I often talk about “negating stereotypes”…..even devoted a category on my web site to it. Recently, I realized there are just as much stereotyping with Gen Y as there are with women and multiculturalism. There are obvious dangers with stereotyping millions and billions of people in to a few headlines. The opportunity here is to take research directionally, instead of replacing our insights—meaningful insights that only happen through relating, understanding and experiencing “people.”
Gen Y is often referred to as the lost generation battered by economy. One of the great articles, America’s screwed generation, shared great, shocking stats …. but just as the title suggests, painted a dark picture. Yes, the wealth gap between younger and older Americans is now the widest on the record. According to US Census, median net worth of young people under 35 fell 35% from 2005-2010, versus 13% for adults over 65. The older generation not only benefited from good economic timing, but they also are not retiring as early. Entry level positions are filled with experienced talent pool, making unemployment rates among Gen Y 50% above national average. Then there is their debt—from student loans to credit cards. Many stay in school just so they are not forced to start paying their student loans without a good job—or any job—so they incur more debt. It’s a doom loop, you see?
Inevitably, Gen Y has delayed adulthood in many milestones. According to a Pew study, one third have put off marriage and kids and a quarter moved back with their parents. There are other personal and cultural factors at play with this delay in adulthood (see my blog do you really know 20-somethings), but regardless, this can have major demographic implications in the decades to come. Twentysomething Inc report that 85% of new grads move back with parents to save on living costs while they job hunt. And when they are finally ready to move out, the prospects of “owning” a home is out of reach for so many. But home ownership, starting a family and other traditional milestones for adulthood are not life’s starting points for Gen Y.
Sure, no generation has suffered more from the recession than Gen Y. This has led into assumptions that are now backed by research data. But the world economy has been tough for a while now. Many members of Gen Y haven’t personally experienced the economic boom most of us have, or bitter about pay cuts, downsizing or outsourcing. They are experiencing the new normal in The New World Marketplace.
I see more positive signs amid all these negative statistics. I wonder how much of our own economic fears we project on to this generation. This is the unafraid, optimistic, tech savvy, educated, resourceful, and diverse generation who will know what works and what doesn’t…. greatly decreasing the collective learning curve. Culturally liberal, one third were raised by a single mother … so gender roles are blurred and multiculturalism is the norm. Gen Y men prove to be hopeless romantics .… young women earn more than men in big US cities ….. young women now top young men in valuing a high-paying career….these are just a few research examples of negative stereotypes when it comes to Gen Y.
Financial success, beyond necessities, is just one part of happiness….probably a small part. They are committed to find “meaningful” work and pay out student loans versus getting rich. Unlike previous generations, there is no shame in getting help from parents, but a luxury worth bragging about. Parental support, technology and rise of entrepreneurism provide this generation the freedom to pursue their hearts’ desires. And they will.
Despite all the labels and stereotypes (including my own), majority of work force will be filled by Gen Y by 2025—so, the current sluggish job market and steep student loans will not hold them back. It’s just the timing. More importantly, it will be about when, where and how work gets done that will bring forth the big cultural change. And the new values and ideological power of Gen Y will shape our future work force.
I saw the movie Snow White & the Huntsman last week and was intrigued by the twist to this fairy tale. This Snow White didn’t just lie down waiting to be kissed and saved. She got trained in the art of war by the Huntsman and led an army of her fellow men in a quest to vanquish the Evil Queen. These archetypal changes for the roles of women is nothing new in movies and our pop culture. Remember Princess Leia standing up to Darth Vader in Star Wars, or Trinity fighting alongside Neo in The Matrix? And who can argue whether Angelina Jolie is the new James Bond or not?
The hero/ine is an archetype that is universal, but we are now recognizing that it is also gender neutral. Practically all new epic movies from Avatar to Harry Potter have female heroines as well as males heroes who physically go to war, fight injustice, and bring peace, harmony and happiness to the world. I find it interesting that different female archetypes throughout history were far more diverse and complicated than where we ended up in our current social model and branding messages. Even in the classical music world, we’ve seen classical trumpeters as stereotypically male. But women like Alison Balsom, who won the female artist of the year in Classic Brit Awards 2011, have trumped that stereotype as well.
I read an interesting article on New York Times, Boys Have Fallen Behind, about how American girls have achieved parity with boys in math but are well ahead in verbal skills and reading. The National Honor Society says that 64% of its outstanding members are girls. Some colleges even give special help to male applicants to avoid skewed sex ratios. How is that for a change? Among whites, women earn 57% of bachelor’s degrees and 62% of master’s degrees. Among blacks, the figures are 66% and 72%. One of my own continuous sound bites: for every two men graduating from college, three women graduate, and with better GPAs. This is real, and contrary to the popular belief that it may due to multicultural demographic growth in the US, it is a global concept.
The National Bureau of Economic Research outlines this beautifully in the article, Why Do Women Outnumber Men in College. In 2003, there were 1.35 females for every male who graduated from a four-year college. That contrasts with 1960, when there were 1.6 males for every female. This article suggests that the shift started in the 70s when women aimed to have careers rather than to follow in their mothers’ footsteps, and as a result the age of first marriage increased by 2.5 years. Factors include the availability of the contraceptive “pill”, the feminist movement, social acceptance of co-habitating without marriage and higher divorce rates. By 2009, the median age for the first marriage was delayed by 5 years (Do You Really Know 20-somethings). I believe it is a byproduct of cultural, social and economic forces.
And to top it all off….Sorry, Young Man, You’re Not the Most Important Demographic in Tech, either. It turns out that women are new lead adopters of the whole bundle of technology. The technology industry’s focus on men is just a reflection of women’s current underrepresentation at major venture capital firms and electronic/internet companies. And it is built on a plain wrong stereotype and a far cry from the reality of the new marketplace. To negate this stereotype further, this research shows that the majority of technology users are women in their 40s, 50s and 60s, not the 18-24 year olds. So who do you think you should ask about what the future looks like?
At a time when men are still hugely overrepresented in Congress, on executive boards, and in the corridors of power, do we think this will shift the future of our Corporate and Leadership culture? The Dark Side of Girls’ Success in School article in Huffington Post argues that it won’t unless girls shift the “good student” toolkit for greater risk taking and challenging the authority. This article attributes girls’ success in school to respect for an obedience of authority, careful rule-following, people-pleasing and succeeding in an externally imposed framework…qualities that will translate into their success at lower-mid-levels, but not as leaders and game changers. While there may be some truth in this perspective, I can shoot holes in it by women’s zest for entrepreneurship, which is all about risk taking…and decades of women’s movement which is all about challenging the authority and shrugging off criticism.
So when I’m asked on interviews whether we will ever achieve gender equality in leadership in my life time, I always say, yes, we will, and just by default of this cultural evolution currently in progress. Even the child care culture is evolving as men get more involved with this responsibility. And young families will end up with the spouse most qualified to earn higher pay taking on greater financial responsibility, regardless of gender. Again, a byproduct of cultural, social and economic forces.
Should we care whether boys are struggling in schools and underrepresented in colleges? Of course we should. The feminist movement, rise of women and the evolving cultures and archetypes were always about equality and partnership–to make the best use of human capital for economic success and to enhance our social models–but never about the shift in power, making one inferior to the other. Wouldn’t it be a better world if everyone focused on their own personal and unique strengths and passions, regardless of gender? I would argue that this will be the only way to increase productivity and prosperity , both at work and in personal lives.
We are about to redefine the culture of middle class in the US, and most people and companies are not aware. Some of us who are, ignore it or simply not happy about it. Just the word “multicultural” draws in polarized reactions. This is one of the three macro trends that I define as imperatives for business and social success in the future. And it is shaping the emerging middle class in America.
I remember the marketing days when Latinos were primarily segmented into the lower income category. But that is no longer the case, is it? According to a new Nielsen report published last month, Latino’s income growth during the past decade has significantly surpassed the nation’s average. Although 43% of Latino’s still earn below $35k/year (versus 35% total), 36% earn $35-75k (at par with 34% total) and growing at a higher rate. What may be even more surprising to most is that 10% earn $75-100k, which is a 31% growth since 2000…. and 11% over $100k per year, which is a dramatic 71% increase.
Over 52 million strong, or 1 in 6, Latino buying power of $1 trillion in 2010 will change to $1.5 trillion by 2015. You can expect Latino population and buying power to continue growing even with the decline in the immigration numbers.
Let’s put this into context… There are more Latinos in the US than Canadians in Canada, Malaysians in Malaysia, or South Africans in South Africa. Latinos in the US represent second-largest Latino nation, right after Mexico, and before Spain, Columbia and Argentina. If a standalone country, the buying power would be one of the top 20 economies in the world.
In my November blog, how to reach the fastest growing Asian market, I explained how the Asian market is over-indexing the US national average in just about every meaningful consumer category—specially in income, education and family size. With this recent study showing Latino income on the rise, we can safely say that the landscape of American middle class is rapidly changing into a multicultural mosaic. We are about to redefine the culture of middle class in America, which will in turn redefine every aspect of the pop culture, consumerism, politics, economy and business. Just think of how branding strategies will have to shift for retail, residential buying, food, education, financial services, transportation, entertainment and media.
American marketers have never relied on a broad-stroke depiction of White consumers. They should keep the same mindset when it comes to Latinos and other racial/ethnic groups. Stereotyping the Latinos or Asians in the US will not be any different than stereotyping Caucasians.
According to Census, among US children, Hispanics are already 1 in 4 of all newborns. Hispanics, Asians and multi-racial children accounted for all the US youth growth in the last decade. Think of how this will define the next generation of our country. The multi-racial children are clearly the result of inter-racial marriages. Marriage across racial and ethnic lines has doubled since 1980, with 41% of all intermarriages in 2008 between Hispanics and whites, 15% between Asians and Whites, 11% between blacks and whites, and 16% in which both parties are non-white.
Contrary to the popular belief on language barrier, Neilsen particularly notes that Latino consumers’ usage rates of smartphones, TV, online video and social networking/entertainment makes this group one of the most engaged in the digital space. During February 2012, Latinos increased their visits to social networks/blogs by 14% from a year ago. This is also true for all multicultural population as Gen Y is the most racially and ethnically diverse generation in American history. Unlike the ethnic groups in previous generations assimilating in the mainstream culture, the new and young multicultural populations take big pride in their ethnic and cultural backgrounds, and are considered acculturated.
This article is not intended to be an advertising campaign for Hispanic media and agencies. For me, it is critical to add that older, white males are just as much part of the multicultural societies as any other ethnic groups. I define Multiculturalism by a mosaic of different cultures in one platform, and a society that is ethnically and culturally diverse. That does not mean excluding Caucasians or implying ethnic minorities only.
So, how are you defining or stereotyping your multicultural initiatives?
Have you heard this, or seen this on t-shirts and bumper stickers? It’s true. I’m turning 50 this summer, so I’m inspired to write a blog about what this really means. People flatter me all the time by saying I don’t look my age. But I’m not the only one. Turning 50, for many, have made it possible to live an active, healthy, productive lifestyle. This is a game changer for many businesses that have been stuck with their 18-49 target planning. And here’s why….
In my 2012 trend predictions blog, I noted that with baby boomers staying younger and more fit, expect to see a higher % of ad dollars for them. There is more. Boomers 50+ have unique life stage milestones that provide them with the means to splurge more on bigger-ticket items—changing jobs, starting a new business (yes, thank you very much), children going off to college or getting married, adopting a healthier lifestyle, changing homes, developing new hobbies, discovering new habits, taking more trips, joining the digital/mobile way of living, enrolling in weight loss programs, becoming care givers to parents or even a spouse. This is more than just going through a mid-life crisis of ditching the spouse and buying a motorcycle/sports car, or jumping out of an airplane.
Maybe it’s just about forgetting to get and feel older. For women, in particular, it’s about saying good bye to invisibility and getting traded in for the younger. I think 35 to 60 is where it all comes together for women with elegant maturity, spiritual wisdom and a balanced outlook on inner and outer beauty.
This mid-life transition, once a very exhausting and confusing life stage, is now a midpoint to another adult life that can easily last 30 to 40 years more, thanks to medical science coupled with holistic herbal approach, greener/healthier forms and diet, active lifestyle, and living a more meaningful life in pursue of happiness beyond a paycheck and financial planning. These are rapid cultural shifts with a completely different set of needs and values. Our pop culture, from actresses and TV personalities to business leaders and writers, is already redefining 50.
Companies who understand the dynamics of this new milestone and negate existing stereotypes will be able to intelligently develop products and services that allow this new 50+ target maximize the upside of their lives, and will win in the New World Marketplace.
So to all friends: let’s celebrate the new 50 and start redefining our culture.
PS—My pre-release party and book signing event is scheduled for Wednesday, April 18th. Click here for the details.