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.
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.