Kate Billing

Girls Can’t Do Everything

Gen X is the ‘Girls Can Do Anything Generation’.

We were raised to do two things simultaneously: operate according to traditional gender roles AND be independent, career-focused leaders.

When the poster below came out in NZ in the mid 1980’s it made economic sense for women to break out of traditional, narrow occupational choices. ‘Men’s Work’ tended to be better paid and was more likely to offer the chance to build a career. It was generally more prestigious and allowed more independence than the equivalent ‘Women’s Work’ available at the time.

Encouraging girls to do anything, become anyone, and have it all was a concept that easily and widely gained acceptance, unwittingly setting an entire generation up for trouble down the line.

And down the line we are.

Gen X women are hitting midlife with higher burnout rates than men, twice the number leaving senior leadership roles as are being recruited/promoted into them, and the majority of midlife divorces being initiated by women: just three of the many and varied impacts of living into a conflicted model of success as a woman, wife, mother, careerist, and leader.

Work/Life Integration expert and Gen Xer Whitney Caseres said this in a recent article in Forbes:

“Gen X women still take on most of the household duties while leaning into work every day. We were raised, quite literally, to do it all. We’re hard-wired to OVER-FUNCTION. It’s the reason scheduling rest feels laughable. Taking care of our own needs if it inconveniences someone else? So selfish.

No wonder we’re not fixing the work and home equity issues women face fast enough. It’s not just because we have work to do at a systemic or strategic level but it’s also because we haven’t addressed a core issue: the why behind the way Gen X women operate.

If we want to really make strides in empowering career-focused women, we first have to show them how to see themselves as they are: worthy of just as much purpose, alignment, and free time as the men who work and parent alongside them. We have to show Gen X women that their own priorities and peace matter more than any to-do list.”

There is no ‘map’ for women like us, at this time in our lives, in the world as it is. The one that’s there from previous generations of wonderful women like our Boomer Mums doesn’t fit the current landscape of our lives, careers, and the multiple versions of midlife that we embody.

Gen X women are reaching midlife as the first quarter of the 21st century comes to a close and we have a choice: follow the map or make our own path.

I believe we have the opportunity to reimagine the ‘girls can do anything’ message for midlife. We can do anything…just not everything.

If you’d like to join me on this midlife mission of making our own paths, please check out the new Pathmaker Community and join the waitlist for our Foundation Membership coming soon.

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