Where have all the older women gone?


Have you noticed the dearth of women older than a certain age in companies? We third-agers resent our invisibility at the best of times but usually we mean ‘overlooked’ and not missing in action. As I have reached mature age (deemed 45 plus by our government), I have started to look for other mature age women to comfort myself that we still have currency, but I am not feeling reassured. Always one to turn to research for validation of what I have long suspected, I encountered a plethora of material that tells me that all is not well for women of a certain age.

The ABS bears this out with some shattering statistics:

  • We earn two thirds of what men the same age earn.
  • We are underemployed, underutilised and undervalued.
  • Half of us are more likely to be working part time and 18 per cent would love to work extra hours.
  • There are more of us working casually than men, with fewer leave entitlements.
  • The dollar value of our superannuation when we retire is usually in the low 50s while the average man’s is in the mid-90s. This is looking good for neither gender and it’s certainly not enough to retire on.
  • On average we retire around 50 years of age, men about eight years later. We also live longer.
  • There are more discouraged female job seekers out of work than males.

What is being done to reverse this deplorable situation? For older working women there is some hope. The federal government’s Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) is trying to counteract the effects of an ageing and retiring workforce by introducing the Corporate Champions program.

Administered through a selection of preferred providers, the program offers a funding incentive to help organisations retain, engage and retrain mature age workers. There is, of course, a serious skills shortage and a war on talent that will only worsen. Our GDP is also at risk as productivity lessens. There will be an increase in taxes caused by greater health costs and the burden will fall on the remaining and smaller percentage of workers.

There are a host of other reasons why organisations benefit from keeping their third- agers working. Research has shown we are more loyal, we don’t take time off unless we have to, we don’t get sick more often and we are not technology averse. Further studies have shown that those in their mid-60s are also highly productive and motivated.

Irreplaceable knowledge

Generally speaking it will be those who are deemed to be irreplaceable as their knowledge and skills are seen to be intrinsically linked to a healthy bottom line. Those with specialised skills will also be retained, especially if there is no successor waiting in the wings. Some employers may opt to retrain their mature age employees in other skills or move them to a more customer-centric area because of their knowledge.

The upshot of this is we who are older have two strikes against us. One is that we are the age we are and invisible, and two is that we are women. However, the time is surely coming where the state of the nation will dictate that it desperately needs the productivity, expertise and accrued insights of older women and I, for one, can hardly wait. Pragmatism will prove to be our best advocate and maybe then we can name our terms.

In celebration of International Women’s Day 2015 AHRI is running events in both Sydney and Melbourne on the topic of gender in the workplace. Find out more. 

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Deborrah Baker
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Deborrah Baker

This is very depressing, almost as depressing as it was after being made redundant at age 57 and looking for my next role. Employment agencies don’t want to know about older women, neither do young interviewers. After 18 months I landed a role, but I wouldn’t want to find myself in the job market again, I must have attended hundreds of interviews over that period. I have over 20 years of experience that seems to count for very little in today’s world. Let’s hope things change, we can only remain optimistic.

Josie McLean
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Josie McLean

Thanks for your article. Not surprising, but some older women have decided to work for themselves. I am one of them. At the tender age of 40, after spending some time home rasing young children, I decided I wanted to go back into the workforce but was told directly by a recruitment agency that I was ‘too old and too female’. This was 17 years ago now, and we might hope that such a message would not be conveyed today…? However, it propelled me into my own business for which I am forever grateful. I live and work on my… Read more »

Anonymous
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Anonymous

It’s ingrained in Australian culture and until this is changed, nothing will happen. It is appalling and needs action.

Gerardine Rudolphy
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Gerardine Rudolphy

I hear you sister! Having experienced an interesting restructure a couple of years ago, your article made me stop and think. I would add that some also face the dreaded 3rd strike – location. Until someone finds the magic wand, dogged determination, persistence and optimism are the only way to go; along with some sisterly love and comradeship. That said, I know a number of men of similar ages who find themselves in the same situation. Whilst there is a gender specific aspect to this, age is a shared issue here. As an aside, is anyone else concerned that the… Read more »

Tracey
Guest
Tracey

Really interesting topic and sadly, a little depressing. We (as women) really need to support one another to drive a solution and/or alternative to this unfair paradigm.

More on HRM

Where have all the older women gone?


Have you noticed the dearth of women older than a certain age in companies? We third-agers resent our invisibility at the best of times but usually we mean ‘overlooked’ and not missing in action. As I have reached mature age (deemed 45 plus by our government), I have started to look for other mature age women to comfort myself that we still have currency, but I am not feeling reassured. Always one to turn to research for validation of what I have long suspected, I encountered a plethora of material that tells me that all is not well for women of a certain age.

The ABS bears this out with some shattering statistics:

  • We earn two thirds of what men the same age earn.
  • We are underemployed, underutilised and undervalued.
  • Half of us are more likely to be working part time and 18 per cent would love to work extra hours.
  • There are more of us working casually than men, with fewer leave entitlements.
  • The dollar value of our superannuation when we retire is usually in the low 50s while the average man’s is in the mid-90s. This is looking good for neither gender and it’s certainly not enough to retire on.
  • On average we retire around 50 years of age, men about eight years later. We also live longer.
  • There are more discouraged female job seekers out of work than males.

What is being done to reverse this deplorable situation? For older working women there is some hope. The federal government’s Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) is trying to counteract the effects of an ageing and retiring workforce by introducing the Corporate Champions program.

Administered through a selection of preferred providers, the program offers a funding incentive to help organisations retain, engage and retrain mature age workers. There is, of course, a serious skills shortage and a war on talent that will only worsen. Our GDP is also at risk as productivity lessens. There will be an increase in taxes caused by greater health costs and the burden will fall on the remaining and smaller percentage of workers.

There are a host of other reasons why organisations benefit from keeping their third- agers working. Research has shown we are more loyal, we don’t take time off unless we have to, we don’t get sick more often and we are not technology averse. Further studies have shown that those in their mid-60s are also highly productive and motivated.

Irreplaceable knowledge

Generally speaking it will be those who are deemed to be irreplaceable as their knowledge and skills are seen to be intrinsically linked to a healthy bottom line. Those with specialised skills will also be retained, especially if there is no successor waiting in the wings. Some employers may opt to retrain their mature age employees in other skills or move them to a more customer-centric area because of their knowledge.

The upshot of this is we who are older have two strikes against us. One is that we are the age we are and invisible, and two is that we are women. However, the time is surely coming where the state of the nation will dictate that it desperately needs the productivity, expertise and accrued insights of older women and I, for one, can hardly wait. Pragmatism will prove to be our best advocate and maybe then we can name our terms.

In celebration of International Women’s Day 2015 AHRI is running events in both Sydney and Melbourne on the topic of gender in the workplace. Find out more. 

11
Leave a reply

avatar
100000
  Subscribe to receive comments  
Notify me of
Deborrah Baker
Guest
Deborrah Baker

This is very depressing, almost as depressing as it was after being made redundant at age 57 and looking for my next role. Employment agencies don’t want to know about older women, neither do young interviewers. After 18 months I landed a role, but I wouldn’t want to find myself in the job market again, I must have attended hundreds of interviews over that period. I have over 20 years of experience that seems to count for very little in today’s world. Let’s hope things change, we can only remain optimistic.

Josie McLean
Guest
Josie McLean

Thanks for your article. Not surprising, but some older women have decided to work for themselves. I am one of them. At the tender age of 40, after spending some time home rasing young children, I decided I wanted to go back into the workforce but was told directly by a recruitment agency that I was ‘too old and too female’. This was 17 years ago now, and we might hope that such a message would not be conveyed today…? However, it propelled me into my own business for which I am forever grateful. I live and work on my… Read more »

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

It’s ingrained in Australian culture and until this is changed, nothing will happen. It is appalling and needs action.

Gerardine Rudolphy
Guest
Gerardine Rudolphy

I hear you sister! Having experienced an interesting restructure a couple of years ago, your article made me stop and think. I would add that some also face the dreaded 3rd strike – location. Until someone finds the magic wand, dogged determination, persistence and optimism are the only way to go; along with some sisterly love and comradeship. That said, I know a number of men of similar ages who find themselves in the same situation. Whilst there is a gender specific aspect to this, age is a shared issue here. As an aside, is anyone else concerned that the… Read more »

Tracey
Guest
Tracey

Really interesting topic and sadly, a little depressing. We (as women) really need to support one another to drive a solution and/or alternative to this unfair paradigm.

More on HRM