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Don't ignore the brilliant resource of middle-aged women in the workforce

PUBLISHED: 20:13 23 October 2019 | UPDATED: 20:13 23 October 2019

Women in their 40s, 50s and even older are an essential part of the British workforce, says Rachel Moore, and shouldn't be 'put out to pasture'

Women in their 40s, 50s and even older are an essential part of the British workforce, says Rachel Moore, and shouldn't be 'put out to pasture'

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Rachel Moore says women need to stand up and be counted in the workforce, particularly in their 40s, 50s and older, for they represent strong characters with key skills

At what age is a woman written off? Asking for a friend.

A serious question though. When does a woman no longer count as worthy of being considered for employment and seen as being ready for being sent out to pasture?

A male contact recently told me, full of emotion, at his heartbreak watching his partner wither in confidence and relevance to the world as she struggled to move back into the workplace after bringing up children.

She's been out of the workplace for less than 10 years but, despite getting to interview stage after several applications, never gets the job.

I don't know the woman and, of course there could be other factors, but she has a CV of a string of high-powered jobs, managing big budgets and teams but chose, unwisely she feels now, to put her children first and career second.

There lies the mistake. A 'career break' is career suicide, but women don't find that out until they try to go back. Even dropping part-time (for women that usually means achieving full-time work in half the hours) is viewed as inferior.

Women might not be able to have it all but they have to be seen to be trying to have a sniff of a chance.

Woman 'returners' might present a more confident, mature, enthusiastic, experienced, focused passionate and organised self to a potential employer - but they face being turned down time and time again, left to feel old, past it and useless to any workforce.

What planet are these HR tick box mandarins on? Don't get me started on today's recruitment scoring 'methodology' - ignoring the blinking obvious too often that the person in front of us could do the job, is someone who would fit into the team, inspire people, be proactive.

But because she - or he - doesn't get the right scoring, say the right mantra, the team misses out to a great performer in interviews but hopeless worker in real life. We've all known them.

Women returners - in their 30s, 40s or 50s - are incredible assets to any team, used to juggling tasks, keeping a raft of information in their heads at all times and problem-solving. Bringing up children and 'staying at home', a hideous phrase, doesn't mean lobotomy - it just means different thinking.

I'm forever being left speechless by the resilience and ability of women in their 40s and 50s. Women who have reinvented themselves, survived divorce, lone parenting, caring for elderly parents, but are still sparky, energetic and effective. But they remain invisible to recruiters.

This brilliant huge resource is shrivelling with rejection.

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The best teams are made up of different - a wide range of ages, backgrounds and outlooks. In our team, our ages range from 21 to 72, with people in their 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s between.

The most inspirational female I worked with was 63. A stormtrooper of a woman who turned around a failing organisation by leading by example. A mother of five - and a foster carer - she had reinvented herself at 44 from an NHS manager to a teacher, who quickly used her previous skills to carve a place as a sector leader.

She left our organisation at 66 to retire, but a year later was sprinkling her magic on another organisation and succeeding.

She never took a career break. I often wonder what would have happened to her if she had tried to break back into work in her 50s. Would she have been filed under 'past it'?

This isn't the same for a man who takes a break from work. Men seem to appear more attractive if they've gone off and done something else and are snapped up. Same old. And if women do manage to get back, they struggle for equal pay.

Research out this week reveals an employment gap between mothers and fathers widens within three years of having children, even though only half of men initially earn more than their partner.

Their loss in work experience, in particular full-time work experience, explains the gender pay gap and shows women still suffer economically because they take on childcare responsibilities.

Please employers, be smart and tap into this wonderful resource. They will be a revelation.

If Harry and Meghan want to escape the British press for good, they need to emigrate.

They must pack up their family, move overseas and make their own way in the world away from the paparazzi, continuing to do the good they want us to know about but expect no attention for it.

They cannot have life all their own way. Disappearing out of the public eye, taking no income from the public purse.

Who could not be sympathetic to Harry losing his mother so young, but Diana played the media game and was known to tip newspapers off about her activities?

And it feels disingenuous for us to insist that Meghan, an American actress, dislikes media attention.

If they want to be invisible and in control, they must disappear and spread their magic helping real people in need for no public acclaim or credit, leaving future King William and his family to deal with the paps here, which they manage very well.

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