A while ago I was thinking about stories to tell at a conference where our panel was discussing the issues and solutions at the intersection of generations and gender. Most of the attendees were women partners in law firms or female senior in-house counsel. My perspective is not as a player in the midst of management and internal politics of the issues, but as a problem-solver seeing the bigger issues.
Immediately coming to mind was another conference months off at which I was asked to moderate a panel on relationship skills relating to the value equation of inside/outside counsel collaborations. Interestingly, surprising to me, the panel selected by the organizers is all women as are almost all the speakers besides the male conference co-chair.
Next racing through my mind my mind was a fundraising message I had received again that morning from a not-for-profit organization with a mission to enhance the lives, personally and professionally, of women over age 50, which restricts membership to that demographic.
What these three events have in common as I see it is that the focus, intentionally or not, will turn out to be Boomer and older half of Gen X cohort women talking primarily to themselves, preaching to the choir.
I’ve pointed out in each case the need to have all the stakeholders in the room, all with a voice, and all talking freely with each other. Where are the male leaders with the clout to lead change? Where are the younger people who need to be engaged, not only for their career development, but also to sustain the success of organizations? Are the more senior women, many of whom consider themselves a minority demographic – as they are in leadership roles – making assumptions without inviting the voice of others whose support they are only likely to have when the conversation feels comfortable for all genders and generations and other aspects of diversity, including diversity of thought?
I truly believe we need cross-generational conversation and cross-gender, cross-race and other diverse elements as the beginning of the solutions to many problems and to sustainable success for our businesses and our institutions.
The panels I put together to discuss inter-generational challenges are comprised of different generations, genders, ethnic, countries of origin and perhaps less obvious characteristics. There is always diversity of thought. The more we allow opportunity for diverse expressions, even outside one’s comfort zone, the more likely we are to grow comfortable. We don’t learn much when we are insular. There is comfort in talking with similar thinking individuals and supporters but much less progress than when being inclusive and inviting resisters and those unaware of issues and possible biases to prominent seats at the table. Or perhaps developing understanding relationships over a drink.
What are your thoughts? Please share your experience and observations on this topic.
© Phyllis Weiss Haserot, 2012. All rights reserved.
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