‘Employers, dismiss the over-50s working woman at your peril’
- Credit: AP
The over-50 woman dreads the day she sinks without trace, forever invisible in a sea of shiny bright-skinned youth.
If feeling perpetually shrouded in the mist of old and past it isn't bad enough, the reality is even worse.
Employers, fixated on the magic of the elixir of youth turning all things gold, think they're pretty pointless too.
Why give a job to people winding down their working life – because that's what everyone over 50 does, right? – when perky young graduates are begging for a chance?
But if they have to give them a chance, they can get away with paying them less than their male peers because everyone else is. The pay gap between men and women is still, astonishingly, a stonking 18pc.
If a woman has had children, the price of motherhood is a salary a third lower than men for the first 12 years of a child's life, the Institute for Fiscal Studies revealed this week.
This gap cannot apply solely for mothers. Women without children are just as much victims of this unacceptable inequality endemic in businesses and organisations across the country.
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In 2016, when progress means you can switch your oven on 100 miles from home with your mobile phone and you can clearly see the face of your best friend on the other side of the world on your screen, attitudes to women in the work place still lurk in the 1960s.
It's beyond shocking that any employer and HR manager believes it is in any way acceptable to pay women less for the same job as a man. Naming and shaming could start the fightback.
But women are still putting up with lower pay, sometimes our own worst enemy, because tackling a boss about our worth is an uncomfortable conversation, which men seem to do with ease.
Women don't want to rock the boat or threaten their position if they do have a job at 55. So they carry on performing outstanding roles for 70pc of the salary their less effective male colleague takes home.
Inequality at its starkest.
As business savvy as employers like to think they are, to dismiss and undervalue what could be their most precious and productive resource verges on madness.
The over-50s women I know are raring to go, fuelled by a second wind of freedom from small children – and often marriages – with a single-minded drive to build a more successful career than they might have first time round before children.
Never underestimate the worth of the over-50s woman to a workforce.
Looking around, they are the most capable effective make-it-happeners I know.
Whether they have had children or not, worked full, part-time or not at all if they have, they are zinging with energy, ideas and a fire to do well.
Many have come out of marriages and relationships, their children grown up, and view building a career for the next 20 years with the same excitement and verve as a 21-year-old out of university
And what they bring with them is experience, a CV of problem-solving, teamwork and effective multi-tasking, an A* in bringing up their own responsible young citizens, guiding them on their way in the world while keeping 101 balls in the air at once, rarely dropping one.
These women I know are forces of nature any employer would be stupid to overlook – or have the gall to underpay.
But it happens everywhere. A woman speaking on BBC Radio 4 said she feared she her career in advertising in her 40s, an industry which viewed women out of their 30s as past it.
She looked around offices in her 30s and wondered where all the older women were. There were none, as she rapidly became the oldest woman, her days numbered in a career she loved.
The nonsense of our narrow-minded employers is so at odds with the world stage, where it is the age of the older woman.
If Hillary Clinton is elected President of the United States, she will be 69 when she is sworn in. Angela Merkel is 62 and Theresa May is 59.
At 81, Mary Berry is about to front TV's most watched series last year, the Great British Bake Off, actresses Judi Dench, Maggie Smith and Eileen Atkins are as still in demand as they ever were, seemingly even more.
The most inspiring, energetic and ambitious woman I worked with was 63. She had put her life and soul into her work after bringing up five children, and foster children, single-handedly, and now it was her time.
A formidable operator, work gave her identity and she accomplished it with style. She's still hard at it in her late 60s with no sign of easing up.
As divorce rates rise and we live longer, more older women will be wanting to stay at work long past an age that they might have imagined retiring 30-odd years ago.
Employers, dismiss them at your peril because they are the future.
Sharp competitors who see past a number and value their worth and pay them accordingly and equally, might just leave you and your 1960s views standing.
You have been warned.