Frustration grows for generation of women employees

A more ambitious generation of women are becoming frustrated at work and are more likely to be job hunting, a new survey from US think-tank, the Center for Work-Life Policy Study has revealed.

The Center sent me a preview of the report, [], which was compiled from interviews with 2500 UK full-time employees born between 1965 and 1978. The most startling finding is the extent to which more and more people are becoming more disillusioned at work.

The study paints a portrait of a generation intrinsically different from the one before it – the numerous ‘baby-boomers’ born between 1946 and 1964, who comprise today’s board directors and senior executives. I caught up with co-author, Lauren Leader-Chivée, to talk about ‘Generation X’.

Leader-Chivée explains:

“Gen X women are earning more than boomer women. In fact Gen X men are 36 per cent more likely to be out-earned by their spouses than boomer men. The vast majority of this generation [94 per cent] is part of a dual-earning couple.”

This group of women are ambitious – 61 per cent want to hold a top job, compared with just 45 per cent of baby-boomer women. And they are frustrated. In the UK, 61 per cent of Generation X say they want to leave their companies in the next three years, compared with just 37 per cent of American peers. In the UK, just over half of these women (54 per cent) feel their careers have stalled.

A possible reason, says Leader-Chivée, for the increased level of frustration in the UK is the lifting of the retirement age:

“If you’re a 44-year-old [Generation] X-er in a UK company, it’s become less and less clear where the opportunities for promotion will come for you … Boomers are not retiring and are expected to stay in their jobs for 7-9 more years. The intensity of pain felt in UK corporations seems to be exponentially worse.”

Just because they’re more likely to be working than boomer women, doesn’t mean that they’ve abandoned the vacuum cleaner. While Generation X men – 62 per cent of them – claim to do a fair share of housework, women don’t agree.
Leader-Chivée says:

“Women feel they’re running the second shift, when they come home they’re still running the household. All you hear is women bursting out laughing whenever we talk about this.”

Not helping Gen X’s serotonin levels, are the additional pressures of job insecurity coupled with greater workloads.
So how can companies re-engage the enthusiasm of this group? Leader-Chivée says valuable lessons can be learned from high-tech companies, mostly founded and run by Generation X:

“Google has made itself the number one employer brand for Gen X-ers in the world. It’s not just because they get to wear jeans and they have a pool table in the office. It’s because it has a very flat hierarchy and this enables people to be very entrepreneurial at every level.”

Traditional, hierarchical companies take heed. The numbers show, says Leader-Chivée, a massive talent crunch for the really good mid-level leaders.

“They are doing the heavy lifting. X-ers are voting with their feet. They will walk. They are so confident that they can create meaningful careers for themselves.”

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Liz Bolshaw

Liz Bolshaw is a business journalist and editor. She has been a successful book publisher, online editor, magazine editor and publisher.

She was launch editor of the Europe-wide online community Entrepreneur Country, has published magazines for PwC, 3i, dunhill and Bafta, and launched The Sharp Edge, a magazine for and about entrepreneurs, with Duncan Bannatyne. She is a regular contributor to Thomson Reuters’ Venture Capital Journal.

Her last project for the Financial Times was as editor of the paper’s Business Education magazine.

Rebecca Knight

Rebecca Knight is a freelance journalist based in Boston. She writes regularly for the FT on business education, entrepreneurship, and management.

Andrew Hill

Andrew Hill is an associate editor and the management editor of the FT. He was City editor of the FT and editor of the daily Lombard column on British business and finance from September 2006 to December 2010.

He was the FT’s financial editor from June 2005 to September 2006, with overall responsibility for coverage of companies and markets. Before becoming financial editor, he was the FT’s comment & analysis editor, in charge of the paper’s opinion and features pages.

From 1999 to 2003, he was the FT’s New York bureau chief. He joined the FT in 1988 and has also worked as foreign news editor, UK companies reporter and correspondent in Brussels and Milan.

Pino Bethencourt

Pino Bethencourt is a professor and leadership expert at IE Business School in Madrid. She is also an author and executive coach.

Lynda Gratton

Lynda Gratton is professor of management practice at London Business School.

Linda Tarr-Whelan

Linda Tarr-Whelan, former ambassador to the UN commission on the status of women, is a Demos distinguished senior fellow.