Women Who Lead – Riding in Cars … A Conversation on Gender and Generations

A few months ago on this show I had Dr. Jessica Kriegel. She put forward the point of view that millennials were getting a bad rap that by stereotyping this generation we had been labeling them with such features as lazy, requiring praise, holding high expectations of their employers. And really, no loyalty in the terms of traditional loyalty where they would leave their job at the drop of a hat if something better came along. It got me thinking, “What is it like to be in the millennial generation in 2016? What are leaders really faced with?” And that brought me to the work of the man that I spent a lot of time learning about, Morris Massey. He was in the 60s and 70s the leading guru in the arena of demographics and management. He made famous the term “You Are What You Were When.” And what he meant was that in order to understand how a generation operates, we need to go back to the time and place in which three stages in their life were unfolding. The imprinting stage occurs from the age of one to seven when most of our fundamental values and principles are in fact embedded in us. For me age of eight to twelve, we move to a modelling stage where we look around us to see who are our role models. Sometimes there are parents, sometimes there are coach, are teachers, there are people that we see and in many ways want to emanate. From the age of 13 to 21 we’re in a socialization stage, and in that socialization we start to really test out who we are. These have been based on the imprinting from when we were 1-7 and from how we were perceiving role modelling from 8-12. And so we test it out, we wear it, we try it, and most of the time is a very peer-based socialization. It got me thinking, “What was going on in the imprinting stage of the baby boomers, the generation X, the millennials, that would cause us to think that there’s such a distinct difference in these particular ways in which these populations show up particularly in the form of leadership?” Well, we definitely know that the children, the boomers, of the 60s and early 70s when they were being imprinted, were in the midst of a massive economic boom. Women raised families. I know my mother would’ve loved to have worked. She was terribly brilliant at how to use her skills in charity work, volunteer work. It is the only place that she was allowed to show up in terms of demonstrating her capabilities. The individual got lost in that stage as big business mass manufacturing took over, and obviously then there was the counterculture of the Hippies, Woodstock anarchism. You know, the revolutionary nature of women, but that was just a tiny little heartbeat because women were in traditional jobs such as secretaries with no real voice. Now if we take a look at the imprinting that was going on for Generation X, they came into a massive world recession. All but Japan was in a deep recession, the economy was of a really difficult nature. Women had to go out to work…because this was a high divorce rate. This is the rise of single families, women raising children on their own having to go out to work in order to put food on the table. It was a focus on business, status and power in the generation of that was able to find influence through work, and the preppy stage was in fact born. But don’t forget, this is also the era of the latchkey kid, who would mostly need to take care of themselves and therefore Generation X often being labelled “The Me Generation.” Now, as we roll forward to the 90s, and the early 2000s and the imprinting stage of the millennials, we find ourselves a new economy, a booming stage in our economic landscape, mostly due to massive technological advancements and of course the worldwide web. The 1990s are characterized by multiculturalism alternative media, and the new technologies of exposure of cable television and of course the computer. This the era where we started to work with genetics and create design our babies. And interestingly enough, this is where the family became stabilized once again. So think about these different types of dynamics that we’re going on that affected what was happening in the child’s mind as they were being imprinted, that would later show up as leaders in the workplace. It also got me to start to think is, “Is it really that different to have been born in a high economy, low economy, a family that was tattered, a family that was together?” And the answer is, of course it did. But deep down as we think about leadership, does it not mean that just skillsets are being asked to be challenged to understand more to no more of what is going on? Is there a real difference when we go underneath a surface between what men have experienced growing through these stages in women? Certainly, the rising voice of women has been occurring over these last several years, but in knowing the struggle it is what makes women great. And so, as we move into this conversation, I’d like you to think about, deep down are we not more similar than different when it comes to gender and generations?  I’ll let you be the judge. Listen into a conversation that I had with a very, very good friend of mine, and a great colleague and a very strong leader as a woman, Hilary Van Welter.

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Lesley:  So, hello there, welcome to the week of July 4th, Independence Day in the United States, and we just celebrated Canada day last Friday here in northern part of North America. And I think that many of you must’ve been driving to cottages, or to some place out to the family homestead, or just hanging with friends. But you’re talking with people over things over this weekend and I have the great fortune of spending far too many hours in the car, because of the traffic and chatting with my twin sister and colleague in life, Hilary Van Welter. Hi Hil!


Hilary: Hey, glad we’re out of traffic. So glad we’re out of traffic.


Lesley: Man that was a rough ride. But, we had this kind of interesting dialogue because Hilary works extensively with young women, who are aspiring to leadership positions as well as young men. And let’s put that on the table first off, do you see a mark difference in this younger generation?


Hilary: No I don’t. I see a lot of very similar desires, very similar aspirations for both men and women. And I think in some cases it’s much harder for men to express some of the things that they are looking for in some of the areas of homecare and that type of the home environment, but I hear very similar types of desires from both.


Lesley: And of course googling in the car is a great past time, and as we’re doing that we came across this great report that we’re going to put the link up to. And while it did concentrate on women leaders of the millennial generation, it actually had three surprises that it identified right at the top end. The first was that women around the age of 30, lack of learning and development, and a shortage of meaningful work as the primary reasons why they leave organizations. And to your point, Hilary, the second surprise that men and women around the age of 30 mainly leave the organization for similar reasons. So, to your point, we keep on putting these gender differences in our language, whereas as we start to look at these generations coming in and leading newly in the workplace, there may not be the kind of distinctions that we’ve put forward.


Hilary: I think it’s healthy to be able to explore the very center of what people are looking for, and then look to see “Is there a difference between gender?” But I think that sometimes we ask the question what women want and what men want, as supposed to, what do human beings in 2016 want and then look to see at any variation. I think if you go at about that way, you end of having a much more holistic look, as well as being able to then take a more particular angle on “Is there a gender difference rather than assuming from the outset that there will be?”


Lesley: Well, Hilary and I are both very fortunate to have just, within four months of one another, had our children give birth to our granddaughters. And I think my observation in the household with Reed and Mary Allen is that they’re definitely equal when it comes to child care, when it comes to home duties, when it comes to career aspirations. They’re both very prominent in their career development, and yet they’re working as a team. They’re a team as supposed to, you know, this person has this role, this gender has this role and this is how we do it.


Hilary: And I think what results in that is both parents having their lives expanded, their abilities expanded, their perspectives expanded by the introduction of the little being, because these little beings turn your world upside down. But they also challenge you to look at your life in the way you think, in the way you do things in fundamentally different ways, and now both mothers and fathers are having that opportunity.


Lesley:  And I think it’s fantastic. I mean, it’s hard work but I also think that there’s a greater pie for everyone to engage in. And so, what happened in this ride of ours is that we came across these five arenas that have been identified for women leaders of the millennial generation. And we wanted to talk a bit about the fact that: A) they may not be gender specific, and B) they may not be generational specific to millennials, but C) their great elements to focus on and what they are, are: Know me, Challenge me, Connect me, Inspire me, Inleash me.


Hilary: And we got very excited when we saw those and we could relate. But the irony was that we could relate to them in our 60s, as much as I’m sure that when the authors who were millennial women wrote them were equally as excited. And I think that it’s a really fascinating statement that you can get generationally it didn’t, we look at those and say, “I wanted that in my 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and now 60s.”


Lesley: Well, I think that when we entered the workforce and in the 70s we’re in leadership positions, fairly early in our careers by our mid-20s, you know, we were looking for people to know us. We wanted people to understand who we were as people, and yet the whole notion of understanding people as people was a foreign concept in our generation. What’s your thought?


Hilary: Well, in fact, Lesley and I taught leadership in the 90s. And then when we looked at what we’ve been teaching in the 90s when we were reviewing it again in 2010, it was that we had flit many of the teaching points from, “You can’t be friends with the people you work with, to the fact that it is really important to be able to get to know who you’re working with, so that you can understand each other in a better, and so that you cannot only do that with your colleagues but with any of your team members as well as any kind of boss you might have.”


Lesley: So, I think that having people know us and us knowing others, is a fundamental characteristic of being human, and as a leader that’s a key orientation that one has to have. The second one challenged me. You know, “Give me learning and development opportunities. Give me work opportunities that test my risks that push me forward.” I mean, that’s how we mobilized our careers is that we took risks to try out projects. I became an entrepreneur. You became an entrepreneur because we couldn’t do that inside organizations.


Hilary: And I think one of the most probably interesting things about the first process that I think you can engage in if you want to be challenged is you go into startup mode in any capacity, so startup mode of a project, startup mode of a business. Startup is probably one of the most challenging times that you can enter into because there’s no blueprint. There’s nothing telling you that this is what you have to do. So if we were to actually introduce startup mentalities in organizations, as much as we implement, look at project management, I think that we’d actually have and create environments that many would benefit from.


Lesley: The third was “Connect me” that we saw. And of course we know that from a technological point of view, this generation that we are a part of whether whatever age we are, it’s about being connected. And yet, I think the first thing that people think of is the technological network that we have social capability of exercising, but “Connect me” is about deep, deep human interaction.


Hilary: And I think one of the funniest things about this and apply to all five is it starts with you doing it for yourself. So, you need to know yourself before you can ask somebody to know you. You need to challenge yourself before you can ask somebody to challenge you. You need to connect to who you are and different facets of yourself before you can ask somebody to connect to you in that deeper way.


Lesley: So, I want to go with that notion. First, we have to connect inside before we can connect outside. And it was absolutely fascinating to me as a mother of very progressive professionals, my children, is that gender was not an issue in terms of who had more challenge around connecting with themselves. My daughter has that challenge. My son has that challenge. Like, it’s not about “Do men connect more with the inside than women?” I think that it’s about being open to being vulnerable in taking the risk to connect inside and I see that in both genders.


Hilary: I do too. I actually see the opportunities in both genders. You know, I’ve challenged myself to go inside tarot over 20 years, and as a reiki master is something that I practice quite frequently.  And it’s so wonderful to have my 23-year-old son bring me a website that said, “If you want to learn how to do meditation better, this is something that you might want to look into.” And it was a really beautiful simple website that helps you connect in a way that that was not gender specific, that wasn’t deep spiritual, but it was “Hey, who lives in there?”


Lesley:  Yeah. Now the other part of “Connect” is how we hold each other in deep respect. And I think that one of the things that happens in organizations is there’s a kind of ageism that occurs. And I think it occurred in our generation where we look to the older generation, and said, “Oh my God, we know so much more than they do, we’ve been educated, we’ve had more exposure.” And I think practice form of ageism as boomers…


Hilary: I know I did.


Lesley: Yeah. And we see now the same thing happening over again, where I’ve talked to hundreds of different millennial leaders. There are female in this particular case on this show, and realize that in some respects there’s this acknowledgment that the people that went before really don’t know very much about what really is going to be happening. And whether that’s technological adeptness or just understanding the marketplace, there’s this sense of “Well, we’re at the cost now, so we are the one that can take charge.”


Hilary: And again, that’s holding yourself hostage with either/or that either you have the new fresh perspective and you’re the new kid on the block, or you’ve been around for 30 years and it’s one, or the other that’s useful in organizational dynamics and strategy development or whatever it might be the organization is responsible for. And it’s not the either/or, it’s how do you tap into the wisdom that’s sitting inside the corporate memory, which is rapidly changing. But it’s also corporate memory of human beings how society has evolved, how society has changed, not just how the organization itself has developed. But organizations are reflections and are microcosms of a much bigger picture, a much larger perspective. And we tend to not, again, look to that 30 years of experience of what has evolved, what learning and knowledge has evolved, but also what was the experience of that evolution. And, you know, we were very fortunate that we had opportunities where many times we were the only woman inside a meeting, inside a strategy session, and those experiences were phenomenal.


Lesley: Well, in some respect, I do feel very privileged to have been a pioneer in some of those arenas, because we have to face firsthand the discrimination that was there. I mean I’d never forget somebody telling me it was I going to be the consultant on the case, and I sad, “Yes I would be.” And they said, “Well I don’t think that’s okay, the CEO would prefer a man.” And I said, “Well I can certainly give you a man because we had one on our staff.” But my point was, I think maybe that’s part of the issue that we have to challenge ourselves around.


Hilary: And I think you get to a certain point where you have to go to a lot of insight, a lot of experiences, and there isn’t the best before date for those. You know, they live. They’re living memory, they’re living experiences, but they go into the hopper along with the fresh new perspective of a different view of the world. And they go into the same hopper is when we sit with our 95-year-old dad and astonished by some of the brilliant insights that he has about current events, when we just went through the whole Brexit scenario. And as all of us were born in Britain and now Canadian citizens, and listening to a 95-year-old talk about his own impressions of what had happened, but also what the possibilities were in the future. In many cases, his viewpoint would’ve been discounted because what would he know he’s old.


Lesley: Well, he would’ve been appreciated if he had done it on social media with no age, if he done it anonymously and people hadn’t known who it was coming from. So, the fourth one is “Inspire me.” And this is about having a sense of purpose, feeling that your contributions are valued and recognized, role models that cause you to aspire to what they are undertaking.


Hilary: And we just had a conversation just now with our brother and sister-in-law about the fact that where are the role models that actually are showing us how we can live in a collaborative ways, and how we can actually listen to each other’s viewpoint so that we can find where we can be mutually inspired, because our society today is not certainly set up for that in the big picture. There’s microcosms of it but it’s in the inspire place. It isn’t just watching the various YouTube videos that come up, and you go, “Oh wow that’s really cool” because now there’s just a plethora of them. And now we’re getting saturated with all these up worthy and other great stuff “Don’t get me wrong.” But now we’re becoming of a place where “Well I go get my good fix when I go watching that video and I’ll feel good about stuff. And what am I going to do with that information?”


Lesley:  And I think that being exposed to the information and acting on it are two very different things. So we certainly know in the political landscape that our role models in terms of leadership are in between at this very moment in time, although I have to give a shout-out for Justin Trudeau our Prime Minister. So, being inspired is a very personal choice and one of the things when when I experience a number of younger men and women is “You need to inspire me.” Well, somebody can’t inspire you. You can only be inspired of yourself from within yourself.


Hilary: Well, all of these are not being sitting there passively waiting for somebody to connect you and challenge you. It’s about what are you doing to contribute to a culture in your organization where that would might be to actually be part of the inspiration.


Lesley: And that brings us to the fifth and final one in this study which is “Unleash me.” And that’s all about experimentation, risk-taking, innovating, being autonomous and owning what you do.


Hilary: And that brings us to the “big A” that goes around all of this which is Accountability. And we have a lot of talk about rights people have and the demands for certain rights, and the demands for certain sanctions, and the demands for certain interest,  and what we don’t talk about what other responsibilities that come along with that. And when you look at accountability, accountability is absolutely vital in holding ourselves accountable for actions and responsibilities that we’ve taken on, and a promise we’ve made to achieve certain things. And there should be consequences when those accountabilities and responsibilities aren’t met. And that may sound old school, but I think if you look at as healer and therapist, one of the first things we talk about is, “How am I going to hold myself accountable for the changes that I wish to engage in, and what are the consequences that I’m going to have to create for myself in the even that I don’t?”


Lesley: And I think that shared accountability with others is sometimes something that we use as an excuse, which is, “Well we’re going to be accountable.” And yet what I really mean is, “I want you to be accountable and I’m going to just go along with this.” And we see this with employer-employee discussions in today’s marketplace, where employers have a really hard time in holding people to account because the consequences that we used to expect in the workplace are now legislated against. And so if somebody isn’t performing, it’s darn difficult to deal with that.


Hilary: And again, when you look at collaborative workers shared responsibility, everybody has a piece of that responsibility. And if we’re talking about the fact we play a unique role in an organization because each individual are distinct, then we have a unique accountability within that shared responsibility and something that we take on is ours. And again, I think that pendulums are funny. We have workplaces that were so restrictive, and so archaic and very regulated, and they were very much in cultures that’s avoid the tough issues, “Let’s install bureaucratic decision-making. Let’s put in all kinds of different approval-based type of functions.” And then one of the pendulum to the total…where it’s almost fair that is a free-for-all, everybody does what they think they should do. Project Management is the biggest profession there is now of trying to manage activities, not necessarily managing outcomes.  And we got to find our way back into the middle again, which is a very interesting place that you and I have studied for 30 years in organizational culture. Which according to the Human Synergistic which is fantastic, we should probably put up the link to that tool that we’ve used for 30-40 years, which is that there’s 12 positions of a clock and for of them are high-performing. And those four are still to this day, 40 years later, the key to high productivity. You know, goal orientation, setting yourself stretched goals, being but also very strongly in the area of self-actualization have other true sense of purpose, but also at the same time being humanistic, understanding the human dynamic and human dimension and affiliative knowing that we have to work in partnership. Those four dimensions are still to this day fantastic guidelines of how we can still be individuals but be part of a greater vision. Be still have leeway and self-actualizing, and unleashing, but have it in a goal orientation that others can benefit from as well as ourselves.


Lesley:  So, really, this was our time to sort of share with others our pretty dynamic conversation that continues every time we meet, which is that the more that we create labels, the more that we say things such as the gender female, the gender of male, the generation of boomers, the generation X, the generation of millennial. We are preventing ourselves from understanding that there’s some very, very fundamental elements to human beings, and what causes us to show up in the way that way that we show up. And possibly, instead of looking through these filters that we create, we need to open our hearts and our minds to a much broader perspective of how we show up.


Hilary: And there is a South African word for that which is “Ubuntu” and it means it’s a human being that we are looking at despite race, despite color, despite gender, despite any kind of demographic or economic status. It’s the Ubuntu. And again, it’s taking away labels. I’ve heard so many times the fact that as soon as somebody hits a diagnosis, then all of a sudden they feel they’ve landed on the label that’s needed to be able to get the right kind of help. But often, the diagnosis itself is limiting because it now has turned down every other possibility of looking at other situations, other conditions that could’ve caused it. So these labels while we start there can’t stop us. They may be the place of a diagnosis or in a label, maybe someplace that you come to in order to sit for a moment, to reflect for a moment, but then the most critical step is to go beyond that.


Lesley: Couldn’t say it better. Thanks for the car ride, thanks for this chat.


Hilary: Thank you, Les.


Do I believe that there is sexism in the workplace today that women are having to struggle with?—absolutely yes. In fact, there are number of women who I’ve asked to talk openly about the nature of the discrimination that they face in the workplace, but are too worried about what the backlash would be if people in their office heard them talking about it. Here we are, 2016, living with the type of social effects that those of us in the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s wanted to banish and yet they still live. Is there racism in this world based on the color of our skin, the nationality that we hold?—absolutely yes. Even myself, I had a racial attack just months ago living in Rural Portugal, as an expat living in a foreign country. And I was feared for my life being the wrong person in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong accent and language. That doesn’t even compare to what it is like all around the world as refugees flee to find safe spaces around the world. Is our world still challenged by differences about how young we are and how old we are?—absolutely yes. We turn to the old folks, and say, “Okay tell me a story about something, but I’m not sure it’s relevant to me because I’m living in the age where I can find anything out just by going on a click on the web.” These, I think, are elements of how we have an opportunity to listen well below the surface of these conversations. They said that there’s a male backlash in the workplace, as women have made progressive changes and are increasing in the demography in terms of management positions and other places of influence. You see, we live in a world that in some ways we struggle with the equilibrium, we struggle with harmony. And the message of this show is that we are all looking for the same things. We want people to know us. We want people to challenge us. We want people to connect us. We want people to inspire us. We want people to unleash us. And so what I’m getting at here is that we want to be known. We want to be challenged. We want to be connected. We want to know that we have influenced and inspired. And we want to know that we can let our potential shine that we’ll only going to be able to do that together by listening to our differences, and in discovering that through those differences there is hope. Thanks for listening. You can find out more about Hilary Van Welter at www.ascentia.com that’s A-S-C-E-N-T-I-A-dot-com, and of course with me lesleysouthwicktrask.com, womenwholead.co, Women Who Lead Radio Show on Facebook. I thought I’d end this show with a little bit of a twist this time, and that’s with the anthem that was created for us in 1969 by The Who, and which we think lives on today— music that always transcends time.


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