Two years ago, I was watching a well-known speaker talk about the difference between men and women. He said that throughout their lives, men shift their focus from career to intimacy as they age. Women focus first on intimacy, then on career. I said, "Not the women I know."
That's when I decided to do my doctoral dissertation on the current generation of women in the workplace, specifically looking at what personal factors serve or frustrate the aspirations of women who desire to achieve great things at work.
There is a new generation of women in the workplace. They grew up in the self-help era so they are more confident than the women who came before them. In fact, the majority of the women at work today represent the first generation of women who were told they could accomplish anything they put their mind to. They didn't have to be a teacher or a nurse. Though they were warned the roads would not be easy, they were told that their possibilities were limitless. An interesting side note which I will talk about in future posts is that these women interpreted the words, "You can do anything" to mean "You should do everything, and do it well." As a result, these women experience what I call "the burden of greatness" and no matter what they accomplish, they always feel as if there is something more they should be doing.
In addition to the new view of work possibilities, if the women in question started school in the 1960s or later, it's likely that they engaged in competitive sports, giving them a stronger sense of physical as well as mental strength. Although there are traditional women's sports such as gymnastics and swimming, sports such as soccer, golf, basketball, and track have become hugely popular among female spectators as well as female athletes. With every Olympics, more countries produce new female heroes. Whether training to be a world-class athlete or just enjoying a run through the neighborhood, women have found strength in their bodies as well as their minds.
The academic muscle-building in women in the last two decades has also been profound. American women earn 57 percent of the bachelor's degrees, 60 percent of all master's degrees, half of all professional degrees, and nearly half of all doctorates. Many of these diplomas come from fields men used to dominate, from biology to business. According to the European Commission, women earn 43 percent of Europe's doctoral degrees in science. Women's colleges are booming in countries such as Africa, Asia, and the Middle East where educating women is seen as a way to jump-start economic growth and political development. In other countries, the Internet has allowed many women to circumvent the cultural restrictions that limit their physical access to schools and research. The increase in degrees gives women more career opportunities as well as the ability to earn more money, making them competitors to their male counterparts.
As a result, instead of playing it safe, more and more women crave frequent new challenges to conquer. They love being busy and hate feeling bored. They want to be valued, respected and recognized and will work hard to deserve it. They struggle when they feel pigeon-holed, underutilized, micro-managed, slowed down, and ignored. As soon as they feel that they are being treated unfairly or with disrespect, they begin to look for another job or start planning to own their own business. These days, many women look at their jobs as training for when they can break out and be an entrepreneur. They don't make plans to climb one corporate ladder. Statistics that bemoan the lack of women in the boardroom do not take into account that many women are choosing another path.
What I found most interesting in my research was how these women are redefining their relationships. Of the high-achieving women I surveyed, 95 percent of those married or living with someone either made the same amount of money or more than their partners. Yet they didn't consider their partners "wimpy" or "beta-men." They said their male partners were emotionally strong and had their own interests, jobs, and businesses. The women said that they weren't looking for men to take care of them; they desired men who would be their life partner, sharing in all the responsibilities, be it child-rearing or taking out the garbage.
When I shared these facts with the women I surveyed, many of them asked if they could meet the other women I had talked to. They didn't realize so many other women felt like them. They often felt like they were the only ones who worked so hard and cared so much at work. Wouldn't it be great if they could share their thoughts, dreams, frustrations and victories?
So I started blogging for these women, and will have a book coming out in June.
This blog focuses on strong, smart women who like to achieve. I will provide tips on how to stay sane in this non-stop world, how to manage your needs to be right and the best, how to turn your restlessness into a life strategy, how to keep your relationships healthy as you plow through life and how to recognize your sense of purpose when it appears. I will also answer your questions if you are willing to post them online. I will gladly respond to your comments so we can rant, learn, and dream together.
There is a quiet revolution going on in the workplace. Let's unite and make it a loud one.