Gen V and the Gender Gap
Last night, I went to hear a fabulous speaker at my kids’ elementary school. She was there to talk about generational differences (FYI, our kids are called Gen V, for Viral), and also to discuss the trends that take place within each generation.
For example, we Gen Xers are a skeptical, anxious group, and as parents, we want really badly to “be there” for our kids and to provide them with the solid family base that we didn’t have. Gen Y is an entitled bunch, but it’s not their fault because they were told their whole lives that they were special, and they grew up getting trophies for doing nothing. And Gen V, well, they seem to be shaping up to be potential rebels, who might lash out against the anxieties of their Gen X parents, and who could possibly end up changing everything from corporate culture to colleges and universities.
It was a thought provoking talk in lots of different ways, but there was one thing that the speaker (Jane Buckingham, who runs a company called Trendera) said that really stayed with me. It seems that for Gen Y and for our little Gen Vers, as well, there’s a huge gender gap that’s taking place, and boys are the ones who are falling behind.
Jane pointed out that over the last few decades, society has made a really big deal about pushing girls to be all they can be. There are special programs for girls, support groups for girls, workshops for girls, camps for girls, magazines for girls, all in the name of empowerment and you-can-do-anythingness. And as a result, we have lots of amazing, independent young women out there who are killing it. But somehow, along the way, we seem to have forgotten about the boys. The message they’re getting is that they should just sit back and chill, because the girls have it all covered.
As I listened to this, I was dumbfounded how true it is, even in my own home, where I have a daughter and a son. I spend a lot of time talking to my daughter about how it’s important for girls to go into STEM fields (that’s science, technology, engineering and math, for the acronym-impaired), and trying to be a good role model for her as a working mom. But I don’t ever have conversations like that with my son, and I doubt that my husband has ever even thought about the kind of example he’s setting as a working dad, because “working dad” isn’t really a part of the lexicon.
Which brings me to another point that Jane brought up: who are the role models for boys today?
When I was a kid, we had astronauts like John Glenn, and war heroes like John McCain. We had athletes like Bruce Jenner and Michael Jordan and Mike Schmidt. There were socially conscious rock stars like Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp and Bono. Even on tv, there was Fonzi, Charles in Charge, and Cliff Huxtable. And at the movies, everyone could look up to Teenwolf, or Duckie, or even Ferris Bueller.