Tuesday, Aug. 26 marked the 43rd annual Women’s Equality Day, celebrating the anniversary of the passing of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920, as well as the achievements and continued work of women in the nation for equal rights since then.
Women’s Equality Day was originally introduced in 1971 by U.S. Representative Bella Abzug of New York, asking the president to declare August 26 of each year as Women’s Equality Day in honor of the right to vote and the continuing struggles for equal rights in workplaces and communities across the country.
“From classrooms to boardrooms, in cities and towns across America, and in the ranks of our Armed Forces, women are succeeding like never before,” this year’s proclamation by President Barack Obama reads. “Their contributions are growing our economy and advancing our Nation. But despite these gains, the dreams of too many mothers and daughters continue to be deferred and denied. There is still more work to do and more doors of opportunity to open.”
Navy personnel in the capital commemorated the occasion with a presentation on generational diversity for both men and women in the workplace, featuring Gabrielle Jackson, president and founder of the consulting group Millenial Solution, who spoke on how four generations of personnel in the workplace can work together more effectively.
“The passing of the 19th Amendment was the culmination of decades of hard work, overcoming many obstacles by women suffragists and other activist organizations,” said Bill Deligne, executive director of Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), whose organization co-hosted the event, during the opening remarks. “Their efforts date back to the first women’s rights convention held in 1848 at Seneca Falls, New York.”
Deligne hailed the work done by women at NAVSEA, including paying respect to three who were killed during the Navy Yard shooting tragedy last year.
“Sylvia Frasier, Kathy Gaarde, and Mary Knight were lost on 16 September, 2013. We remember their service, their dedication, and the tremendous example they set for all women,” Deligne said.
Jackson’s presentation discussed overarching traits and breaking stereotypes of four different currently working generations—the “Traditionalists” born between 1925-1945, “Baby boomers” from 1946-1964, the “Generation X-ers” from the late 1960s and 1970s, and the new “Millenial” workers born between 1980-2000—and specifically how organizations can best connect with the new crop of millennial workers.
Jackson said Women’s Equality Day marked a great opportunity to talk about diversity in general, which she called a huge priority for her own millennial generation not only with gender diversity, but racial and background diversity as well.
“As a woman and as a small business owner who has come from a long line of female small business owners, I think that it is something that is very empowering, but also very humbling as well to realize that each of us is here because of the investments and victories of women who have gone before us,” she said of Women’s Equality Day.
Jackson sought to bridge what she calls a “generational gap” in workplaces, where younger employees do not always mesh well with the styles of older generations entrenched in the business hierarchy, by discussing and breaking down stereotypes of millenials. The key stereotypes to break, she told the audience, are that millenials are all independent, unmotivated, disloyal, entitled technology addicts who do not fit into the work structure.
Each generation brings with them different ideas of what ‘work’ is, and their own communication styles, relationships to technology, relationships authority and feedback styles, she said, adding that each generation stands on the shoulders of the previous generations to learn and grow.
“To be able to come here and talk about my work with millenials, I think, is just a sign of respect and even homage to the women who have gone before me,” she said.