top of page

Navigating the generational hand-down: Shaping the future of Women in Leadership

The generational hand-down is a compelling aspect of our evolving societal landscape, particularly when it comes to the shifting roles of women in both the workplace and home. As a self-identified Baby Boomer with a millennial mindset and a millennial daughter in management who often thinks like a Baby Boomer or even Gen-X, I find myself contemplating the legacies we've both inherited and passed on, and how they impact female leaders of today and tomorrow, in the workplace and their personal capacity. My daughter, Sarah, and I both share the same passion for this topic, and each have strong opinions on the role of women both in business and at home, and we do not always agree.

The journey begins with the impassioned, driven Baby Boomers, a generation marked by significant social change and a fervent desire to challenge traditional gender roles. We, as Baby Boomers, fought for a seat at the table, breaking barriers and paving the way for greater opportunities for ourselves! We believed we had to change the world. However, the torch we passed on wasn't without its complexities. Our legacy includes not just empowerment but also a workaholic trend, fostering a belief that success required relentless sacrifice and hard work.


The Generation Xers, raised in an environment shaped by these workaholic tendencies, learned to be more autonomous, evolving into latch-key kids navigating a world where both parents worked, and divorce rates soared. They therefore learnt that they didn’t need to change the entire world, they only needed to change their own world. Meanwhile, the millennials, raised by these independent parents, inherited a mindset that sought innovation, entrepreneurship, and a rejection of the sacrificial narrative. This SHIFT brought them into the workplace with a demand to be seen and heard, quick impactful progress, and a belief that nothing is unachievable. As a boomer, I believe millennials often embrace values of inclusivity, diversity, and work-life balance.  Depending on their contexts, they may have been raised in environments that encouraged gender equality and empowerment, thanks in part to the groundwork laid by previous generations.


However, they may also face unique challenges, such as navigating the complexities of modern technology and the gig economy, and trying to understand their role in this new world, which is no longer clear, as it was for the boomers.  They are caught in between the SHIFT where women not only have a seat at the table, but a voice, and yet there are still systemic barriers and cultural biases that need to be addressed.


Sarah’s mindset which is more like a baby boomer in terms of management style suggests that certain values and approaches transcend generational boundaries. It also highlights the importance of individual experiences and perspectives in shaping attitudes and behaviours. Where the experiences and wisdom of older generations can provide valuable insights and guidance for younger women navigating their challenges, they mostly prefer to do it on their own. And that is the conundrum, the point of interest! Ultimately, the interplay between generational differences and shared values should offer opportunities for learning, growth, and collaboration in advancing gender equality and empowering women in both the professional and personal spheres.  But we are at an impasse.  Why is that?


The clash of generational perspectives becomes evident when examining the workplace dynamics. Boomers and Xers, with their developed strength and wisdom, observe the confident, innovative, and entrepreneurial nature of millennials. To attempt answering the question of why we are at an impasse, the best attempt can be the understanding that the previous generations ‘clawed’ for their place and have now handed over the baton, but in that, they are also not sharing their knowledge and wisdom with those taking their place. As the daughter, and a millennial, I have always resonated more with the latch-key generation, having grown up on my mother’s hip attending business meetings and being privy to various aspects of her business discussions, I quickly learnt all the facets of the different leadership styles and behaviours. It further interested me as I watched my peers, mostly RED in Insights personality profile, speaking with assertion, demanding their space, and to be heard. I then watched the boomers and Xers, speaking with a calmness, developed strength and wisdom, as if the fight was no longer theirs, and I realised, it wasn’t. Not the same fight anyway. This leads to an interesting perspective though.


This reluctance may stem from the aggression attributed to millennials. They drive their information bias, narrative, and way of doing things, leaving the seasoned leaders to believe the younger generation should figure it out independently. However, this approach raises concerns about the potential impact on future leaders, particularly Generation Z, who are approaching leadership roles with a different set of expectations, challenges and values.


To SHIFT this generational hand-down, women must take a proactive role in guiding and mentoring the younger generation. Acknowledging that each generation has contributed to shaping the business space through a deep sense of making an impact and a need for change, it becomes imperative to shift the narrative from leaving the new leaders to sink or swim to actively teaching and sharing wisdom. The point of learning should be to pass down valuable insights, fostering a culture of collaboration and growth that transcends generational boundaries.


As women in business and personal, we need to recognise that the way individuals think and act is a reflection of the environment each generation created for them. Perhaps the initial sacrifice was there to teach future leaders to enforce balance. By understanding the SHIFTS each generation brings and the unique insights they offer, we can pave the way for a more inclusive, balanced, and collaborative future for women in general. It's time to embrace the responsibility of leading and guiding, ensuring that the generational hand-down becomes a source of shared wisdom and empowerment for all. We as women, need to shift the narrative and empower through teaching and mentoring. We must, however, also ensure that men are included in our journeys to promote inclusivity and maintain balance.


bottom of page