Featuring Kailey and her views on gender roles, social issues, and Harry Potter.
“For the first time in our history, we have four distinct generations in the workplace.” This is something I’ve said countless times during my keynote presentations over the years. These days I’ve amended that statement to, “for the first time in our history, we have four generations in the workplace—soon to be five.”
In a few short years, Gen Edge (born 1995–2010) will be entering the workplace, and organizations across the globe are starting to feel nervous. Will they struggle to understand the traits, values, and work styles of this generation like they did (do) with Millennials?
It’s a fair question and a legitimate concern. Today’s workplace is more sophisticated than ever before. It’s made up of people with a wide range of backgrounds and expectations. How will Gen Edge fit into the mix?
To help organizations better understand and anticipate this generation, we’re giving them, and you, a glimpse into their formative years with a series of one-on-one interviews. For this edition of Spotlight on Gen Edge, I spoke with Kailey, a high school senior who loves books—Harry Potter being one of her favorites—and is eagerly awaiting graduation. Kailey met with me at a coffee shop next to the Barnes & Noble she works at, a job she tells me she enjoys very much, thanks in part to the discount she gets on books. When the conversation wasn’t on technology (she has finally started to embrace reading devices like The Nook, but still appreciates the joy that comes with holding an actual book) or on Netflix (her family is one of thousands who are “cutting the cable cord”), Kailey spoke to me very candidly about social issues and gender roles and how she thinks her generation could very well be changing things for the better.
Kailey on social issues + gender roles:
Who are some heroes of yours?
K: This is going to sound really cheesy, but one of my biggest heroes is actually JK Rowling. For starters, she was turned down by like 12 or 13 publishers before Harry Potter came out—how do you have that much drive? Where does that come from? I admire her so much. Also, I want to be a writer, and what I love about JK Rowling is that she basically created a whole world from nothing. That’s so amazing to me! The little details she incorporates, I don’t know how writers do it. Like Games of Thrones—that guy created a WHOLE language! I admire writers so much for what they create.
You’re talking to a fellow Harry Potter geek here, so I totally get it.
K: Another thing I admire so much about JK Rowling is that I heard she was bumped off of some list of billionaires because she gave so much of her money away to charity. That just makes me admire her so much. I love her perseverance and willingness to give back.
Speaking of JK Rowling, how do you think gender roles have changed over the years?
K: Not to bring it back to Harry Potter, but did you see Emma Watson’s speech about feminism at the United Nations?
K: I loved that! I love her idea of what feminism is, not better or worse, but equal. It’s not about just holding the door open for a girl; it’s about being viewed as equals.
Do you notice a change in gender roles at school? Maybe in sports or science?
K: Yes, definitely in sports, but also in random areas. I have a friend, she’s 16, smart, and down to earth—a typical teenage girl, but she LOVES NASCAR and racing. You would never know it by looking at her, but for our generation, it seems to be cooler to like things that aren’t cool.
So you think gender roles are changing for the better?
K: I definitely do. You’re starting to hear more about women CEOs, and although we haven’t seen it yet, I think we’ll have a female president. I think we’re getting to a place though where it’s not about being a man or a woman, but being the best person for the job. The idea of “women are too emotional and men are too stoic” seems to be going away. Finally.
Do you think it’s a big deal that we have a black president?
K: No. I mean, I understand the historical significance, but our generation doesn’t focus on things like that very much.
What about sexuality? There was a story recently about a country singer who came out. Is that seen as a big deal to your generation?
K: Not to me or the people I hang out with. I love Ellen and I love Neil Patrick Harris. Whether they’re gay or not doesn’t change whether or not I like them or their work.
The overlaying tone during my talk with Kailey was social acceptance. Be it gender, race, or sexuality, a reoccurring theme I’m hearing from this generation goes way beyond tolerance—it’s full-blown acceptance. Baby Boomers protested, marched, had sit-ins, burnt bras—all in the name of change and acceptance. Today, we’re seeing the fruits of their labor. Millennials are viewed across the globe as the most socially accepting and diverse generation. Gen Edge looks as though they’re continuing to further that mindset.
And although there are concerns that Gen Edgers are too tech-dependent or lack the interpersonal skills of generations past, one thing is very clear—equality should be the norm. And with this generation’s help, it just might be.
One last question. Are you optimistic about the future of your generation?
K: I’m actually a little worried about my generation. As forward thinking as we are, I’m worried that we’re getting lazy. Everything is at our fingertips—music, Netflix, texting… We don’t need to leave our homes if we don’t want to! I mean, I don’t think it will get so bad that it will be like a dystopian novel, but I hope we stay motivated. Have you seen Wall-E? I don’t want us to end up like the fat people sitting in front of tiny screens! That’s something I hope our generation is able to avoid.