Generational Challenge for Women's Networks + More

The Vancouver Sun reports on the concept of "gender fatigue"
"Women bosses are no longer unusual in the corporate world, where many top-flight companies see gender and diversity programs as a "must-have."

Flexible working, parental leave, mentoring and women's networks have become the norm in many businesses.

But gender diversity's move into the mainstream gives an impression that gender issues at work have been "solved," which makes more subtle discrimination harder to spot and can even disadvantage young women starting their careers.

"Younger women find it difficult to connect to women's networks in the workplace, because they view these networks as something that belonged to their mother's generation," said Elisabeth Kelan, a lecturer in Work and Organisations in the Department of Management at King's College in London.

Kelan describes this situation as "gender fatigue," where people in the workplace lack the energy to tackle afresh something that they no longer see as a problem."

This reminds me of the 27 year old woman who said to me without any realization of the irony, "Where I work there is no discrimination and I'm not disadvantaged," and then minutes later in the same conversation, "I don't know why I didn't get the job that Jim got. I was definitely more qualified."

So internal (and external) networks face a challenge of how to make their relevance crystal clear. And older women members of this network can take an active role in mentoring younger women and helping them understand the value of connecting with other women.

This assumes that the networks are actually focusing on information and activities that add value to women's lives and careers. At Leading Women, we do several things.
  1. Introduce successful women as role models.
  2. Filling the Missing 33% of the career success equation for women
  3. Supporting the alignment and relevance of internal women's networks.
COMMENTS Welcome: How is your company or network ensuring relevance for all generations?

If you haven't seen it, please take a look at the wonderful Female Factor video from the International Herald Tribune.

UPDATE: I just read Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's address to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. Notable comments:
"Women are the majority of the world’s farmers, but are often forbidden from owning the land they tend to every day, or accessing the credit they need to invest in those farms and make them productive.
Women care for the world’s sick, but women and girls are less likely to get treatment when they are sick.
Women raise the world’s children, but too often receive inadequate care when they give birth. And as a result, childbirth remains a leading cause of death and injury to women worldwide.
Women rarely cause armed conflicts, but they always suffer their consequences. And when warring sides sit at one table to negotiate peace, women are often excluded, even though it is their future and their children’s future that is being decided.
Though many countries have passed laws to deter violence against women, it remains a global pandemic. Women and girls are bought and sold to settle debts and resolve disputes. They are raped as both a tactic and a prize of armed conflict. They are beaten as punishment for disobedience and as a warning to other women who might assert their rights. And millions of women and girls are enslaved in brothels, forced to work as prostitutes, while police officers pocket bribes and look the other way."
"The other day I heard The New York Times columnist Nick Kristof, who has done so much to bring to a wide audience the stories of individual women who are working and suffering because of conditions under which they are oppressed. And he said, you know, in the 19th century, the great moral imperative was the fight against slavery. And in the 20th century, it was the fight against totalitarianism. And in the 21st century, it is the fight for women’s equality. He was right, and we must accept – (applause) – and promote that fundamental truth. (Applause.)"
As I've written study after study correlates improvements in the status of women with overall improvements in the standards of living. I love Kristof's notion of the 21st century as the time to fight for women's equality.

Lead ON!
Susan Colantuono is CEO of Leading Women and author of No Ceiling, No Walls. She blogs on networking for PINK Magazine. Follow her on Twitter.
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MichelleGirasole said...

Hmm... interesting phenomenon.

Women entrepreneurs encounter "Gender Fatigue" in a different way than corporate women. We get exhausted because we try to do too much ourselves. I thought that's what this article was about! Ha.

Seriously, this is an indicator that a shift is occuring, and change is never easy. So, who exactly is it that is "tired" of talking about Women in the workforce issues, like equal opportunity/salary?

I know that I'm tired of hearing how little we've progressed. Maybe we need to put a new spin on the words we use.

One tongue in cheek example:
instead of "equal pay for equal work", we should say "equal work for equal pay". In other words...

If you want to pay me the same salary as the lifeguard at the beach, then I'll just sit on the beach all day, instead of providing you with the product design plan you just asked me for. Equal work for equal pay.

If you want me to do my job, pay me as much as you pay that dude who just got promoted. And, I'll go the extra mile to get it done. That's just how I roll....

And, if not, I'll just go work for myself. And find clients who will pay me more than you do. Equal work for equal pay.

Susan Colantuono said...

Hey Michelle, your equal work for equal pay idea illustrates one reason why so many women leave corporate America to start their own businesses!

On the issue of equal pay for equal work - an earlier blog post reported that the World Economic Forum found that "72 percent of the companies in its survey had no systems to track salary differences by gender"

At the risk of pointing out how far we haven't come - that's a shameful statistic nearly 40 years after I did the first pay-equity analysis at the company that is now CIGNA.
Lead ON!