At the end of World War II, men and women were gettin’ busy in the bedroom. Wrought from war and struggling in a tough economy, couples started creating families at a rapid pace from 1946 to 1964. These “Baby Boomers” were all coming of age at the same time around the world—experiencing Beatlemania in Britain, Vietnam protests and Woodstock in the United States, and draft-dodging in Canada.
Today, the Boomers are between the ages of 49 and 67 years old and comprise about 29 percent of the U.S. population. They are our parents, grandparents, and colleagues, and we can learn a lot from them as they provide wisdom and advice on what they struggled with and what they learned. Because as women, although we have come so far in fifty years, we still have a long way to go.
“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 conservative ‘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 facilities did not exist. For women, the paths to an education and job placement proved difficult because of gender roles and family duties. If the mother was working, how would the house get clean? If she didn’t go to the market, how would dinner be on the table?
For women of color, the road to success was even rockier. They were stereotyped, ridiculed, and viewed as sex objects.
“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.”
According to Sheryl Sandberg, women are still making 77 cents to every dollar earned by men, only running 17 of the 195 independent countries in the world, and holding twenty percent of seats in parliaments globally.
“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 is 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.”
What have the Baby Boomers—and beyond—taught us? Since our foremothers stood up for voting and birth control and Title IX, what will be our legacy? What can our young, powerful Gen-Y generation do?
“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 in 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.”
What have you learned from Baby Boomers, and other generations? Share with us in the comments!