All Hail the Next Generation

Did you know that today is International Youth Day? Neither did I until yesterday, but the day is fast approaching when the young women and men of Generation Y will move into positions of responsibility and start to put their imprint on the world.

So, in recognition that this day is coming soon, why not listen to the voices of the next generation of world leaders now to see what they have to say? Here are some places to start:

  • Young Women Speaking the Economy: An online exhibit from the International Museum of Women, created by 44 young women who ask the question, “What’s on your mind at this time of global economic crisis?” The answers are compelling.
  • European Youth Week was held in May, with the, um, engaging theme of “Structured Dialogue.” There’s some interesting information and resources on the website, though, including a recognition of the serious issue of youth unemployment (which most certainly was a contributing factor to recent riots in the UK).
  • Conversations for a Better World, a web-based facilitated dialogue for youth from around the world on issues of importance for the future, with monthly conversations on different topics. And, of course, they can be found on Twitter and Facebook as well.
  • Young Women First, an initiative in Africa for girls’ empowerment, especially with respect to personal health, safety and sexual and reproductive health rights. Check out their new newsletter HERE.
  • The Next Generation: Voices of 15 Year-old Girls, a radio series from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) highlighting the tipping-point stage that age can be for girls. While still children, many have come into sexual maturity and are forced into marriage, prostitution or are trafficked to other countries for those purposes as well. See also the website AND the compelling “Girl Effect” video, which speaks to many of these same issues.

Finally, for more generational musings, check out this previous Womenabler blogpost, “Talkin’ ‘Bout My Generation.” While we Boomers aren’t quite yet ready to f-f-fade away, we do have to start talkin’ ’bout the next generation!

Talkin’ ‘Bout My Generation

“Why don’t you all f-fade away (talkin’ ’bout my generation)
And don’t try to dig what we all s-s-say (talkin’ ’bout my generation)
I’m not trying to cause a big s-s-sensation (talkin’ ’bout my generation)
I’m just talkin’ ’bout my g-g-generation (talkin’ ’bout my generation)”

Those of us of a certain age can probably all sing along with this 1965 song from The Who. It points out the feelings that every generation has about the one that preceded it. (Note: check out the interesting Wikipedia page about this song.) Contrast this song with the 2000 song of the same name (but a different tune – in more ways than one) by Limp Bizkit:

“Who’s next, generation x, gener-ation strange sun don’t even shine
through our window pane so go ahead and talk sh#t talk sh#t
about me go ahead and talk sh#t about my generation cause we don’t,
don’t give a f#ck and we won’t ever give a f#ck until you,
you give a f#ck about me and my generation…”

While the language is definitely different – and a little more pointed (I cleaned it up with an asterisk so that this blogpost won’t get marked as obscene material) – the sentiment is the same: “You just don’t understand!”

There’s a lot of conversation these days about generational differences in the workplace – books written, speeches given, seminars held and even a new column in the New York Times, Generation B, about us Baby Boomers. But what about entrepreneurial differences – how do business owners from different generations approach business leadership and growth?

I worked on an interesting survey for my friends at Count Me In for their Make Mine a Million $ Business initiative last year, asking the now over 50,000 members of their online growth-oriented women business owner community some questions about their goals and aspirations, fears and doubts, and the challenges they have juggling it all. We took a look at some of the responses by generation, focusing on the 57% of the members who are Baby Boomers (born between 1945 and 1964) and the 39% who are members of Generation X (born between 1965 and 1979). Here are some of the most interesting points we uncovered:

  • Gen X women business owners, though younger and in business for a shorter period of time, have reached the business achievements of their Boomer sisters.
  • Gen X women have benefited from early entrepreneurial role models to a greater extent than did Baby Boomers, but Boomers who are running growth-oriented firms are more likely to have had prior business ownership experience than Gen Xers.
  • Gen X women, given where they are in their stage of life, are more likely than Baby Boomers to have young kids and feel guilty about having to balance work and family.
  • Boomer business owners have broader goals for their business – they want to grow to the million-dollar level as much to have an impact on their community or the world. In contrast, the majority of Gen Xers want to grow for the benefit it will have on themselves, their family or their employees more so than on the world outside their office doors.

So what does this mean – are members of Generation X more self-centered, not grateful enough for the road that has been paved for them by their “Rosie the Riveter” grandmothers and bra-burning moms? Are Boomers less likely to have the ambition and drive that will propel them in larger numbers to the million-dollar level? Should they think of profits more than of saving the world? What do you think, and have you seen any of these differences in action among your business colleagues or in work work enabling women entrepreneurs? As for myself, I say “Vive lá différence!”

To read the complete research summary, “Entrepreneurship Across the Generations: Comparing Baby Boomers and Generation X,” click on the link.