Is 2020 finally the year of recognizing that women don't lose competence or sexiness the day they turn 50?
Ageism has long been the norm at work and in the media. Could that be changing?
Let's run through a quick highlight reel of women over 50 shaping their industries and just overall crushing life in the last few weeks:
- Elizabeth Warren, Senator and Democratic presidential candidate, 70, and Amy Klobuchar, fellow Senator and candidate, 59, both polling in the top six during a record-breaking year for female presidential candidates
- Renee Zellweger, actress, 50, and Laura Dern, actress, 53, won the two biggest awards given to actresses; they left the Oscars last weekend with Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress statutes, respectively
- Jennifer Lopez, performer, 50, co-headlined the Superbowl, absolutely crushing a demanding set and doing so in bejeweled Versace bodysuits, to boot
- Gayle King, journalist, 50, led a thoughtful interview that touched on Kobe Bryant's complicated legacy and started a conversation on misogyny in media when Snoop Dogg aggressively criticized her for it
- Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court Justice, 86, celebrated the first all-women class of editors-in-chief of the nation's top 16 law journals and said "there really is no better time for women to enter the legal profession."
And those are just some of the most visible accomplishments by women already in the public sphere. Women are also leading businesses (the latest Fortune 500 list has the most female CEOs ever, the large majority of whom are over 50), writing bestselling books, creating impactful art and social commentary, pursuing scientific discovery, inventing, teaching, and growing.
But for all of the success experienced by individual women, older women as a group continue to struggle against ageism.
"Ageism is everywhere, yet it is the most socially 'normalized' of any prejudice and is not widely countered like racism or sexism. These attitudes lead to the marginalization of older people within our communities and have negative impacts on their health and wellbeing," says the World Health Organization.
Some sobering statistics:
- Age discrimination is the focus of more than 20% of the cases that the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission brings to court
- A 2019 report found that 21% of US workers have experienced age discrimination
- And a different 2019 report found that 25% of women said age impacted their experience at work, while just 17% said gender did.\
- When looking at how age discrimination impacts hiring for different groups, the National Bureau of Economic Research found that older women fare the worst: their resumes get fewer callbacks than those of older men and both male and female younger job candidates. That's extremely problematic, seeing as how women make less money than men but live longer than men, making sustained employment especially vital.
Those statistics have big impacts on work and on health. At work, companies are missing out on having fully diverse teams, which have been proven to be more creative and better at problem-solving, and on applying experience garnered over a long career. And individuals' health suffers, too: the WHO found that people who think negatively about aging may have up to 7.5 years less in their life expectancy.
It's better for both companies and individuals to think positively about what the years bring. So why don't they?
Ageism has been so long enabled and allowed for two reasons: stereotyped thinking and lack of representation.
A workplace consultant on ageism explained the stereotypes for FastCompany. "Common myths are that their salary requirements are too high, that they're not willing to travel, or they're not good with technology. In some cases, conversations about career development and goals stop happening when the employees are in their 40s or early 50s." She went on to refute those stereotypes, explaining that each situation is unique. An example? An older worker might be even better equipped to take on travel or challenging projects than an employee with young children.
But as we continue with a historically low unemployment rate, companies will need to tap pools of candidates they've locked out in the past. And as they do that, they'll realize how off-base those older-worker stereotypes were in the first place.
When it comes to representation in media and pop culture, older women have been especially shut out. "Women vanish from the screen in central and powerful roles as they mature and do not occupy a significant role in narratives even in comparison to older men," found a 2012 study called "'Can't Have it All': Representations of Older Women in Popular Culture." The study continued: "Older women were less likely than older men to be presented as authority figures who are influential in the workplace, their sexuality was largely muted, and their bodies were displayed as objects of ridicule rather than objects of desire."
Amy Schumer even made a sketch about the older-actress-put-out-to-pasture phenomenon called "Last Fuckable Day."
But it feels like that might be changing.
Gracie and Frankie, an Emmy-winning sitcom featuring the real lives—from sex to business plans to relationships with adult children—of two older divorcees, played by Jane Fonda, 82, and Lily Tomlin, 80, has made history as Netflix's longest-running original series.
In the last couple seasons of television, women over 50 have played anchoring roles in beloved shows like House of Cards, How to Get Away with Murder, Divorce, Empire, and Big Little Lies.
And as women creators continue to eke out their power in Hollywood and beyond, banding together to fight sexual harassment through #MeToo and starting their own production companies to fund projects that more realistically represent women, the road to a different, more inclusive future seems to be getting clearer.
It's not all sunshine and roses from here on out. Our model of success is still far too dependent around older women looking young and conventionally beautiful—"Mature female bodies are only interesting to media and popular culture insofar as they can be used as a visible proof of a deferred aging process," explains a 2018 paper on gendered portrayals of aging in pop culture—which continues to put undue pressure on women to use cosmetics, surgery, and styling to hide their age. But I'm hopeful that we're starting to see a change.
Women have never stopped being impactful when they hit 50. The world might finally be ready to notice.
Kiana Labuhn, Recruiter at S&P Global, shares an exclusive take on the most important tips to keep in mind when preparing for an interview.
How Bumble’s Director of Engineering Learned to Be Herself at Work—and Encourages Team Members to Do the Same
Rose Hitchcock found out she was pregnant with her third child halfway through the process of interviewing to be Director of Engineering at Bumble.
She told the team at the social media and dating app and that didn't change their plans to hire her. "They were completely fine with it, really supportive," says Rose.
You've met some of them—maybe they're your family, friends, classmates, or coworkers, or perhaps you identify as neurodivergent yourself.
Sharing inclusivity, not stereotypes, at Raytheon Technologies<p><br></p><p>"Raytheon Technologies and our Raytheon Alliance for Diverse Abilities (RADA) Employee Resource Group (ERG) is committed to trying to bring focus on invisible disabilities, as they are among the most misunderstood. Autism/neurodiversity isn't a mental illness and we recognize how important it is to bring awareness, be inclusive of everyone and avoid stereotypes. During Autism Awareness Month RADA is featuring a multi-regional presentation about Autism Awareness & Acceptance, as well as neurodiversity overall. The presentation is focused on educational information, including what Autistic people want in terms of inclusion and meaningful work, as well as dispelling common misconceptions."</p><p><em>Learn more about </em><a href="https://powertofly.com/companies/raytheon-technologies" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Raytheon Technologies</em></a>.</p>
Hiring a world-class workforce at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency<p>"The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency recently launched the Neurodiverse Federal Workforce (NFW) pilot program, a collaborative effort between NGA, MITRE, and Melwood. The NFW pilot aims to help government agencies hire neurodiverse talent for U.S. Federal Government agencies. 'NGA mission success is contingent on a world-class workforce with a wide diversity of opinions and expertise,' said NGA Deputy Director Dr. Stacey Dixon. 'Neurodiverse talent can bring new perspectives to the NGA workforce and make important contributions to the mission.' The pilot is a great learning opportunity for NGA to continue to grow and improve our first-class workforce."</p><p>Learn more from the podcast "<a href="https://www.podcastone.com/episode/The-National-Geospatial-Intelligence-Agency-takes-workforce-diversity-in-a-new-direction" target="_blank">The National Geospatial Intelligence Agency Takes Workforce Diversity In A New Direction</a>"</p><p><em>Learn more about the </em><a href="https://powertofly.com/companies/national-geospatial-intelligence-agency" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency</em></a><em>.</em></p>
Supporting each individual's preferred environment at Elastic<p>"We distribute anonymous surveys that allow anyone, including neurodiverse folks, to address potential barriers that we should address.</p><p>Our accessibility working group acts as an employee resource as well as an equity-seeking team that works to create and develop a disability inclusive workplace at Elastic.</p><p>The majority of our Elasticians work from home. Our hope is that this empowers neurodiverse employees, including those who may be on the spectrum, to have more control over their environment so that they can manage noise and light sensitivity, control their personal space, and manage their own schedule to reduce anxiety."</p><p><em>Learn more about </em><a href="https://powertofly.com/companies/elastic" target="_blank"><em>Elastic</em></a><em>.</em></p>
Pioneering neurodiversity at Freddie Mac<p>"Freddie Mac values the insights and different perspectives that result from employees bringing their authentic selves to work. Our Office of Inclusive Engagement works with several organizations to identify qualified candidates, consider them for suitable roles and pair them with mentors who can help them adapt to an evolving new normal. In 2020, we evolved our neurodiversity internship initiative into a more robust training, education and hiring process called 'Neurodiversity at Work' to directly place candidates with Autism Spectrum Disorders into full-time roles."</p><p><em>Learn more about </em><a href="https://powertofly.com/companies/freddie-mac" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Freddie Mac</em></a><em>.</em></p>
Decoding inclusion at MongoDB<img class="rm-lazyloadable-image rm-shortcode" lazy-loadable="true" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTk0NzE2OC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMDY3MTY2MH0.Q-ko6g65MC-epHBrx_vr6k9v-lSawHH5jfhPWOVTozI/img.png?width=980" id="a4487" width="1112" height="626" data-rm-shortcode-id="a686a88d639ff3a91a5a4f6b455ce0cc" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" /><p>"MongoDB supports the neurodivergent community through interview accommodations, providing new hires the opportunity to select equipment and denote special requests, and onboarding checklists broken down into useful sections. To raise awareness about neurodiversity in the workplace, we have a learning and development (L&D) platform which has content on collaborating with different working styles. Our L&D Program focuses on building skills in managing teams inclusively. We also host Decoding Inclusion, a series of events aimed at building community and sharing foundational knowledge about D&I topics, including neurodiversity, to further our understanding of differences."</p><p><a href="https://www.mongodb.com/blog/post/why-now-cool-time-different-steph-johnson" target="_blank">Read more about how MongoDB celebrates difference in this interview with their VP of Corporate Comms</a></p><p><em>Learn more about </em><a href="https://powertofly.com/companies/mongodb" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>MongoDB</em></a><em>.</em></p>
Encouraging allyship at Folsom Labs<p>"At Folsom Labs, we are passionate about building a culture of acceptance and inclusion. Our goal is not just to spread autism awareness but to strive to be allies and elevate the voices of those with disabilities. Now more than ever, this is important as many are facing the added weight of mental health and wellness challenges due to the pandemic. Encouraging allyship throughout the community and building a culture where everyone can thrive are at the forefront of our current initiatives. We are proud to celebrate Autism Acceptance Month — to set a stage where we can celebrate our differences and continue to create a space of inclusion and support."</p><p><em>Learn more about </em><a href="https://powertofly.com/companies/folsom-labs" target="_blank"><em>Folsom Labs</em></a><em>.</em></p><em><br></em>
Recruiting for diverse problem solvers at Dell Technologies<video controls id="7ebf6" width="100%" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="d5c114fad218a953432630dfe99716b2" expand="1" feedbacks="true" mime_type="video/mp4" shortcode_id="1617842842194" site_id="17377755" url="https://roar-assets-auto.rbl.ms/runner%2F23124-Neurodiversity_Shortform_0325.mp4" videoControls="true"> <source src="https://roar-assets-auto.rbl.ms/runner%2F23124-Neurodiversity_Shortform_0325.mp4" type="video/mp4"> Your browser does not support the video tag. </video><p>"Dell's Neurodiversity Hiring Program provides professional development training, internships, and full-time career opportunities for neurodivergent job seekers. The program rethinks the traditional interview process by removing barriers that may limit an individual from fully showcasing their skills and capabilities. Additionally, program participants benefit from job coaching and mentorship provided by our community partners and True Ability ERG members.</p><p>A variety of critical positions across the company have been filled through the program. In doing so, we are bringing in diverse perspectives for problem solving that have helped us differentiate ourselves within the marketplace all while cultivating a culture of inclusion."</p><p><br></p><p><em>Learn more about </em><a href="https://powertofly.com/companies/dell-technologies" target="_blank"><em>Dell</em></a><em>.</em></p>
Supporting professionals with autism throughout their talent journey at Deloitte<p>"At Deloitte, everyone contributes to our diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. Our inclusive culture, empowers all of us, including those with diverse abilities, to connect, belong, and grow. Deloitte's Autism@Work program supports our professionals with autism throughout their talent journey. A customized, autism-friendly assessment process helps draw out our candidates' strengths. Our employees have an internal Coach, an Onboarding Advisor, and access to external job coaching. Our Onboarding Mentor/Buddy Program pairs professionals with autism with other Deloitte colleagues/allies. Through Neurodiversity Training, our professionals can help support and manage our differently-abled professionals. We also have our Abilities First Business Resource Group for people with disabilities plus allies."</p><p><em>Learn more about </em><a href="https://powertofly.com/companies/deloitte1" target="_blank"><em>Deloitte</em></a><em>.</em></p>
Sharing stories to support awareness at Lockheed Martin<p>"Lockheed Martin shares employee stories internally to help others understand Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and hosts internal events to support ASD awareness and education. The Able & Allies business resource group, whose mission is to build an environment that empowers employees with disabilities, has recently partnered with ASD advocacy organizations to offer resources to assist with managing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic with persons who have ASD and their families. Missiles and Fire Control (MFC) is a member of the Florida Ability Inclusion Network and strives to educate employees and leaders on disabilities and recommend best practices to promote a disability-friendly workplace."</p><p><em>Learn more about </em><a href="https://powertofly.com/companies/lockheed-martin" target="_blank"><em>Lockheed Martin</em></a><em>.</em></p>
Kate Jhaveri does one thing every day that she suggests you try: belly laughs.
The EVP and Chief Marketing Officer at the NBA credits her two kids with much of that levity—"They're very silly and they, at least once a day, make me laugh out loud," she says—though she seeks to make those lighter connections with her team at work, too.