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Joining Forces: Women Veterans Speak Out – Embracing Your True Self

Posted by danielleac on December 5, 2011

Read the latest article of BPW Foundation’s every-other-week Joining Forces feature that brings us the voices of women veterans telling their stories.  If you are a women veteran who would like to share your story, please contact us through our Joining Forces for Women Veterans Facebook page, or email dcorazza@bpwfoundation.org.

Embracing Your True Self

by Danielle Corazza

I’ve never been a girly-girl. Growing up in a dual-military family left me with a strong work ethic, a drive to constantly achieve, and very little time for fashion and giggles. Not that I didn’t have a fun childhood filled with great times, family, and friends, just that I never felt that I fit the traditional “feminine” model as I had very little time or concern for my appearance or baby dolls – instead being obsessed with earning ribbons for good grades and money. The thought of spending hours in a chair for a hair appointment, or even worse, loitering in a spa all day, leaves me filled with unease, instead of delight.  And, compared to my two sisters, I am downright tomboyish. One sister, a fashion plate who always looks like she popped off the pages of a magazine, tried (unsuccessfully!) for years to guide me towards the softer side of being a woman.

I’m not sure if my early exposure to the military life, that of pressing military uniforms and polishing boots, surrounded by no-nonsense men and women going about the business of serving our country, formed my perspective, or if I was born this way, and the environment  just exacerbated it. Either way, it never bothered me, and being told I was “one of the guys” by guy friends and co-workers always made me feel I’d passed a special test – one that proved that I wasn’t afraid of blood, sweat, and guns… Yes, guns. From the moment I picked one up in basic training, it felt right. I was good at taking a deep breath, slowly releasing it, and stroking the trigger. Hit center mass every time. One more point of approval on the male scale, bathed in acceptance, part of the band, not one of the silly women to be leered at, but not included.

I fit in just fine in the military, too – fond of my uniform, aware of how to fulfill all of the idiosyncratic expectations of supervisors, and able to keep within the lines with ease. I also continued to pride myself on fitting in with the men, scoffing at the weak females who cried for their mommies or exhibited heartbreak when faced with a broken nail or stubbed toe.

Years later, as I reflect back, I realize that I was constantly smothering my initial reactions to every situation since I knew there would be a man who’d have something to say if I had a “soft” response. At the time, I don’t think I was consciously meeting their expectations, but I was definitely tempering my personal instincts to please the mostly-male audience.  (This became such an ingrained habit that I still second-guess which reaction is the real reaction and which is the conditioned one.)

Since growing up, having children and dealing with personal health issues, I’ve had to admit that I am a girl. And that my instinct for nurturing doesn’t make me weak. And that while I love men, there is true value to having (and using) womanly intuition.

I’ve spent the last 18 months working for an advocacy organization. Not just any advocacy organization, an organization that is by women, for women. Business and Professional Women’s Foundation’s roots lie in the early days of suffragettes, and they didn’t stop representing working women once the vote was achieved. Instead, they continued to light the way, providing education and research for underserved working women populations, usually before such support was popular. For example, BPW realized years ago that women veterans needed a voice, and immediately began studying their transition issues in search of answers. I’ve been proud to be a part of the team working on solutions, and have learned much about the true effort that still needs to be put in to continue furthering women’s equality.  (I was especially surprised to find that only in the military are women paid equivalently to men!) This working experience has given me the education on women’s issues that I lacked growing up in the military environment.

During my ongoing search for how to justify my logical, just-fit-in side with the realization that I have to express my real self to achieve true contentment, I was offered a slot in a leadership course by BPW’s CEO, Debbie Frett. In her unwavering dedication to promote only the best and most effective programs for women veterans, Debbie was very clear in her intent to validate the program prior to promoting it or collaborating with the developers. I was very proud to accept and to represent BPW during the program. Named “Leading with Resiliency and Grace,” this was the pilot program aimed at women veterans. Not only were the participants women veterans, the course lead and logistical team were mainly women vets, too.  So, a program for vets, by vets, put on by vets. Woman vets.

Even on active duty, it was rare for me to be in the presence of more than five females at a time. Imagine my surprise upon walking into the conference room for the start of the three-day program and being confronted by the sight of twenty women vets.

Twenty women of all shapes and sizes, spanning all ages and ranks, from opposite corners of the United States. Only two things bound us together: our gender and our military service.

Within the first three hours of gathering, we were crying and sharing and bonding like we’d been the best of friends for years. I realized quickly that the angst and agitation I’d been experiencing for years was due to the suppression of me, of my views and emotions concerning the world around me.  The program showed me what I didn’t know and hadn’t grasped on my own, and that was the degree to which I had been “militarized”- used to operating in a male world, functioning with a male perspective, repressing my own feminine response.

Another valuable point of the learning process was recognizing the similarities among us: each of us had felt lonely, outcast, downtrodden, frustrated, and misunderstood at one point or another in our transitions through life, be it at the age of 24 or 44. We all reveled in the joy of realizing our reactions and situations, while individual, were not unique. No one among us was crazy! What a comfort to hear that others have felt your pain and that you are NOT alone.

As I walked into the room on the morning of day two, one of my fellow participants remarked on the buoyancy of my steps, “You look like you’ve lost twenty pounds!” I told her that not only did I feel like I’d shed the weight holding me down, but that I’d slept like a baby after doing so!

Fast forward to the third and final day. After working through our past, defining our future, and learning how to relate both to our present, we were done. Each of us armed with a Legacy statement, each of us leaving with an arsenal of tools to use daily towards continued growth, each of us bonded together even more deeply than we were upon arrival.  That was the second, unanticipated, but just as valuable outcome – a new peer network with no boundaries. No shame, no secrets, no withholding, just respect, affection, and understanding for each other, and commitments to continue providing support, no matter what.

I’d been searching for a replacement military family since I left the service years ago. But, even though I’ve gathered lots of friends along the way, never had I been able to feel wholly accepted and understood by a group as quickly and sincerely as I was with this group of women.

From the bottom of my heart, I thanked the leaders and participants of the Sunergos’ “Leading with Resiliency and Grace,” a truly mind- and life-altering experience. And, I thank Business and Professional Woman’s Foundation for believing I was worthy of representing them.

(If you are interested in having this experience for yourself, please email pstevenson@sunergosllc.com  and if you are interested in getting involved with Business and Professional Women’s Foundation’s Joining Forces for Women Veterans Mentorship Program, please visit our website at http://www.bpwfoundation.org)

Posted in Feminism, Joining Forces, Joining Forces for Women Veterans, Military, Military Families, multigenerational, Uncategorized, Veterans, Women Veterans | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Joining Forces: Women Veterans Speak Out

Posted by danielleac on August 30, 2011

Read the latest article of BPW Foundation’s every-other-week Joining Forces feature that brings us the voices of women veterans telling their stories.  If you are a women veteran who would like to share your story, please contact us through our Joining Forces for Women Veterans Facebook page, or email dcorazza@bpwfoundation.org

In the Spirit of Entrepreneurship..

by Danielle Corazza

I’ve got a lot to learn.

I’ve always been a fan of the idea of being my own boss, and in light of the newly enacted 5% set-asides for women-owned small businesses (WOSBs), on top of the existing 3% set-aside for service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses (SDVOSBs), the timing seems right for me to strike out on my own. But first, I needed to figure out how to do it!

Thanks to a grant from the Small Business Administration, Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management has developed a program specifically for women veterans to learn how to be entrepreneurs: the Veterans as Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE) course.

After applying and being accepted, my books arrived a week later, with instructions on how to log into the online course that was going to be my guide for the next month (at the end of a month’s worth of online instruction there is a three day, face-to-face conference).

I’m not sure what I expected, but I don’t think I realized how much I needed to learn about the proper way to go about being in business for yourself. I mean, I’ve got an Masters in Business Administration.. I’ve written business plans for school assignments, and I’d consider myself a great proposal writer… but, I have never taken the time to drill down to the aptly named Nuts and Bolts of taking an idea and making it a reality..

Although a bit tasking (you try developing a marketing plan overnight!), the course so far is great. Not only is it thorough, but the other 199 women veterans I’m interacting with are inspiring and the camaraderie among us is growing tremendously as we each find our comfort zone.

Fingers crossed, as I’m not done yet, but I can’t wait to learn more!

(Danielle is enrolled in V-WISE’s Baltimore Session, for more information and a schedule of upcoming classes, visit their website.)

Posted in Career Advancement, Education, Joining Forces for Women Veterans, multigenerational, Small Business, Uncategorized, Veterans, Women Veterans | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Joining Forces: Women Veterans Speak Out

Posted by danielleac on June 6, 2011

Read the latest installment of our every-other-week Joining Forces feature that will bring us the voices of women veterans telling their stories.  If you are a women veteran who would like to share your story, please contact us through our Joining Forces for Women Veterans Facebook page, or email dcorazza@bpwfoundation.org.

Female Warrior:  a review of Theater-of-War: Ajax

“Theater of War presents readings of Sophocles’ Ajax to military communities across the United States. This ancient play timelessly and universally depicts the psychological and physical wounds inflicted upon warriors by war, and reads like a textbook description of a wounded warrior, struggling under the weight of psychological and physical injuries to maintain dignity, identity, and honor.”  Here is a brief summary of the story of Ajax.

Given the rising number of women veterans, Theater-of-War has substituted a woman in the lead role of Ajax for this version of the play.  I attended the performance at the Women in Military Service for America’s Memorial last night.

I entered the auditorium a bit unsure of what I was going to encounter. I’m not exactly a Greek mythology expert, and, to be honest, I rarely spend time experiencing live theater events, so I was unprepared for the intense emotion evoked by the five actors and actresses as they read the 2,500 year-old play aloud onstage chronicling the fate of the warrior Ajax after the events of the Iliad, but before the end of the Trojan War. The audience, comprised of folks from all walks of life, active duty, military family member, veteran, and civilians, sat in rapt silence during the hour long performance. When the play was closed, the applause was tremendous, and the actors received a standing ovation as they exited the stage.

Then the facilitator explained that the second portion of the evening would consist of a town hall-style event, and introduced an all-female panel consisting of an active duty person with deployment experience, a veteran, a family member, and a military mental health professional.  Each briefly shared their backgrounds – the family member was actually a teenage girl who was the daughter of the panel member who had been deployed, and her tearful explanation of the feelings during her mom’s deployment brought tears to my own eyes. More than once, applause interrupted the speakers as they described their reactions to the reading and the facilitator skillfully posed questions to the audience, eliciting their feedback and drawing out their personal experiences and reactions to the play and its relevance to the situation we are now facing as a nation engaged in a decade long war on two fronts.

Most touching to me, a lifelong member of the military community( as a daughter and a veteran), was a comment from a gentleman in the audience. He stood and asked how he could help, and what could be done to enlighten the 99 percent of our non military population about what the 1 percent who serve has done for them. His sincerity in posing the question and his admission that he was guilty of being oblivious to the needs of warriors and veterans was genuinely heartfelt.

The personal take away from this performance validated my work with Business and Professional Women’s Foundation on the Joining Forces for Women Veterans initiatives – the world needs to know that women veterans exist. We should  not be invisible, and sometimes we do need help. We must embrace our value and connect with one another to provide the peer-to-peer support that is so vital to our success.  Just as we stood strong united in service, we are similarly stronger standing together on the outside.

As one Vietnam-era veteran on the panel explained: “You may not need help on day one, or even year one. But, you must deal with your experiences at some point, in order to transition to civilian life favorably.”

When the day comes that you are ready to connect, drop us a note, and we will help you take the first step.  dccorazza@bpwfoundation.org

Also read Danielle’s PBS blog “From Ma’am, Yes Ma’am to Mom

Posted in Joining Forces for Women Veterans, Military Families, multigenerational, Veterans, Women Veterans | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Wanna Problem Swap?

Posted by knbarrett on May 27, 2011

Have you ever noticed that it’s far easier to solve other people’s problems than your own? I actually take great delight in putting together plans for friends and colleagues. But, when it comes to my own life. . . I’m a complete mess.

It turns out my experience is consistent with recent psychological research. Studies reveal that people can achieve greater mental novelty when thinking on behalf of others.

Polman and Emich found that, “When we think of situations or individuals that are distant – in space, time, or social connection – we think of them in the abstract. But when those things are close – near us physically, about to happen, or standing beside us – we think about them concretely.”

According to Daniel Pink, this has important implications for solving problems in the workplace. He suggests the following:

  1. Disassociate yourself: Rather than focusing more intensely on a decision or problem, we often need to take a step back so that we can widen our view. Abstract thinking leads to greater creativity.
  2. Harness the power of peers. Exchanging ideas with peers can offer solutions from new perspectives. According to Joel Marc, Generation Y (born 1978-1994) is especially adept at this strategy. He suggests that one of Gen Y’s strengths is reaching out to their networks to solve problems quickly.
  3. Find a problem-swapping partner. Personally, I’ve found this tip to be very beneficial. I have a friend and colleague that I regularly toss my problems to. And, she in return throws hers to me.

You may be wondering where I’m going with all of this. Besides the fact that I’m a huge fan of all things Daniel Pink, I’m trying to put these principles into practice.

Over the last few weeks, BPW Foundation has been promoting our national survey on Gen Y Women in the Workplace. The purpose of the survey is to understand what Gen Y women need in order to be successful in the workplace and then translate that knowledge into tools that improve how employers recruit, support and retain young women. We’ve been astounded by the level of interest that the survey has received. Unfortunately, that interest level has not matched the response rate. Don’t get me wrong, Gen Y Women are definitely responding. We just haven’t met our target yet.

So, instead of fixating on my present research dilemma as I’m prone to do, I’m trying to create some distance. And, I’m writing to ask you, as peers from different backgrounds, fields and industries for your thoughts and suggestions on how we can better promote our survey. And, if anyone wants to be my problem-solving partner, I’d be happy to tackle one of your problems in exchange for this one.

Please email your comments and suggestions to youngcareerist@bpwfoundation.org.

To allow for time for peer and partner problem-solving, we’ve decided to extend the deadline for the survey. The Gen Y Women in the Workplace survey will remain active until June 30th at midnight EDT.

Posted in Career Advancement, Gen Y, Gen Yner, multigenerational, Research, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Two Identities Too Many?

Posted by danielleac on May 26, 2011

I am a veteran. A female one, at that.

Not that I’ve ever considered it a strike against me, but it is a tag that is quickly becoming associated with numerous negative connotations due to the current barrage of media portraying women veterans as hot messes. Transitioning out of the military was a bit hard – after earning the respect and camaraderie of my fellow soldiers (mostly men), I found that when I exited the service, the civilian boy’s club barred the door, and civilian women didn’t quite know what to say to a woman who could hit center mass from a couple of hundred yards with a big gun. (Most of them probably didn’t know what “center mass” meant..) And, yes, I carry a couple of scars, figuratively and literally, that I didn’t claim before I entered the military. But, I’m not broken, nor are most of the women vets I know – we take multi-tasking to a new dimension, we never give up, and we just won’t stop until we’ve surpassed our goals.

I am a Gen Y er. Thirty. College degree. Married. Couple of kids.

The civilian workplace surprised me by boxing me into yet another category: Gen Y (born between ’78 and ’94). It took me some time to understand why this was a negative, as Gen Yers are known to be speedy workers who complete tasks and move on, individuals who appreciate hard work and hard play, and surprisingly, intrinsically motivated to finding the answers to life and work using every tool at their technologically-advanced fingertips . It is a strike, though, since change is hard, and the way of the younger generation does not match up with status quo.

So, what’s the bigger problem?

The snowball , in my opinion, is that there are too many of us. Too many misunderstood veterans, too many barely-launched Gen Yers that don’t know where to start to get what they want (or don’t have the patience to wait for it), and way too many employers who realize they need us to replace the ever-aging Baby Boomers, but don’t know how to harness the initiative and committed nature of either sub-population.

Here’s where you come in, Gen Y Women: Help BPW Foundation continue pursuing the creation of Empowered Workforces and Successful Workplaces by telling us what you think by taking this Gen Y survey.

We promise not to stop researching and working on your behalf, our history as the first Foundation to tackle women’s workplace issues stands behind us as proof that we mean what we say.

Posted in Diversity, Gen Y, Gen Yner, multigenerational, Successful Workplaces, Veterans, Women Veterans | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Break Through Achieved for Women Veterans

Posted by YWM on May 25, 2011

This is part two of a two part article on a special training session for women veterans.

By Monica Chenault-Kilgore

Tell me three positive things about yourself. 

In the sessions and days that followed participants were asked to stand up and energetically state three positive adjectives that best describe themselves.  The catch:  they could not repeat an adjective that someone else had said. Knowing that the task would get harder if you waited to respond, one woman jumped up, I am smart, friendly, and professional.”  The next stood up and proudly stated, “I am dependable, a team player and helpful.”   I wrote all their responses on the white board.

As we moved around the room it became harder and harder for some to come up with three unused positive adjectives.  (We drifted away from adjectives a bit and the responses became more short phrases)  Something interesting began to happen in this short span of time.  The group began to help each other with positive responses, even adding a few more than three examples.  If someone hesitated, another would add, “You can say you are capable…computer literate…a good counselor…creative…detail oriented.”  The list of positive adjectives and attributes grew long, but most importantly, group members who initially distanced themselves from others by sitting in the back or using the seats around them to build invisible fortresses, spoke up to provide positive reinforcement for their veteran sisters.

Although we went on to explore communication skills, write accomplishment oriented resumes, practice interview skills and discuss job search strategies, we kept that list of positive adjectives on the board throughout the  sessions as a reminder.

Over the four sessions, the group voluntarily discussed their personal and professional challenges as we went through various topics.  The sessions evolved to group brainstorming tackling issues ranging from how to best apply newly learned communication strategies to how to resolve long standing family issues, or use a current peer leadership role as experience for a resume, and how to grow an idea into a profitable business.  We shared stories of rejection and situations that didn’t go as planned in order to recognize how negative experiences are also earning lessons and a natural part of the process of moving toward success.

One participant stated that she hadn’t worked outside of the home for a long time and didn’t feel she had any experience on how to go about finding a job.  After participating in the discussions and exercises on identifying accomplishments, she said that she enjoyed, and is extremely good at, cleaning.  She expressed a desire to start her own cleaning business and took the initiative to find information on programs supporting women entrepreneurs. She also stated she could start by getting referrals from people she had provided cleaning services in the past. 

Lessons Learned: What Worked…

To help create a comfortable learning environment that contributed to the programs success in building confidence and self-esteem, materials were presented in a manner that:

Maintaining or Enhancing Self Esteem

Take time to visualize, acknowledge, write out and share skills and abilities learned from military experience in order to transfer value, build a strong resume and interview to compete for job opportunities.

Listening and Share Feelings and Rationale

“It was good that you asked us…allowed us to talk.”

Create a safe environment for open dialogue to discuss practical applications of newly learned development tools.  Doing so helps veteran sisters to trust and build supportive networks to learn about opportunities for jobs, and access resources and services.

Ask for Help and Encourage Involvement of Others

Asking for help can be difficult particularly if the act of asking is seen as a position of weakness.  Building confidence, setting SMART, inspirational goals and examining the art of communication helps our veterans move forward from a position of strength by rephrasing “asking for help” to seeking valuable information to facilitate transition.

Build Ownership and Self-Confidence by providing Support without removing Responsibility for Action.  

Set the tone.  State that the outcome of the sessions rests with the participant’s commitment to continuous improvement and learning.  Give plenty of homework that involves self-assessment, writing and sharing.  Use every opportunity to have participants articulate their goal.  We ended the sessions with each participant completing a Motivation/Career Goals Questionnaire.  Participants completed the statements:

In the future, I want…

The chances of this happening are…

The first thing I need to do in order to achieve this is…

It was an honor and privilege for this civilian to serve the veterans at Mary E. Walker House who defended our country.  The program, on paper, was one that integrated exercises to identify accomplishments and build confidence with traditional job attainment strategies – resume writing and interviewing skills.  The learning sessions were to be an informative series of workshops that  bolster self esteem re-energize efforts to overcome obstacles to adjusting to civilian life and secure a position of most opportunity for a satisfying career.  The program became a rewarding opportunity for all of us to embark upon a new path of personal and professional growth.

 About the Author: Monica Chenault-Kilgore, PHR

As a trainer, coach and challenge-driven human resources consultant for over 18 years, Monica Chenault-Kilgore has helped individuals move through every phase of their career and assisted major private and public sector organizations build human capital to achieve stabilization and business continuity.

Monica founded The Chenault Group, a human resources consulting consortium and has held positions ranging from HR Internal Consultant with The New York Times Production Division, Director of the nationally recognized Retail Skills Center, HR Director for The Image Bank, and served as SME on numerous global curriculum and certification design initiatives.  Monica holds her BA in Journalism from The Ohio State University, and Professional Human Resources (PHR) Certification from Human Resources   Certification Institute.

       Email:  Monica.kilgore@thechenaultgroup.com   http://www.thechenaultgroup.com   Twitter: @thechenaultgrp

Posted in Career Advancement, Joining Forces, Joining Forces for Women Veterans, multigenerational, Veterans, Women Veterans, Workforce Development/HR | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Gen Y Women: Do You Work for an Ageist?

Posted by knbarrett on May 19, 2011

“You’re the author of the report? I assumed that you were a 40 year-old woman, not a 20-something.” For months I had been communicating with the client online. For months I had been evaluated based on the quality of my work. It never occurred that me that my work might be questioned because of my age. Instead of finalizing the report, we spent that first face-to-face meeting discussing my relative youthfulness.

Working and interacting with clients online has, on many occasions, provided me with a Blind Audition (yes, I admit I watch The Voice). As a face-less researcher, clients are far less likely to project their ideas about the characteristics and capabilities of a 20-something woman on my work. Like the contestants on The Voice, I want to be judged  on my delivery not on whether or not I’m the “full package” like on American Idol (yes, I admit I watch that too).

What about you? How has your age shaped the way you are perceived at work? If you are a Gen Y woman (born 1978-1994), BPW Foundation wants to better understand your perspectives on intergenerational workplace dynamics.

  • To what extent is generational conflict a problem facing today’s workplace?
  • Have you ever experienced generational discrimination or conflict at work?
  • What can employers do to improve inter-generational workplace dynamics?

Please share your thoughts and experiences by taking our online survey. The survey will remain open until Tuesday, May 31st at midnight. Don’t miss the chance to let your voice be heard!

Posted in Career Advancement, Gen Y, multigenerational, Research | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Attention Gen Y Women! Survey Invitation

Posted by knbarrett on May 10, 2011

Gen Y Women – Let your voice be heard by taking our online survey. Business and Professional Women’s (BPW) Foundation is currently researching Generation Y women in the workplace.  While much has been written about how Gen Y is changing the workplace, far less has been written about Gen Y women’s unique workplace challenges and opportunities.

BPW Foundation wants to understand what you need to be successful in the workplace and then translate that knowledge into tools that improve how employers recruit, support and retain women like yourself. BPW Foundation recognizes that understanding and addressing your needs is critical for employers wanting to maintain a competitive edge.

BPW Foundation has a respected history of researching workforce issues and practices that lead to a successful workplace. Successful Workplaces are those that embrace and practice diversity, equity and work-life balance. Our research provides employers and policy makers with insights on the needs and challenges of key groups of working women with a variety of skills, education and training.

Feel freed to forward the survey to Gen Y women that you know – colleagues, friends and family members. For the purpose of this survey, BPW Foundation is defining Gen Y as individuals born between the years of 1978 and 1990.

The survey will remain open until Tuesday, May 31st at midnight EDT.  As they say do it now!

Posted in Gen Y, multigenerational, Research, Successful Workplaces, Uncategorized, Worklife Balance | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

How To Do It All… Now, Because Mom Did!

Posted by danielleac on May 8, 2011

After reading an excerpt from the new book,  ”Undecided: How to Ditch the Endless Quest for Perfect and Find the Career–and Life–That’s Right for You” by Barbara Kelley and Shannon Kelley, a mother-and-daughter writing team tackling generational issues, I feel compelled to offer a slightly different viewpoint.

Barbara and Shannon propose that Gen Y women are stuck in a bad place, a miserable place, one that gives them too many options, and not enough satisfaction. They believe that Gen Yers suffer from “analysis paralysis” and “grass is greener” syndrome, and conclude that much of the problem is due to “a lack of role models to pave the way.”

I’d have to disagree a bit. I’m a quintessential example of a Gen Yer – educated, married, 2 kids, and working in a job that offers both work-life balance and feeds my need to make a difference in the world…. and I’m also a woman veteran. I’m wearing many hats simultaneously – mom, wife, student, employee.

And, yes, I’ve felt the sting of not knowing which choice to make…or how to prioritize all of the great options I’ve been afforded due to the efforts of the women who’ve gone before me. One of the most important of these was my own mother, a pixie of a woman who left military service to be a mother and wife, homeschooling us for several years, until divorce struck. This didn’t slow her down, though – she went on to raise her four children singlehandedly while putting herself through nursing school to better our circumstances.

That being said, I suffer from a different problem – how to do it all. NOW.

My mom did it all, because she had to. Life didn’t offer her the luxury of picking and choosing – food had to go on the table, rent had to be paid, and kids had to be washed. I remember watching her struggle through hundreds of pages of reading, curse her way through physics and chemistry, and rail against the fact that her responsibilities left little time for repeat trips to the firehouse, dairy farm, and strawberry fields that used to fill her days as a stay-at-home mother.

So, now, I do it all, because if she could do it, I can do it. Her example shines before me as a beacon of fortitude, and the stress, struggle, and juggle of it all keeps me dashing through every open door, running swiftly down all available avenues , and continuously striving to live up to the expectations of today. It’s not analysis paralysis I suffer from, it’s the inability to say no when opportunity knocks. And, I don’t feel depressed or angsty at all… unless I think about how hard it must have been for my mom to do it all by herself.

It’s not always easy to follow in the footsteps of greatness. But, it is challenging, and I welcome the responsibility of continuing to break down the gender barriers as those who came before me did. We aren’t there yet, but thanks to my mother and many others like her, we’ll keep trying.

Happy Mother’s Day to Joni Olson and all of the other supermoms out there!

Posted in Families, Gen Y, multigenerational, Uncategorized | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Attitudes and Perspectives of Gen Y Women

Posted by YWM on April 28, 2011

Gen Y Will be Revolutionizing the Workplace

Business and Professional Women’s (BPW) Foundation  has released a new report,  Gen Y Women in the Workplace, that explores Generation Y women’s workplace attitudes, perspectives on intergenerational workplace dynamics, and perceptions of how gender impacts their workplace experiences. The report also includes recommendations to help employers attract and support Gen Y women employees.

“In order for businesses to engage successfully with the workforce of tomorrow, it is imperative that they understand Gen Y – what challenges them, what inspires them, what motivates them,” said Deborah L. Frett, BPW Foundation CEO.  
By 2025, Generation Y (born 1978-1994) will comprise nearly 75 percent of the world’s workforce. Their familiarity and expertise with technology, coupled with their multicultural perspectives and their insatiable desire for making a difference, poise Gen Y to revolutionize the workplace.  Assuming that current trends continue, by 2025 women will make up at least 50 percent of the U.S.workforce. 

“BPW Foundation’s Young Careerist (YC) research has focused on the career choices and challenges of Generation Y women.  Our research provides employers andpolicymakers with important insights on the needs and challenges of key groups of working women with a variety of skills, education and training,” explained Dr. Sheila Barry-Oliver, Chair of the BPW Research and Education Committee that oversaw the research. 

 Over the last year, BPW Foundation conducted three employer-based focus groups. The participants included not only Gen Y women, but also managers of Gen Y employees, in order to highlight both employee and employer perspectives.

Findings included:

  • Gen Y women recognize work as a key component in the framework of their lives. Work life has a critical impact on all other areas of life.
  • Gen Y women assume that work will be rewarding and interesting, rather than drudgery. In fact, Gen Y women expect to enjoy their work.
  • Gen Y women are concerned about the impact a family will have on their careers.  Gen Y women perceive gender differences in terms of long-term career and family/childcare decisions.
  • Gen Y women want to be evaluated based on their productivity and the quality of the work they produce, not the number of hours they sit at their desks.

Gen Y women’s basic assumptions about work affect how they evaluate job opportunities. While salary and benefits (e.g. health insurance, educational benefits, and skills development) are  important, Gen Y women also consider the following questions before accepting a job offer:

  • Does the work have meaning/purpose?
  • Will I enjoy the work?
  • Are there opportunities for advancement?
  • Will the work environment facilitate work-life balance?

The three most important employer characteristics Gen Y women seek when looking for a job are:

  1. Opportunity  for employees to self-manage
  2. Emphasis on meeting goals, as opposed to how, when or where people do the work
  3. Availability of and focus on career advancement opportunities

This research was conducted by BPW Foundation, with funding from the Virginia Allan Young Careerist Grant. In 2008, BPW Foundation released “Critical Career Junctures that Direct the Career Life-Cycle of Young Careerists,” an issue brief that provided key data for employers seeking to engage Gen Y women.  The next phase of the research will include a national survey of Gen Y women to corroborate and build upon current findings. To learn more, please e-mail youngcareerist@bpwfoundation.org.

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