Say hello to the new “boomer” career woman

Valerie Watson-Brown, director of marketing agency The Lively Crew and food enterprise Fresh Pod, sa

Valerie Watson-Brown, director of marketing agency The Lively Crew and food enterprise Fresh Pod, said changes in pensions and women's ambitions means age matters less now. Picture: Submitted - Credit: Archant

Women in their 50s are driving ahead in their business careers with little view to 'winding down' as state pensions become ever more distant and ambition in this group is on the increase, a new study and regional commentators have said.

Heather McCraith, now general manager at Norfolk Country Cottages after working her way up from a pa

Heather McCraith, now general manager at Norfolk Country Cottages after working her way up from a part-time role after her children left. Picture: Submitted - Credit: Archant

With some women freer to pursue business interests after children, and increasingly seeking financial security as pensions decrease and mortgages grow, many are seeing their careers boom during their 50s and 60s, Norfolk business women have said.

The comments come as a new study by the Centre for Entrepreneurs has overturned assumptions that women enter business as a 'lifestyle' choice but are as ambitious if not more than their male counterparts in the UK.

This stance that age matters less, and ambition and a desire for financial independence matters more, has been echoed by women in business organisations or who are self-started entrepreneurs across Norfolk.

Valerie Watson-Brown, director of marketing agency The Lively Crew and food enterprise Enviropod, said changes in society and the state pension age expected to be 66 by 2020 have played a part in the rise of what has been dubbed the new 'boomer' woman.

'Not many of us can just expect to live off the state pension these days, and the government is making the age we get it later and later. Anyway, a lot of women took time out of their careers to look after children and don't have a good enough pension as a result,' said Ms Watson-Brown. 'The other change is many people are entering new relationships in their 50s, and are taking on mortgages which they can expect to be paying off until they're 80.'

Divorce has increased in the 50 and 60 age bracket over the last five years, with the figure tripling in the 60 age bracket at the last count in 2014 according to the Office of National Statistics, while it is decreasing in other age brackets.

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Yet a second mortgage to pay off and lower pension prospects are only part of the story when it comes to more women in business seeing greater promotions, entrepreneurial success and love for their jobs.

The Centre of Entrepreneurs survey showed that 92pc of women were very interested in growing their business, compared to 90pc of men, whilst 47pc of women were interested in starting up a new business soon, compared to only 18pc of men.

Yet women are more likely to rate their business as 'steady' or 'struggling' whilst men more often rate theirs as 'prospering', in groups with the same profit before tax - and where 20pc of successful businesswomen think their market knowledge is insufficient, only 9pc of successful businessmen do.

The authors of the report conclude that women are not less confident that men, but drive more for sustainable growth whilst men often favour fast growth, explaining a level of caution among many highly successful female entrepreneurs.

Norfolk freelance consultant Brenda Gostling said she was ready to take a risk and study further once she was no longer responsible for children and was in the financial position to pursue her business interests.

'I'd done all the family stuff, and financially we were secure, so there was room for a little risk,' said Mrs Gostling, who completed a degree in Business Computing. 'The fact is that now, in my fifties, I'm in my prime. There's no question of me scaling things down over the next few years - I'm enjoying the satisfaction that success brings.'

And she is not alone in Norfolk - out of 195,900 economically active women, a significant 23,400 women overall are self-employed. Fewer women than men are also unemployed in the region.

This bracket of successful older women has been dubbed the 'boomer woman' among national commentators, and includes those who take a long career break for children only to climb rapidly in an organisation once in work.

Also citing her passion for business, Heather McCraith, now general manager of Norfolk Country Cottages, worked her way up from a part-time book keeping role to manage its 20 staff and a turnover of £5m.

Her managing director, Richard Ellis, said: 'With the family having flown the nest, Heather's ambition was unrestricted and when the general manager role came up it was a natural progression. Age is totally irrelevant, as long as the interest, energy and commitment continue - which Heather has in spades.'

Do you have a business story? Contact Jess Staufenberg on 01603772531 or email