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A side of Wedges with that, madam?
11 December 2011
We’re well into the second decade of the 21st century and what a Bingo ride 2011 has been. Was that a collective sigh of relief I heard… or another sharp intake of breath as we tighten our belts around our already Dolly-Parton-like waistlines and prepare to watch a European Union melt down?
I can’t remember another time with so many tough economic balls in the air – and whoever’s pulling the numbers I am not expecting to hear anyone shout Bingo just yet.
Donning my sensible economic hat: we’re cautiously optimistic, especially when it comes to Australia. Of course, there have been some hard patches and many people have suffered, but overall we’re continuing to do well and although you wouldn’t be predicting a return to the sort of growth we knew a few years ago there’s something in the old girl yet.
At the mention of the phrase ‘old girl’, I have to admit slipping from my sophisticated, worldly business perch and landing with a thud, because personally I may not be looking forward to 2012 with quite the same level of optimism.
Let me put this in perspective: I’m entering what the Jones Generation or Wedges (the generation which is neither X nor Boomer) term ‘My Baby Boomer dotage’.
I AM TURNING 60, and my two favourite comments from people are: ‘that’s impossible, you don’t look anywhere near that age’ and ‘have you lost weight’. Okay, so maybe being flattered by those remarks makes me a shallow, flighty girl? My feeling is I am not alone in this. At the end of the day, no matter how old we are as women, or the levels of success and sophistication we’ve reached, we’re all girls at heart and – deep down – love ‘pink’.
Don’t get me wrong I’m not advocating the cult of youth, although I hear the latest tourism trend is the cosmetic surgery holiday: Thai tummy tuck, or Tapas, Tempranillo and a new chest in Spain, anyone?
It’s just I loved my 50s. Not least for the fact that after my shocking 40s – a time in which the decisions we make impact the rest of our lives both positively and negatively – my 50s have been fantastically productive, righting the wrongs of that earlier decade.
Of course, I have it on good authority that the 60s are fabulous. It’s just not my 50s.
So, who is this ‘Jones Generation’ which, like me, can’t bare to part with their 50s. The term comes from “keeping up with the Joneses”, or, in US teen slang, “jonesing” – meaning the need to have what everyone else has.
Born between 1954 and 1965, and aged now between 43 and 55 years, this generation has been classified in the past as early X-ers or late Boomers. They say they are neither. Also known as Wedges (not to be confused with Wedgies), they are a significant and growing political and economic force.
Wedges make up almost a quarter of the population in most Western Countries. In 2012 in Australia there will be 318,000 new 50 year olds; 314,000 hit the streets this year and 306,000 in 2010. That’s a rapidly increasing age group of very lucky people.
Described by demographers as internet and technologically savvy and flexible, Jonesians see their work more as a career than a job and this year watched their most famous son, US President Barack Obama, beam his way to Australia for a 28-hour visit that rivaled the Queens, another recent visitor to our shores and a member of the generation they call the ‘Ice Agers’.
According to psychology experts, people in their 50s also have the highest level of wellbeing of all the decades. That feeling of wellbeing is usually dictated by the attitudes they hold, how they view things, their outlook, their ability to nurture relationships and be there for others.
Don’t say I didn’t tell you so: being 50 is fabulous and I will celebrate my dying moments in style.
Not quite so much to celebrate is the fact that on the Global Gender Equity Index Australia now sits in behind Mozambique. In 5 short years we’ve slipped to 23rd place from our ranking of 15th in 2006. In ASX Top 200 companies, according to a recent Ernst and Young report, women comprise just 2.5 per cent of Chairs and 3 per cent of CEOs, and at board level, women hold 13 per cent of appointments. And the recent CEW Bain survey indicates men don’t think women can solve problems… I’d like to know who solves all the issues in your family and at work, because from my experience it ain’t the guys.
You have to wonder what’s going on.
Is it really men blocking us at every turn or is it that we’re just not interested in achieving equity – in going for the positions in the first place? Or is it because we’re exhausted by the old systems and structures and their inability to deal with the fact that as women we want more?
Not more work life balance, but rather lives that are fulfilled – and to do that requires each of us – men and women – to think about what having a ‘full life’ means and what priorities we place on those meanings.
I know for a fact that some of the younger guys in our organisation (they tend to be in their late 30s) have determined that their passions are not just with work and career. They are the ones taking the opportunity to be at home with their family while their wives and partners, who have determined that their passion is with career, remain working.
However, as the ‘do-I-have-a-full-life’ question changes for each person over time, there will no doubt be changes in priorities among those working their careers and those creating family life. It all appears remarkably more fluid and flexible in attitude to anything my generation ever held. I wonder if this younger mindset, left to sort itself through and make the changes needed in those old business structures, won’t eventually produce the fairer, more equitable workplaces and society for which we strive.