Generation X Study Offers New Answers to Old Questions

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Big Five firm Ernst & Young and General Electric teamed up to sponsor a study of the thoughts and ideals of Generation X professionals in the workplace. The study was performed by Catalyst, a nonprofit research and advisory organization that works to advance women in business.

Not surprisingly, study results showed that women and minorities continue to feel shortchanged by the salaries, advancement opportunities, and other perks available in corporate America.

Catalyst interviewed 1,200 professionals born between 1964 and 1975 for the study; all of these workers were culled from 10 companies, eight in the U.S. and two in Canada. The stated goal of the study, The Next Generation: Today's Professionals, Tomorrow's Leaders, was to shed light on the work-related motivations and commitments of Generation X women in the professional workplace.

Seventy-one percent of the survey participants were women.

Survey results show that women, much more so than men, would find their jobs much more desirable if the following items were incorporated into the workplace:

  • Compressed work week (67% of women surveyed would like this amenity, 6% of men expressed an interest)
  • Telecommuting/work from home (59% women, 17% men)
  • Ability to change work schedule on an ad hoc basis (46% women, 22% men)
  • Leaves and sabbaticals (43% women, 18% men)
  • Ability to change work location on an ad hoc basis (37% women, 7% men)
  • Flexible arrival and departure time (37% women, 46% men)
  • Reduced work schedule/part-time (36% women, 4% men)
  • Financial assistance for dependent care (34% women, 7% men)

The majority of respondents showed an interest in these amenities so that they could incorporate child care into their schedules. To the extent that men are attracted to flexible and reduced work schedules, nearly half (47%) of those surveyed indicated a desire to use the extra time to attend school. Thirty-seven percent of women indicated a desire to return to school. Other reasons for the attractiveness of flexible work schedules include personal health, other personal interests, a desire to address over-work, and adult-care responsibilities.

Other interesting survey results include a wish list of company perks that would make employees most happy:

  • Casual dress code (54% of all respondents voted for this)
  • Employee discounts on products and services (39%)
  • Reimbursement for transportation between work and home (32%)
  • Gym membership (30%)
  • Convenience services (21%)
  • Meals (21%)
  • Employee lounge (14%)

The survey analysis concludes that today's worker has a "high desire for organization cultures that are fun and innovative and that provide a casual dress code."

Least surprising among the survey results are the perceptions of fairness among those surveyed. Women (42%) feel they have to work harder for less reward while men (89%) feel women are given a fair chance to compete in an equal workplace. Only 30% of women feel they receive comparable salaries to men, while 62% of men surveyed feel salaries for the same jobs are comparable across genders. A whopping 90% of women feel a man will get a promotion before a women possessing equal skills, and 70% of men agree with that assessment.

Overall, women feel the following factors are barriers to advancement of the gender as a whole:

  • Commitment to personal and family responsibilities (68%)
  • Lack of mentoring opportunities (50%)
  • Lack of significant client development or general management experience (46%)
  • Stereotyping and preconceptions of women's roles and abilities (45%)
  • Lack of women role models (42%)
  • Displaying a behavioral style that is different than the organization's norm (40%)
  • Exclusion from informed networks of communication within the organization (40%)
  • Lack of awareness of office politics (36%)

The 72-page survey provides a great deal of insight into what women expect from the workplace and offers many suggestions for companies that want to attract women professionals.

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