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That's 'Ms. Gal' to you, buddy -- women lead among younger managers


In this story:

Toeing the nonlinear line

Seething with seniority

X, Y and xenophobia


(CNN) -- "The less politically correct thing to say is that women are smarter than men. We're not supposed to say that, of course."

But, then, Bruce Tulgan is a Gen-Xer, himself, "born the year 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band' came out."

And he likes to tell you that he and his fellow members of Generation X -- even more so, members of Generation Y -- may tend to speak their minds a little more readily than the baby boomers ahead of them.

So yeah, he says. A part of this lead women have in the young-managers tournament is smarts.

Tulgan goes on to say, though, that intelligence isn't the only key to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics' finding that women, age 20 to 24, hold significantly more management positions than men.

"Among women," particularly in this age bracket, "there's a desire to succeed quickly. There's an acute awareness of biological realities."
— Bruce Tulgan, Rainmaker Thinking Inc.

Tulgan, 33, is the founder of Rainmaker Thinking Inc., a research, training and consulting firm that focuses on the working lives of people born since 1963. Among his clients are Deloitte & Touche, Texas Instruments, the U.S. Department of Defense and Lexmark.

Tulgan identifies Generation X workers as those born between 1965 and 1977. Generation Y, for Rainmaker's research purposes, was born between 1978 and 1984.

"Among women," particularly in this age bracket, Tulgan says, "there's a desire to succeed quickly. There's an acute awareness of biological realities. You have to be good so you can negotiate a deal for yourself," should a woman decide to have children.

"If you're savvy and ambitious and you're also aware of the implications in your early 30s of your biology, you know you need to do a lot fast. You need to be able to negotiate some control over your schedule."


Toeing the nonlinear line

Even in the somewhat older grouping of age 25 to 34, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that women hold more management positions.

•  Among workers age 20 to 24, in 1999, the bureau cites some 117,000 more management spots held by women than by men.

•  In the twice-as-large bracket of ages 25 to 34, the bureau sees a 1999 split of management figures giving about 360,000 more management jobs to women than men.

Bruce Tulgan  

"I think there's another factor," Tulgan says. "Certainly experts in psychology will tell you that men tend to be more linear thinkers. Women tend to think in ways that are more holistic. Nonlinear.

"Until recently, the business world was strongly biased toward linear thought. But in the recent changes to fluidity and flexibility of markets, nonlinear thinking may be a much more important skill than it had been.

"So the combination of being a Gen X or Gen Y member, and a woman, a nonlinear thinker, smarter, more mature and watching the biological clock," Tulgan says, all adds up to a faster dash into management for many young-adult women.

In fact, Tulgan says, a gradual shift toward result and away from tradition also may be opening more channels to women.

"Today's environment," he says, "is increasingly market-driven. In a new economy, the ability to get the job done is what matters" more than gender.


Seething with seniority

"There's no doubt," Tulgan says about some boomers, "that there's resentment among those who paid their dues and were in one system -- and now it's changed.

"Loyalty in the workplace in the past was feudal in nature. It was about rites of passage, homage to the hierarchy, paying dues. The new kind of loyalty is the kind you negotiate for and buy. It's much more efficient in business terms.

"The ones who really keep moving are the ones who identify older, more experienced people who really seem older and wiser. And turn them into allies."
— Bruce Tulgan, Rainmaker Thinking Inc.

"People (of the baby boom generation) now say to me, 'I know a lot and I'm valuable.' I say to them, 'That's right and you'd better figure out how to market that. Quantify it and sell it.'"

Tulgan says the best hope of a boomer with a track record -- and a Gen-Xer or -Yer on the way up -- may be cooperation.

"The smartest workers among those brash young ambitious upstarts? The first thing they do," he says, "is look at the valuable people and make them allies. It's a key ingredient in the success of a super-fast-track young star. The ones who really keep moving are the ones who identify older, more experienced people who really seem older and wiser. And turn them into allies."

The learning goes both ways, in Tulgan's scenario of this generational buddy system: "The more experienced ones can then turn to the younger ones and ask, 'Where did you get the nerve to go into the boss' office and say that?'"


X, Y and xenophobia

"We've been interviewing people in the workplace for seven years now," Tulgan says of his Rainmaker Thinking outfit. "That's more than 10,000 interviews."

A lot of what's been learned over the years has gone into his series of books aimed at characterizing and clarifying what distinguishes one generation of workers from another -- and what can make one group of workers see another as "the other," the invader, the interloper, the enemy.

Tulgan is the author of "Managing Generation X" (W.W. Norton, 1995), "Work This Way" (Hyperion, 1998) and "Winning the Talent Wars," scheduled for a January 2001 release from W.W. Norton. He's based in New Haven, Connecticut, and holds a political science degree from Amherst and a law degree from New York University's School of Law. Before founding Rainmaker, he practiced law in New York with the firm of Carter, Ledyard & Milburn.

Bruce Tulgan's Rainmaker Thinking has put together a list of selected management practices deployed by Gen-Xers.
Have a look at how the other half runs things.

In Generation Y, Tulgan says, "we're seeing the same trends as in Gen X, but they're accelerating. The Gen Y group has a more positive outlook. Eighty percent of them say they'll be better off than their parents.

"I call them the 'self-esteem generation.' Their parents were working double-time in the '80s, the workaholic decade. Gen-Yers' familiarity with technology is incredible. They usurp intellectual authority with that.

"They're the most education-minded generation in history. They've never lived in the pre-lifetime-learning world. Gen Y has come into the world as natural lifetime learners.

"They're open, tolerant, and they carry with them a new wave of volunteerism.

"But however you look at it," he says, coming back to the common pool of younger employees that boomers can see as a threat, "both Gen X and Gen Y are shaped by the same forces: Accelerating tech and rampant globalization."

And amid those aggressive market forces, maybe the competitive spirit of the new careerist doesn't always stop at one's work strategy. This particular Gen-Xer, Tulgan, holds the rank of fourth degree black belt in Uechi Ryu Karate.

Back to today's main story on "kids in the conference room":
Oh, grow up!


Managing Generation X
April 20, 1999

Rainmaker Thinking Inc.

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