Washington, D.C. — The past few years have been a particularly heady time for discussion of women’s advancement in American society, particularly issues involving gender equity and women’s political and professional leadership. Today, the Center for American Progress released a new issue brief and an accompanying fact sheet that explore how age—via generational differences in attitudes, expectations, and life experiences—can play a role in complicating the women’s leadership conversation.
Examining women’s leadership issues across four generations of American women—the Silent Generation, the Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials—CAP’s new brief reveals how differences in language, context, cultural references, and sense of history can impede collaboration across generations on gender-equity issues.
“Women across generations agree on the need for more female leadership. However, how women of different demographics and backgrounds interpret ‘leadership’ can vary drastically,” said Judith Warner, CAP Senior Fellow and a co-author of the brief. “Promoting women’s leadership means making sure that all women—regardless of age, race, or socioeconomic background—can achieve maximum political, economic, and personal empowerment.”
There are deep reasons underlying a pervasive feeling of division among different generations of women. For example, increased diversity among the rising generation of women—Millennials—means that now more than ever, a single story of women’s progress is not enough. Moreover, as the brief outlines, pervasive work-family conflict is so enduring that many young women appear to see family and career as all but mutually exclusive.
Despite these feelings of division, there is substantial common ground. Women of different age groups believe, in striking numbers, that there is a need to take action to bring about equality in the workplace. Furthermore, all age cohorts of women are considerably more likely than their male contemporaries to believe that gender plays a role in holding women back.
Looking forward, to make the promise of women’s leadership real for the greatest number of women of all ages and backgrounds, women’s advocates must ground their work in the day-to-day reality and diversity of the female experience.
Read the brief: 4 Generations of American Women: Great Progress, Persistent Challenges by Judith Warner, Emily Baxter, and Milia Fisher
Read the fact sheet: Fact Sheet: 4 Generations of American Women by Emily Baxter and Judith Warner
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