Generation Gap: Women

Today’s Wall Street Journal (Moving On, Part D) discusses the differences among women in the workplace. One generation of women has difficulty understanding, mentoring and even working with women of other generations.

In my recent Diversity Conference among 19 major law firms, mentioned in another posting, I thought the issue of preeminence would be the advancement of attorneys of color. After all, this had been the primary issue of our conference in 2003 and I didn’t expect anything different even though we specifically included generation and gender issues this time.

Yet, the issue that seemed to resonate the most was the generation gap .. the belief amongst the older generations that the work ethic amongst younger lawyers is different. This belief is echoed in the WSJ article. And the belief amongst younger lawyers that the older generations just don’t understand them and are expecting unrealistic efforts from them.

Speaking from the other side of the table, it is scary to learn that a survey of 500 women in a recent Women Presidents’ Organization conference (women running businesses with revenues in excess of $2 million) produced the following results: Only 53% of the women said they learn from older co-workers (that means 47% ignore older women?); and only 23% of women under the age of 34 said “older co-workers energize me and bring new ideas to the table.”

Tolerance is the next word that comes to mind. Not only is there a communication gap between blacks, whites and others, there is also a communication gap amongst the generations, now at least 4 in number in the workplace at the same time.

This may be the biggest problem facing law firm managers in the next 5 years!


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