Working harder or working smarter?

In nonprofits as in other workplaces, there seems to be rising tension between Old Guard Boomers and up-and-coming Gen X- and Y-ers.  This, of course, happens every changing of the guard; but in nonprofits (and increasingly elsewhere) it’s becoming a split among women.  To over-generalize: the women about to retire expected to be working 80 hours a week for pathetic pay; moreover, many of them fell into nonprofit work (often through volunteering) and thus were unconcerned with career paths and advancement.  Further, Boomer women expected either to work and raise kids simultaneously and be exhausted thereby, or to skip kids entirely.

By contrast, younger women chose nonprofits as the site of their careers and are concerned about whether and how they can advance–and about how much they get paid along the way.  Further, they expect not to have to sacrifice their personal lives for their work.  If their expectations are met, this will cause a huge change in the way nonprofits operate–and if they’re not, that will cause an even larger change, consisting of sector collapse.

What’s ironic is that this difference in expectations has been presented as a feminist-vs.-anti-feminist conflict, with the younger women cast in the role of overprivileged brats who don’t appreciate what feminism accomplished in opening workplace doors for them.  It’s ironic because the women who are saying, "Wait a minute–I can’t have a family and work full-time without child care and elder care and other forms of support for my family, and I can’t have a family and work in the nonprofit sector without reasonable pay" are simply using new language for the long-time feminist motto: the personal is political.

It would be terrific if the nonprofit sector could show the rest of the economy the way beyond "She said–she said" conflicts and on to addressing the real needs of workers, on and off the job.

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One Response to “Working harder or working smarter?”

  1. Abhimand Says:

    Hey, great post, very well written. You should post more about this.

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