Society has undergone some major shifts over the past few decades, and as a result, gender roles and expectations in the workplace have substantially changed. Each generation of today’s workers–Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, Millennials, and Zoomers–has lived a unique experience with regard to cultural norms and the societal roles of men and women. How do different generations view gender in the workplace?
Baby Boomers Are Comfortable with More Traditional Gender Roles.
One significant shift that has taken place in the last century is the movement toward gender equality. As women increasingly participated in the economy, they entered the workforce in huge numbers.
Baby Boomers witnessed the cultural shift from women having very limited career options outside the home (ie. secretary, teacher, or caretaker) to women having a vastly increased freedom to choose between being homemakers and building a career in virtually any field they chose.
Despite this newfound freedom, the presence of women was a novelty in many fields. Women were often found in entry-level positions, and women in leadership roles were seen as exceptions to an unspoken rule.
As a result, Baby Boomers tend to have a more traditional understanding of gender roles at work than do members of other working generations. They may see women and men as occupying distinct roles–men in leadership positions and women playing more auxiliary roles. Of course, not all Boomers harbor such beliefs–many advocate gender equality in the workplace.
Gen Xers See the Workplace Through a Gender-Neutral Lens.
Gen Xers were the first generation to have been largely raised by mothers who balanced careers with family life. This is why they are often referred to as the “latch-key kid generation.” Men in this generation have competed with women for jobs, and Gen X women have navigated life with unprecedented confidence in their own leadership abilities. In the workplace, Gen Xers have a tendency to view men and women as equals who can work together in all manner of roles.
Like Gen X, Millennials are a generation that values gender equality. Millennials are the inclusive generation–they have left their mark on society by fiercely championing rights and acceptance for everyone regardless of race, ability, sexual orientation, and gender. Millennials refuse to accept any restrictions based on their gender. This has led them to pioneer a movement for transgender visibility and rights.
While Gen X accepts gender diversity in the workplace, Millennials expect it. Millennials expect to see gender equality in leadership roles, as well. A successful leader of Millennials will ensure that gender equality among their team members is a priority.
Through several decades of intensely shifting gender perceptions, we have arrived at young Gen Z, the “Zoomers.” Members of this generation grew up with role models of both genders, regardless of their own gender. They have grown up in a society in which it is not uncommon or unheard of to question not only one’s gender roles but one’s gender itself. Zoomers are the gender-fluid generation. As they enter the workforce, they will likely continue to challenge traditional gender roles and promote equality and inclusivity in the workplace.
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Now that you have a solid grasp on how members of different generations tend to view gender at work, are you prepared to lead a multigenerational team to unprecedented success?