Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Gen X women: We need to mentor our Millennial sisters

Last week I was talking to a colleague my age about experiences we had early in our career with Babyboomer women. Let's just say for a lot of Gen X women, dealing with the generation of women who broke through the glass ceiling could be quite difficult.

Gen Xers grew up with very different gender roles than Boomers. In fact, Title IX really tore down the previous gender roles that existed and it never occurred to Xer women that they couldn't be doctors, lawyers, or professional atheletes just because they were female. Boomer women, however, had a lot more sexism to deal with - as children and as adults.

So it kind of makes sense that a lot of Boomer women in the first wave of groundbreakers would have this unconscious attitude that there is only room for one girl in the board room and all other women should be seen as competition.

My husband and I are the same age. When we got out of college in the early 1990s, he always had older guys at work taking him under their wings. Never happened for me. Not at that time. It happens now - but not then.

I do have female Babyboomer mentors now. In fact, one of them explained to me how a lot of Boomer women have a hard time mentoring young women.

Therefore, I believe as Xer women, we need to mentor Millennial women. Yes, they drive us nuts just like we drove the Boomers nuts when we were getting started. However, as women in our 30s and 40s we are in a unique position to offer Millennials a hand up.

We can discuss issues that our male colleagues cannot - including appropriate dress in the workplace. We can give them a heads up on a lot of the challenges that are specific to women in the workplace. We can make a difference.

Often Gen Xers are portrayed in the media as the generation that is being stepped over. I couldn't disagree more. We are the bridge.


Kristina said...

At first I was going to say that I *did* have Boomer mentors in my career, then I remembered that these women weren't actually much older than me. They were either older Xers or trailing Boomers, so maybe that made a difference.

Absolutely we should mentor. Do you think they'd listen, though?

(I'm working at home, so the only mentoring I can do is convince my Baby Millennial not to eat my magazines.)

Jaclyn said...

I think it would be great if more Gen. Xers had this attitude (I'm a millennial).

As you point out, I think this could be more of a gender issue than a generational one. I've worked in a few female-dominated work places and the experience just made me feel like men add something needed to the mix. So perhaps women of all generations should think about how to better mentor and work with other women.

Anonymous said...

Here's an interesting thought. I'm mentoring a millenial guy! I think Title IX did more re: sexism, than we're giving it credit! He has similar issues as I do, balancing time with his daughters, negotiating relationships in the workplace with boomer women, etc.

The mentoree approached ME for help, and I've been happy to guide him.

I did have a boomer mentor, but not until after 2002. My early years in education was "on your own" so to speak.