BPW Foundation's Women Misbehavin' Blog

Well behaved women never make history

The Power of Boomer Women

Posted by egehl on March 5, 2010

Last night Tom Brokaw, one of my favorite journalists, put the spotlight on Baby Boomers through a show on CNBC entitled “Boomers!”.  In recent years there has been a lot of attention on Baby Boomers because they make up a significant aspect of the population, and this dynamic generation represents a wide range of people with different perspectives, politics and life achievements.
 
Baby Boomers are this nation’s wealthiest and most influential generation and their departure from the workforce in upcoming years will be felt.  Boomers were born between 1946 and 1964, which covers a huge time span.  Over their lifetime they have watched the world change and painfully grow in dramatic ways by witnessing the Civil Rights movement, Women’s Rights movement, Vietnam protests and music at Woodstock.  They represent a wide variation of people and differ on what they’ve achieved, hope to achieve and how to achieve it.

Boomers have had an extraordinary influence on our culture, politics and lives and when they retire, and how they will use their talents in the future, will have a great impact on our nation’s economic and social success. 

The recent recession has hit Boomers hard as many now worry they will outlive their savings, and the timing of the downturn came at a horrible time for the oldest of this generation who turn 65 in 2011.  In fact, by the time all Boomers are 65 the number of seniors will have grown from 40 million today to about 72 million.

Boomer women have broken many glass ceilings and paved the way for younger women to hold more influence in the workplace.  A great example of this is Ursula Burns, CEO of Xerox, and Anne M. Mulcahy, Xerox Board Chairwoman.  Both women are Boomers and neither could have imagined as teenagers they would be in charge of a Fortune 500 company.  They exemplify the dramatic change Boomer women have experienced. 
 
Over the life span of women like Ursula and Anne American business has had to adapt to increasing numbers of women in the workplace, and securing positions of greater power.  Many Boomer women recognize that only a generation before them paved the way for landmark women’s rights such as the right to vote.  They have a much keener sense of what has been accomplished in the workplace since the days when women were only considered capable enough to be secretaries. 

While women of my generation recognize the fight and struggles of the past, we are far enough removed to not completely understand how far our society has come because while growing up we were told we could do and be anything.  The Boomer generation did not get that message and had to navigate a discriminatory workplace to get to where they are today. 
 
The enhanced role of women in the workplace over the past 60 years has affected every aspect of society from education to the family life.  Boomer women paved the way for working mothers to be a right, not just a privilege.  They helped change the terms “working” and “mother” into something that isn’t mutually exclusive.  Now women do not have to sacrifice personal fulfillment to have a career.  However juggling the two isn’t easy and the next challenge to overcome is establishing better work-life policies to support women’s choices.  

Young women owe a lot to the ceilings broken by Boomer women and it will be interesting to see what new challenges this generation will tackle.

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