Posted on 04 June 2008
By Mark Miller
[amazon-product]0743299485[/amazon-product]Millions of women were inspired by Betty Friedan and other feminist leaders to launch careers outside the home. They became the first generation of successful career women, identifying themselves as much through work as they did through family, friends or other activities.
Today these women are in their mid-60s or early 70s, and they’re retiring. Many of them are again asking themselves Friedan’s famous question-but with a new perspective.
For Helen Dennis, it’s a fascinating question. An expert on aging, employment and retirement, she’s the co-author-with marriage and family therapist Bernice Bratter-of Project Renewment: The First Retirement Model for Career Women (Scribner, 2008). The book explores the identity struggle career women face as they move into a new phase of life, based in part on the dialogue of Project Renewment support groups the authors have helped start in Southern California.
“This is a generation of women asking the hard questions,” Dennis says. “After fitting into an established role, they are now finding there is no role model for where they want to go next. This is the first time in history that so many career women have faced a future that they haven’t quite figured out.”
Dennis and Brattner wrote their book for the “Silent Generation”-women who were the first large group to enter the workforce-and for the 40 million Baby Boomer women coming along toward retirement right behind them. Dennis is the first to admit that men also struggle to redefine themselves after leaving their primary careers behind, but she believes the issues women face are unique and need to addressed-urgently.