Following World War II, couples began to create families at a rapid rate from 1946-1964. Struggling with the aftermath of war and uncertain economic times, these Baby Boomers grew up together worldwide in an age marked by Beatlemania in Britain, Vietnam protests and Woodstock in America, and draft-dodging within Canada.
At present, the Boomers are aged between 49 to 67 years old and make up around 29 percent of the US population. They represent our parents, grandparents, and colleagues – all with invaluable knowledge that can be passed on. Women in particular have come a long way in half a century but there is still significantly more progress needed to achieve social equality. We need to look no further than those who came before us for advice regarding what they endured and how we too can learn from their experiences.
“Did you pay attention to the election year?” asks Tina Tessina, PhD, psychotherapist, and author of The 10 Smartest Decisions a Woman Can Make After Forty. “Now that women are starting to outpace men in getting college degrees and beginning to make strides in business, there is a backlash. The conservatives ‘war on women’ is very real. The old boy network—abetted by the religious right—wants to put women back ‘in their place.’ This is very scary stuff, and I hope the young women today are paying attention. We still need to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.”
In the 1960s, daycare centers were not a factor. Women often found it difficult to make their way through education and career goals due to traditional gender roles and familial obligations. If mom was working, who would take care of the housework? Without someone going out for groceries, how could dinner be on the table in time?
For women of color, achieving success was a far more treacherous journey. Not only were they stereotyped and ridiculed, but these women were also objectified for their bodies.
“It was terrible for them,” says Dr. Tessina. “They faced all the racial discrimination plus gender discrimination and very bad treatment at the hands of their men.”
“I think we still have struggles,” says Dr. Paulette Kouffman Sherman, psychologist and author of When Mars Women Date: How Career Women Can Love Themselves into the Relationship of Their Dreams. “Now women under thirty years old who live in large cities are making more money than their male peers, and more women are getting bachelor’s and graduate degrees than men. However, gender stereotypes still prevail.”
Despite the advancement of recent years, Sheryl Sandberg emphasizes that women still earn only 77 cents to every dollar earned by men, governing just 17 out of 195 independent nations in existence today, and occupying 20% of positions in parliaments worldwide.
“Much change, much still to do,” says David Bedrick, Juris doctor, diplomat of process work, and author of Talking Back to Dr. Phil: Alternatives to Mainstream Psychology. “The idea that we are post-gender issues and post-racial issues are nurtured at the expense of folks who have a long legacy of being demeaned and undervalued. The mainstream culture favors looking at the light and not the shadow; this attitude makes the development of more awareness difficult.”
As our predecessors, the Baby Boomers and beyond, fought for voting rights, birth control access, and Title IX protection – what will we leave behind as a powerful Gen-Y generation? How can we continue to make an impact on society with a strength determined by youth itself?
“It is a gift to have a voice as a woman now and we should use it,” Dr. Sherman says. “In the end, it will empower our children to experience wholeness and balance in each of their parents and their families. This will ultimately create whole, more open-minded children and future generations.”
“We have a lot of ground yet to cover, and there are so many women in the larger world who are one hundred years behind us in progress,” Dr. Tessina says. “Countries like Iran and Afghanistan have gone very far backwards in women’s rights. A good fight now is the fight to teach men not to be violent against women.”
“Get to know your own nature,” Bedrick suggests. “Find models of the woman you want to be. Be careful of patriarchal attitudes that demean your powers, capacities, intelligence, and beauty—these attitudes exist and leave many women making themselves feel smaller, criticizing their bodies, and feeling less valued than men.”
Be Financially Secure
“Pursue an education that will lead to employment that gives you a sense of purpose as well as financial security,” says Sandra Carr, the Assistant Director of the State Farm Center for Women and Financial Services at The American College. “Do not allow your lives to become overloaded with credit card debt from the latest ‘it’ traps. There will always be another faster, sleeker ‘it’ before you finish paying for the ‘it’ you have. Instead, learn to pay yourself first. Seek a financial advisor early in your career to help manage debt, build cash reserves, and transition into long-term investments that will transfer into a greater economic security.”
Bedrick says, “We need you; we need your gifts, your intelligence. We need you as you are. There is no one like you, and many have paid a price for your life to flower.”
Baby Boomers and other generations have much to teach us. What wisdom or insights have you gained from them? Let us know in the comments!