When the Dalai Lama famously spoke those words, he prefaced them with a warning that “some people may call me a feminist.” (As if that were a bad thing.) Still, what the D.L. meant is that women inherently bring a greater focus on nurturing and connection – i.e. love – which is the cure for the wounds of our time.
And while I’m sure he was talking about global, humanitarian issues like peace, poverty and the end of terrorism, his words ring true for something else: Business.
As I write, Gallop estimates that 70% of the US workforce is disengaged. We’re (barely) coming out of a scary recession, brought about in part – I believe – by a dearth of women at the top. At a conference recently, a very successful female CEO told the crowd, “If Lehman Brothers had been Lehman Brothers and Sisters, we wouldn’t have gotten into the mess of 2008.”
The audience laughed uncomfortably, but it’s true. Countless studies have shown that when teams are diverse, they perform better. PERIOD. But corporate America still doesn’t seem to get it. And when I read articles like What It Was Like to Be a Woman at Goldman Sachs, a sharp and well-written Atlantic piece from business journalist (and former Goldman employee) Marie Myung-Ok Lee, I wonder if women aren’t getting it either.
Of the discriminatory culture Lee witnessed at Goldman, she writes: “Even some of the more formidable women, who I thought at least because of their age if not their credentials would be exempt from these oddly retro gender rules, took to them enthusiastically.” ( While Lee’s article mentions her time at Goldman was more than 10 years ago, it’s clear that not much has changed).
Still, this post isn’t about Goldman. It’s about you.
With all due props to the Dalai Lama, I think it’s time we start pulling out the F-word again with a revised definition of what it means. Because in this third wave of feminism, we’ve come to a new place. The most basic equality battles have been won – thanks pioneering sheroes – so now the self-actualization can begin. Now the deeper questions can be asked about how we want to be treated at work and – despite the subtitle of my forthcoming book – i.e. the girls’ guide to corporate domination – this is really a place for women.
Women who are willing to wield power.
Women who are willing to respond, not react.
Women who not only bring their whole selves to the table, but light a match under others to do the same.
Saving the world is a big job, but – as Emerson once said – we must be our own before we can be another’s. In other words, we must save ourselves first.
But – and this is a big one – how can we save ourselves if 25% of women in the United States will be considered clinically depressed at some point in their lifetime?
How can we save ourselves if we spend more time checking our Facebook than we do checking our values?
How can we save ourselves in a world so drunk on pop culture that we collectively pay more attention to Kim Kardashian than President Obama?
Maybe one of the reasons we’re so depressed is because we’re banging up against something alright, but it’s not just a glass ceiling – it’s glass wall of our own making. A wall that keeps us caught up in “busy-ness”, inconsequential distractions, and our own neurosis. The end result?
We feel stuck and play small.
The pathetic representation of women at the highest levels of corporate life isn’t the result of some sinister plot by men, it’s because we don’t know how to harness our own power correctly. Clearly. Because you know as well as the Dalai Lama does that the energy women bring to the table – IF harnessed correctly – can transform a company. But, first, we have to awaken to it ourselves.
Be your own.
Be your own.
Be your own.
In many ways, it’s symbolic that Generation Z is named after the last letter in the alphabet because their arrival marks the end of clearly defined roles, traditions, and experiences. After all, Gen Z is coming of age on the heels of what has been referred to as the most disruptive decade of the last century. America has become an increasingly changing and complex place.
Members of this generation have undoubtedly been shaped by crisis and disruption. This generation will largely be responsible for confronting the aftermath of the Great Recession, high youth unemployment, the effects of climate change, terrorism, energy sustainability, and more. These dark events have undoubtedly made this generation more cautious and pragmatic, but they have also provided this generation with the inspiration to change the world – and their grit will likely allow them to do it.
Coming of age during disruption means that most Zs will be comfortable being the disruptors. While Millennials tend to be collaborative and innovative, this generation tends to be sincere, reflective, thick-skinned, and self-directed, and will likely approach work in much the same way.
In the era following World War II, Boomers (1946-1964) were born and eventually became the wealthiest, most prosperous generation in history. Raised to aspire for the American Dream, this very large generation moved into positions of power and influence, and served as the workforce majority for 34 years.
With the American Dream alive and well, Boomers had no reason to teach their children, mostly Millennials, about competition. Instead, they taught them to focus on academic achievement and to be team players because if everyone works hard, everyone can win.
Enter Generation X (1965-1981). In contrast Boomers, Xers came of age during a time when change and economic and political uncertainty began to take root. They have lived through four recessions, struggled with debt and economic decline most of their lives, and watched the best educated and accomplished generation of all time (Millennials) graduate during the Great Recession and become the most debt-ridden generation in history.
Gen Xers can be defined by their independence and anti-status quo approach to life, and they have taught their Gen Z children to be competitive, believing only the best can win. They have encouraged their children to be realists, finding something they are good at and aggressively pursuing it.
Xers have raised their Zs with an intense focus on competitiveness -- in academics, sports, and other activities. This approach to parenting has many implications, but one stands out in terms of business: Gen Z is likely to lead.
Millennials in the workplace created and aggressively advocated for collaborative work environments. In fact, their aversion to leadership has been so strong, some Millennials sought out companies that boasted boss-free or team-managed workplaces.
In contrast, Zs have been raised with an individualistic, realistic, and competitive nature. They have been taught the skills to successfully defy the norm. This means we’re going to see the pendulum shift away from collaborative workplaces towards a widespread demand for, and pursuit of, leadership development.
While Millennials have been criticized for their “delayed adulthood”, Gen Z is showing signs of “early adulthood”. Educators and parents often describe this generation as being more serious and contemplative about the world. Zs are thinking about their career paths and exposing themselves to career training at an earlier age than Millennials. It’s probable that some of this early onset of adulthood is caused by parents, who are pressuring their children to be competitive and successful and to avoid the debt that plagued both the Gen Xers and Millennials.
The numbers from our global research found 46% of Gen Z said they know what career to pursue and 51% have taken a class at school focused on their career interests. Forty percent joined an extracurricular program (team, club) based on their career interests.
Zs have been shaped by the aftermath of the Great Recession. They watched Millennials become debt-ridden and are concerned about falling into the same trap. XYZ University’s survey results show 66% of Zs said financial stability is more important than doing work they enjoy, which is the exact opposite of Millennial survey results. Also, 71% of survey-takers have a paying job.
When presented a list of leadership traits, Zs ranked positive and trustworthy the highest. While Millennials and Gen Zs both value trust in a leader, Millennials usually cite collaboration and vision as most important. In other words, Millennials focus on the outcomes leaders inspire, whereas Zs are more likely to consider leaders’ attitudes and personalities. To Z, what leaders encourage others to do isn’t as valuable as how they make them feel.
Both Millennials and Gen Zs place a very high value on feeling challenged and appreciated in the workplace. However, according to our survey results Millennials rank appreciation slightly higher than challenge, whereas Zs rank feeling challenged slightly higher than appreciation.
Time will tell how Zs go down in history, but we know this generation’s influence on history will be unlike any other.
Does your organization have what it takes to engage the next generation? Take this quiz to find out.
Sarah Sladek is CEO of XYZ University. Our generational intelligence can assist you with engaging and retaining young talent and members.
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