She Persists


(By Deborah Parenti) Every generation hears stories from its elders about walking to school both ways, uphill, and through the snow. And we have all collectively rolled our eyes, thinking, “Here we go again!”

As a “seasoned” industry professional, I try to shy away from sounding too often like one of those old-time storytellers. At least some of the time.

Reflecting on the past 25 years, however, when Radio Ink’s Most Influential Women in Radio list began, memories flooded my mental “inbox,” and two main thoughts occurred.

The generational shifts that have occurred over those times and even earlier began with the wave of professional women who were born during the Baby Boom years, followed by the second wave — dubbed Gen Xers. Finally, today’s rising professionals, Millennials, make up the third wave.

It’s interesting to consider the differences in how each generation has faced somewhat unique, yet similar, challenges in their rise through the ranks.

Okay — you knew it was coming — the part about walking uphill, both ways. But as a “first-waver,” these challenges were personal, and those of a “certain age” will relate.

A familiar ad touts how purchasing can be “priceless” with a certain credit card. Fifty years ago, however, a woman didn’t have the right to hold a credit card in her own name. I know. I was denied a department store card although I was gainfully employed. The problem was that I was a woman — and single. 

Other bullet points shared by a baby boomer trying to climb the ladder:

  • “You’ll never make more than $150 a week in this business. Go get married!”
  • “I want to give you a raise, but I need to make sure it’s not more than my assistant makes.”
  • “Let us count the polka dots on your dress.” (Comment of one GM at a city association meeting.)

Sadly, one could have gotten a headache trying to crack that infamous glass ceiling, but those were the kind of challenges the Baby Boomer generation of women faced. They faced it with tenacity, even as every advancement and barrier-breaking move seemed to take either an act of Congress or standing up to humiliating and chauvinistic remarks as the only woman in a meeting. “Honey, can you go make copies of this report?”

There are more jaw-dropping stories, but let’s move to the “second wave,” a fiercely independent group, many of whom learned to be self-reliant as latchkey kids. They were also more likely to have women as mentors. Aware of the advances made by their older cohorts and the opportunities that still lay ahead, this feisty group of go-getters were determined to prove they could do it all. Ready to seize the day, but often sacrificing a personal life.

As such, Gen X women faced challenges similar to their predecessors, such as gender discrimination, unequal pay, and limited opportunities for advancement. However, they also contended with evolving workplace dynamics, including the rise of technology. Additionally, the pressure to juggle career aspirations with family responsibilities was likely exacerbated by the increased prevalence of dual-income households and changing societal expectations.

Which brings us to today. Millennials’ challenges blend elements from those faced by both Baby Boomers and Gen Xers. They still face issues like gender inequality and workplace discrimination. However, Millennials grapple with distinct issues, such as navigating the gig economy, managing crippling student loan debt, and seeking work/life balance in an era of constant connectivity. Their tendency to prioritize meaningful work and value-driven companies can shape their career decisions differently than previous generations. Overall, while some aspects are similar to those of older peers, Millennial women face a blend of traditional and contemporary challenges.

While today’s challenges extend to most workers, irrespective of gender, it’s usually a woman who leads the way in finding resolutions. Why? Because of her gift of “instinct” — whether it’s interpreting a child’s illness or solving an employee problem. And because she persists.

Deborah Parenti is Publisher of Radio Ink. Reach Deborah at [email protected]. Read her Radio Ink digital archives here or get her latest Publisher’s Beat each month with a digital or print subscription here.


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