To state the obvious, today’s young, modern professional woman has it different than we did. There is greater speed and pressure in her world than when we were her age, and more specifically, she:
- grew up in a digital world with the entrance of social media, instant feedback, and information,
- has witnessed significant fear in the world, due to rising violence and terrorism,
- has passion for community and multiculturalism and a strong voice for equality,
- relies on a network of “trusted tribes” (many whom she does not know personally),
- is eager to learn through internships and mentoring, where quick and personal feedback is important,
- is compelled to continue her education to keep competitive in today’s job market (with a few academic degrees and several dollars of student debt to show for it), and in some cases,
- has even experienced her share of online dating (a current norm for meeting people)!
This week’s post is a slightly longer reflection, so fill up your coffee or tea, and settle in, because I’d like to hear your thoughts too.
I’ve had the privilege to work with this eager group (known as Generation Y or Millennials*), in fact, the D by denise team is predominantly comprised of them! I’ve also watched my daughter and friends’ daughters begin to navigate this next stage of life. And, as a mentor of the University of Manitoba’s MBA Mentorship Program, and through professional and personal asks, I have engaged in formal and informal opportunities to mentor this cohort of modern, professional women.
From my experience, I have come to know she’s eager to hear “my story”, to gain my advice to her questions, and to ask for help (by way of introductions or guidance) as she navigates building networks and relationships I would never have dreamed of building at her age! She believes she is ready to climb quickly and has the desire to challenge and create change – in some cases as disruptive and innovative as possible. She is part of a generation that will take over our workspaces, part of the largest cohort to ever enter the workforce. Her dreams, goals, and expectations in the journey of life can be very different from the one we (or her mother or grandmother) took.
Depending on the level of engagement and trust; our discussions can lend deeper conversations going beyond her professional development to conversations of the personal pressure she faces as a modern professional woman. Sharing that she wants to find “the one” for her (but no, she hasn’t found them yet) and that she knows she doesn’t have forever (but is often reminded that “her clock” is ticking). These reminders can add immense pressure – and sometimes shame – to a world she’s spent years shaping and investing in to create a career foundation she’s working hard at right now.
As modern middle-aged professional women, what guidance do we owe this generation? How can we encourage and coach her along, without making her feel inadequate if she does not find a life partner “in time”, and if she chooses not to have children? How do we help nurture self-confidence when she’s invested years in education and is just starting to see her career take off in her late twenties or early thirties, and places greater focus on earning potential to pay back student loans to build stability, rather than making life decisions that were important to us?
It’s a complex, fickle world. And she, just as we all do, wants to find and feel meaningful love. More so than “settling down”, we as mothers and leaders want to see young women in our lives find the person who loves, respects, and cherishes her for all that she is and will be – a tall order.
If we are to ask questions about her life priorities, we could consider “checking ourselves” to gauge whether questions we ask are a reflection of what we wanted for our own selves, or perhaps are still seeking. Which leaves me to: what are we to do, as professionals who blazed the trail before this younger generation came along? (Hint: silence is not the answer here)
Before you ask when she’s going to have children, ask her how life is going: about what makes her happy and if she has achieved her goals or is on her way to doing so. Travel, flexibility, and wellness have gained significant ground since the days when we sought out job security and a steady paycheque. You may find she’s happy and confident with her life – in which case, children and marriage may be moot – or you may find she needs help and guidance in reaching her goals.
While we have many years (decades!) of experience on our younger counterparts, there is something we can gain from them too, in learning new dynamics and trends. They have plenty to offer the middle-aged cohort… as I am finding through my “DBD” team and our journey together!
The young, professional woman is no “less than” a mother or wife if she chooses a different path, or if time simply hasn’t chosen her yet. She knows.
Support her goals, nurture her self-worth, and build enough trust so she can be honest with you when her strength is waning. Why? Because we can, and we need to.
I would love to hear your stories and experience – how have you helped guide and support your daughter, your niece, coworker, friends’ daughters, or students, and perhaps what you have noticed most about this new, empowered generation. Share your story below or reach me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Millennials: Born 1981-1996 (22-37 years old)
This week, I am proud to introduce my team of talented, young, and modern professional women. To read more about them, click here.
Lindy Norris, Co-founder + Coach Photo by Cory Aronec Photography
Lindsay Creedon, Digital Design + Web Development Photo by Sugar + Soul Photography
Ashley-Anne Schmidt, Content Management + Brand Outreach Photo by Cory Aronec Photography
Additional Photos: Kderk Photography
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