Understanding Women Workers

One of the secrets to getting the most from your employees is understanding the challenges they face, not only in the workplace but in the rest of their lives. A comprehensive new report, Women & the Workplace, by Inforum and Sphere Trending has some insights on a key group of employees: women.

three generations women

The recent recession had been dubbed a “mancession” as men lost jobs in record numbers. By comparison, the study found, women fared better at keeping jobs (however, men are faring better in the current recovery). Not only that, but “Single, childless women in their 20s are more likely than their male counterparts to graduate from college,” says Sphere Trending CEO Maxine Lauer. “That demographic segment is going to be where a lot of the new young talent will come from in years ahead.”

Overall, some 70 percent of U.S. women now work outside the home, and one in four married women earn more than their husbands. What else do you need to know about today’s female employees? The study examined women in three age groups—Gen Y, Gen X and Baby Boomers.

Each faced special challenges:

Gen Y: Overall, this age group is doing great. They’re out-earning their male counterparts and embracing technology and social media as tools for both business and personal life. In fact, 53 percent identified themselves as early adopters of technology, and women were more likely than men (32 percent vs. 24 percent) to use social media to network and connect with co-workers. Younger women believe work-life balance is crucial and are less likely than older generations to sacrifice their personal lives for a job. Instead, they’re using tools like flextime, remote work and mobile devices to get it all done.

Gen X: Stress is the key word for this age group, which has more family responsibilities than Gen Y. Even though men are taking on more duties at home, most of the childcare and housework still falls on Gen X women, who may also be dealing with elder care. Gen X has high standards and these women often feel like they’re letting down their families and their bosses, satisfying no one. In the workplace, Gen X’s strength is “brokering” between Gen Y and Boomer employees and serving as a facilitator to smooth the generation gap.

Boomers: Boomers face many of the same issues as Gen X. Although their children are generally adults, the economy has pushed many of those adult children back into the nest, leaving Boomers in a tough position. With Americans living longer, even the oldest Boomers are often caring for aging parents, which can lead to lost productivity and greater stress. At the same time, Boomers may feel they’re getting pushed aside or left behind by younger employees, especially as Gen X employees rise up the ladder.

How can you help your female employees succeed? As with many employee motivation issues, the key is understanding what they need. That will vary from age group to age group, from life stage to life stage, and from person to person.

If your workplace is filled with young women, allowing remote work and making sure they have the mobile technology they need to work anytime, anyplace can be key. Be more focused on results, not on hours spent in the office.

If your team is mostly moms, flexibility to handle family responsibilities is most important. Like Gen X, they’ll appreciate being measured on their results, not the hours clocked.

If you’re dealing with Boomers, be aware they may be reluctant to share their challenges, especially eldercare. Being sensitive, providing resources to help them and finding ways to let them share their knowledge and experience with others on your staff can keep them feeling valued as members of your team.

Generational Women Photo via Shutterstock


Rieva Lesonsky Rieva Lesonsky is a Columnist for Small Business Trends covering employment, retail trends and women in business. She is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her blog, SmallBizDaily, to get the scoop on business trends and free TrendCast reports.

7 Reactions
  1. While Gen Y women are doing great, the flip side of those statistics paints a dreary picture for Gen Y men. They’re dropping out of high school at alarming rates, not going to college as much and not getting as many degrees. The men of my generation need to get to work on this stuff or there are going to be some serious consequences.

  2. One problem with Gen Y women is that many of them will soon want to become mothers, and then their loyalties will be split between work and family. So, in some ways, women exceed men early in the game, but men eventually win the end game. Much like the tale of the tortoise and the hare….

    Focusing on productivity is the key to measuring and keeping excellent employees, rather than focusing on the clock. This keeps the playing field even. Hopefully the Gen Y men will stay in the game, as they are equally important to a businesses productivity.

  3. You’re right Robert and Rachel. We have to, of course, help the entire Gen Y generation. I think some of that will fall into place as the economy recovers.

  4. I’m just under 30, and I have to weigh in here — I’ve been offered a position that requires me to work from the office for a higher salary, and I turned it down almost entirely because my current position allows me to work from home half the week. Since I first adopted this schedule, I have found that I’m much less stressed out about all areas of my life — I can throw in a load of laundry during the middle of my day, instead of having to wait until I get home and I’m exhausted. I can take my dog on a walk over lunch without wasting a hour with the commute. I can cook lunches, which is better for my health and my wallet. And I can listen to the Star Wars trilogy (the *real* one…) while I work, which, weirdly, I have found to be the most relaxing way to work.

    To make a long story short — I am an example of a young woman who values the flexibility my company offers me, and who rewards that flexibility and trust with hard work and dedication. I have no desire to take a job that requires me to be in an office for 40 hours a week, and if my time here ends, it will be because my freelance career has taken off and not because I’ve taken a higher-paying office job and more lifestyle stress.