Many women have a love-hate relationship with Gweneth Paltrow. You may have loved her in “Shakespeare in Love” but hate her mommy advice that seems targeted to those of means more than middle class moms.
Personal feelings aside though, she's reflective of new generations of women who are unlike the World War II or Baby Boomer generations. Gen X and Gen Y (a.k.a. Millennials) women want the best of both worlds. We are entrepreneurial and like to juggle careers with family in a way that our predecessors didn’t.
Paltrow, who at 42 isn’t a Millennial herself but is certainly a trailblazer for us, is back in the news again as CNBC reports for investing in the nation's largest chain of blow-dry bars, Blo:
She's not just an investor; she's involved in shaping the look of the salons and the services they offer. "I think my strengths are in anything aesthetic so the look of the salons, trends, social media," said Paltrow.
In addition to her partnerships in Blo and Tracy Anderson, she also runs lifestyle site Goop. Paltrow dismissed comparisons to Martha Stewart: "I don't think of ourselves like that…. Goop is a very modern lifestyle brand, and it's not eponymous and a collective of women." …
As for Stewart's criticisms of Paltrow's endeavor (Stewart has said publicly "If she were confident in her acting, she wouldn't be trying to be Martha Stewart), the actress thinks they're a good thing.
"I'm incredibly flattered, I mean it's amazing. We're a very nascent biz, and it's amazing that she would regard us competition," Paltrow said.
While Paltrow juggles her various ventures, she said she plans to continue to act in a movie each year. "In this chapter I'm very interested in the entrepreneurial side of me and raising my kids," Paltrow says. "I do try to act when I can, and I really love it and hopefully it's not an either/or situation."
Martha Stewart’s comments are indicative of a generation that compartmentalized careers. But, why can’t you act and build businesses simultaneously? Questions about “having it all” aside, our generation is anecdotally more obsessed with start-ups, being entrepreneurs, and creating our own paths. We are also more willing to mix work, life and personal endeavors than previous generations. If anything our mothers and mentors should be proud and not telling us to stay in one lane.
A challenge for traditional feminists is that they don't know what to do to win a generation that behaves like this and furthermore a generation that no longer thinks feminism's militancy is necessary or productive. We like men and hate the negativity toward the male species. We also are more concerned about making progress based on merit rather than artificial bumps. All the while, we want to choose to have families even if it means leaving the job market or starting our own enterprises while we do it. Traditional feminists have yet to celebrate that spirit. For them, advancement is about breaking glass ceilings instead of creating our own buildings.
Back on 2012 Paltrow gave an interview Harper’s Bazaar in which she reasoned that “compromise” and “being a wife” would be poo-poo’d by feminist activists. In describing her advice to a friend on work-life balance she noted “She is an actress and in a new relationship with someone else with a big career, and I said this may not be feminist, but you have to compromise. It’s been all about you and you’re a big deal. And if you want what you’re saying you want —a family—you have to be a wife, and that is part of the equation. Gloria Steinem may string me up by my toes, but all I can do is my best, and I can do only what worlds for me and my family.”