerve with me. While my situation is exacerbated as a single mom - because I don't have anyone to help with the "kid stuff" - but most of my logistical crises are silly things like dropping off the car! Which is a "singles" problem. Especially if you don't have family in the area; and no access to a second car.

I used to have to find car repair places within "running distance". Other things throw me off too, like waiting for repairmen, hanging a large picture, even putting together IKEA furniture that requires two people (although I've learned that all men want to be handy with a toolkit and don't mind "assembling furniture" as a date!). But you are soooo right, you can only impose on friends so many times. And, as we grow older, our circle of friends starts to get even smaller.

So, if we own a house, etc. we are taking on 100% of the responsibilities that are usually split between two people, and in the cases of married men higher up the food chain, they don't have that responsibility at all. So, maybe there should be some recognition for this.

This is actually one of the many reasons why I moved to the suburbs. Since being here, I've found that the SAHM's (stay at home moms) have been AMAZINGLY helpful and understanding. (Fortunately, I have managed to raise a son who is an angel at other people's houses; just not mine.) However, I do have the luxury of adapting my flexible schedule so I actually get to meet the SAHMs -- something most working moms don't have.

Also, I moved nearer to family - cousins - who have taught me that family is family and when you call, they answer - it's not an imposition. Since I can't leave the state due to divorce laws to move near my immediate family, I've found this is the only way I can make it all work.


As a single woman without children (heck I've even forgotten what a date is)I find swwc (single women without children)face similar "time" challenges (as do sMwc)as "moms" (single and with partners) but frequently without the attempt from colleagues at sensitivity or understanding.

Moms might miss time staying at home with a sick child. Swwc have to miss time to take their cars to the dealer .. and stay until it is fixed because there is no significant person to give them a ride to work.* Moms have to leave early for a soccer game or ballet class. SWWC have to leave early for the plumber and can't trade off those resposibilities with a significant other.*

*One can only impose on friends so much.

It's a tight rope walk at best. I started my own biz .. and the boss is quite understanding ;-)

One other aspect of the survey I'd like to mention is the generation behind the Boomers - the Boomer's parents. My mom worked side- by-side with my dad in our family research business. She raised 2 daughters, ran a home and had a life. When I told her that I admired her she looked at me in confusion and said she was only "helping" my dad. She thought she did nothing extraordinary. A different outlook on work and responsibility and life.

Yvonne DiVita

I'm learning a lot here. One important thing Lena has taught me is that I can be stuck in my own view of the world, while new and exciting things are happening all around me. I wish more people, of all ages, were as focused and as committed as she is. I know a good number that are, but... alas, also too many who are not.

Maybe it's not a generational thing - maybe it's the accountability thing. I totally agree that we all need to be accountable for our actions - and "getting the work done" is a big part of that, regardless of who you are or how old you are. Having a family is not an excuse to push your work off on someone else.

Someone mentioned the men - and where they fit in this discussion. I guess that's another whole topic, but... they certainly have a place here. When Dads are involved in their kids' lives, I think it's easier to juggle work and home.

In the end, I quit my job and stayed home with my children when they were small because I KNEW I couldn't do it all. I don't know what I would have done if I could not have stayed home. And, as much as I think kids should have top-billing in the food chain, when it comes to my business, I admit: I want the work done, just like Lena does.

Hmmm....what do you suppose that means?


GREAT DISCUSSION! Lots of food for thought!

The building of virtual teams is a solid one. Here's an divergent angle on the topic.....I've been blessed with very supportive colleagues and NOT because I have child(ren) which I don't. Occassionally, I leave early to train for triathlons and need to access daylight hours (so I don't get killed by a car while running or biking in the dark). My colleagues KNOW that I pay them back by working either later at night or earlier in the morning.(again I'm blessed because my tech job lets me do this-I know this gratefully). They see this payback demonstrated by my consistant actions and they know they can rely on me getting the teamwork done that my function represents. I think it's a question of having built credibility with your co-workers, bosses, etc and giving them a perspective of what's going on. At least, that's what I've experienced and no...my outside activities haven't held me up...I got promoted recently. I would expect the same rationale and support from my colleagues if the reasons changed from sports to child(ren) down the road....I think more people understand children than sports dedication.

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