South-Western - Management  
A New Generation Gap: Differences Emerge Among Women in the Workplace
Topic Managing Individuals and Teams
Key Words Generation X, Generation Y, Baby Boomers, women as mentors
News Story

Male managers tend to interact with younger male subordinates in the way they always have, some in a paternal or some in a jocular manner. But for female leaders in the workforce, navigating generational relationships is a relatively new and extremely challenging phenomenon.

Females from Generation X (born between 1965 and 1980) are finding a clear generation gap with those in Generation Y (born after 1980), while baby boomers (1946 to 1964) or the World War II generation often have difficulty relating to women born at other times. The miscommunication and different priorities of the groups is hampering mentoring relationships between women and damaging productivity.

Workplace researchers have been studying the effects of four generations of women coming together in the workforce. 500 leaders gathered at the Women Presidents' Organization conference in Chicago to discuss the challenge of managing women of all ages.

Older women tend to feel that younger women don't want to work hard and put in long hours. Meanwhile, younger women complain that older colleagues and bosses aren't relevant or helpful to them. Many older women are reluctant to be mentors, and have the attitude that things were tough when they started in business and no one helped them, so younger women should have the same struggles and do it on their own. .

In a study of 500 women, Susan Shapiro-Barash, a gender studies professor at Marymount Manhattan College found that 70% of women felt that male bosses treated them better than female bosses. The same study found that women over age 50 would prefer to mentor another woman in their 20s than one in her late 30s or early 40s. When asked for a reason, Barash discovered that baby boomers are wary of women who might "get her job next."

Source A New Generation Gap: Differences Emerge Among Women in the Workplace, Wall Street Journal. May 4, 2006, page D1.

There are four generations currently working together in the workplace. The article points out that the generational differences are particularly challenging for women leaders. List at least three problems caused by generational differences in the workplace for women.


The article mentions four generations: Generation X, Generation Y, Baby Boomer and World War II era. Each generation is known for having certain characteristics and a unique approach to work. Research the generations in your textbook or online. What are the defining characteristics of each generation?"


Is there any danger in stereotyping based on generation? Explain.


In your opinion, what steps can be taken to help workers of all generations work together better?

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