By Liz Newbury, NOW Web Coordinator
I have lived in a happy little bubble most of my life, but I am not an exception by any means. My story, if not word for word, is the story of many women in Generation Y.
I went through public school, did well, and went to a good university, and did better. Then I tried to enter the workforce during a pretty extreme economic recession. It’s never easy graduating from college, but wave after wave of rejections is like being hit with a truck repeatedly. To add to the ego burn, I moved back in with my parents, and for months tried to find a job that had anything to do with my career interests with no success.
Failing that, my peers suggested I try to find a nice “pink collar” job, something that is always hiring, like being a nanny or caregiver. Following this advice, I finally managed to get hired as a substitute teacher, but the pickings for substitute teaching jobs were slim. My luck turned around a bit as I was finally accepted for an unpaid internship, and then to make the fairy tale come true, I managed to find employment at NOW.
I consider myself lucky, because I have a job — and that’s what people in my generation are telling themselves. My peers are clinging to entry level jobs like there’s no tomorrow (because for some people, there is), afraid to make any demands on their workplace for fear of losing the small bit of shelter they have in this economic recession. My generation is going to be the generation that got set back.
And I fear that even once the economy goes back up, it’s not going to be easy for us. On the downside, we’re more than likely to suffer from some sort of post-traumatic stress disorder our entire lives, a fear of losing our jobs and companies going under, a fear of being the squeaky wheel and turning into the wheel that got laid off.
But maybe we can take this as a learning opportunity, a chance to rebuild the employment market in a way that makes sense for women. Once the economy goes back up and things get sorted out, there will be more opportunities in the job market. When that happens, will we be ready to demand more of our employers? Will we demand flexibility in the workforce — flexibility in hours, flexibility in leave, or just overall flexibility? Will we be able to demand maternity and paternity leave that makes sense? Will women garner more respect, more equality?
I don’t think we can wait to see if there is a brighter tomorrow. We need to lay the foundation now. We need to say that this is the reality — that we want work to make sense for those who are employed. That we want work and family dynamics to make sense for women.