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An open letter to the next generation.

I’m old. My generation – either Gen X and the Boomers depending on which source you use – isn’t going to save the world, despite the fact that we’re going to keep trying. Sheryl Sandburg said it best in her Barnard Graduation address in 2011, the numbers just aren’t there for us. It’s up to you, Gen Y.

Hers is a great address to fire you up, but if I were you I wouldn’t totally buy it. I’m not sure I’d be motivated by the fact that previous generations of women hadn’t managed to achieve equality in leading our world. Lots of my generation opted out, not because it was too hard, but because there were greener pastures that were more fulfilling. Think “entrepreneurship.” Have you seen the front page of the paper today? Everyday? Who says leading the world is going to be all that much fun, fulfilling or worthwhile?

Why You’re Going to Save The World Anyway

So if I were you I wouldn’t necessarily want to save the world because it was my duty. I get that. But here’s some stats that might give you no choice. For the first time – like, ever – your numbers have put you in the majority. Oh, you’re still about half the population, but did you know that in four years you’ll have:

  • 64% of the associate degrees;
  • 60% of bachelors degrees;
  • 63% of masters degrees; and
  • 56% of doctorates.

Not only will you have the education to run the world, but you’ll have the opportunity; thirteen of the highest growth job categories over the next decade are dominated by women.

Here’s another reason you may end up leading the world whether you plan to or not – your generation (unlike ours) will ask you to. According to data from Pew Research  women and men in your generation think traditional women’s roles – the roles my generation and my mother’s generation fought to redefine – aren’t necessarily just women’s work. Your own generation is going to expect you to step and lead because the world needs leaders.

And finally, your men will help you. It’s already begun. Unlike my generation and my mother’s, women of your generation won’t have to negotiate from a position of guilt about who picks up the kids after school. Your experience of work-life balance will be different and your marriages (when you have them) are bound to be stronger and more equal partnerships, and this will only help you achieve what you are destined to achieve.

Take Your Responsibility Seriously

When I was “your age” (i.e., any age younger than me!), I was pretty busy having a life. I was looking for and finding love, getting promoted, switching jobs, having kids and keeping all the plates in the air. Honestly, I didn’t think much about leading the world. I knew someday I’d find a way to save it, but what I didn’t do at a young enough age was learn the skills I’d need. My bad.

I think you guys are different. The young women I meet and talk to these days blow my mind. You are more informed and more capable than either the women or men of my generation were at your age. You have got the stuff. Sometimes it may not feel like it, sometimes you may find it hard to believe when you look at all the white male faces running the world, but it is true. That’s going to be you someday, so start preparing now. Set your intention and see yourself on those podiums and board rooms. Learn to call on your internal power to help you go where you don’t see anyone who looks like you right now, because soon you will. It’s just a matter of time.

What do you think? What are your fears? Your hopes? Your trepidations? Your dreams? As importantly, how can “my generation” help you achieve them?

Photo Credit: JL