Want to attract and retain top female Xer talent? Walk the walk.

Posted On April 29, 2014

While Xers are growing in leadership ranks throughout corporate America, in many cases the leadership tone and corporate culture is still set by Boomers.  They are either still at the helm, or their values have so permeated the leadership circles that the generational norms of younger leaders have not yet sunk in.  At the same time, businesses are realizing that each generation is different and they may need to engage different generations of employees in different ways.  I’ve spent the past 15 years talking to companies about just that.  But talking and doing are two separate things – and that infamous cynical side of Gen X is all too eager to point that out, as is bluntly stated in an article from Women in Higher Education. Though, the focus of this piece is clearly the academic world, its main points are largely universal.  Female Gen X employees want:

  • Balance in their personal and professional selves (read: reasonable hours)
  • Clarity in their performance reviews and career options
  • Collaboration in the workplace and a camaraderie among peers
  • To see role models ahead of them, or at least the possibility of becoming the next generation’s role model

These ring true across most businesses, and in many cases across genders.  What stood out from this piece, though, was the author’s frank warning to her peers:

Until underlying assumptions catch up with stated values, the reward structure won’t either. For example:
We say we value teaching but promotion depends on research. An MIT faculty member’s teaching award was held against her at tenure time.
We say we value diversity and minorities but diversity or minority research is considered soft.
We say we like community engagement but it doesn’t help toward tenure.
We say we like interdisciplinary collaboration but we dwell in silos and promote competition.
We say we’re for academic freedom but the practice is, “don’t rock the boat.”

Cultural change starts at the top, with deans and department chairs. Changes must happen at all three levels.

Otherwise Gen Xers will see right through you. They aren’t dumb. They know what they want and if you don’t offer it, you’re going to lose them to employers who do.

Businesses have come a long way in understanding the needs and expectations of different generations. They’ve learned how to talk the talk.  Success comes when they also learn how to walk the walk.  Sometimes this doesn’t happen until enough Xers are inside the leadership circles – or in more entrepreneurial settings where Xers have designed the culture toward their own bias from the start. 

Have you worked at a company where the right things were said, but not done? What was the last straw that made you leave?

Or have you been involved in a leadership group that was able to change the tides?  What did you do and why do you think it worked?

Categories: Blog, Generation X, Women, Workplace