Do You Know the Truth About Ageism and Women?

July 27, 2016

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It seems that every time I turn around I’m hearing about another middle-aged woman losing her job because they are “Too Old.” This mindset was very prominent during the Recession of 2008. I had friends and neighbors who were virtually forced to retire because of the cost that it would take to keep them on. I even had friends who were just plain fired because here in South Carolina an Employer can fire you with or without cause provided there is no violation of law.

This left quite a few middle-aged women relinquishing their 401(k)’s just to keep the bills paid and food on the table. They were struggling and still are. They were left with no retirement funds to speak of and trying to find employment was a nightmare. Businesses only wanted to hire college graduates who required less pay, cheaper insurance benefits and were trainable. Middle-aged women with more experience, higher degrees, stellar work records weren’t even considered hireable. Why? Because they were over 50, required more benefits such as health insurance for their health issues and required more pay. Fast forward to 2016, eight years later and we are still seeing this same trend in the workplace.

There is certainly ageism in the workplace but it seems to affect women more than men. So, now we’re also speaking of sexism. Why is this happening?

I have a few ideas because the answer to that question is not straightforward but here I go anyway;

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  •  The Media comes to mind. They are quite powerful in portraying a woman over the age of 50 as being “elderly” showing stock photos of women who are well into their 70s with aged hands and walking sticks in their advertising and articles. They lead their readers, viewers and followers into thinking that this is what you look like when you’re 50. It feeds into the subliminal perception of old age. Here is a recent example of how the media thinks; I used to watch the daytime show Home and Family which is on the Hallmark Channel. I loved that show. I especially loved it because of one of it’s co-host’s Christina Ferrare. I felt that show was the epitome of what home and family should be like. Until one day when Christina was not present. The show saying she’s taking a break to be with her family. However, after three weeks of her absence she posted on her Facebook page that the show canned her. They wanted a younger co-host because they felt she was too old. She’s only 66 years old and still beautiful, classic and full of grace! This is what she posted about the separation on her Facebook Page:

Cristina Ferrare It was a business decision I was told that the network made. Pure and simple. When I asked why this decision was made I was told it was because I was old. They wanted to bring in a younger audience. There were three people in the room included someone from the network when this was said to me. I don’t think there was much of a plan as to how to go about announcing it. I’m a open book, if you are going to ask me a question you are going to get a straight answer from me. I wasn’t on vacation, I am not sick and it wasn’t negotiations over a contract. Mark and I have a Favored Nations Clause, which means we are equal in everything including compensation, if I were negotiation anything then Mark would be included and vice versa. Clearly that was not the case. It’s business. I am moving on with respect and only the best wishes for everyone involved.

  • The Millennials – they are now steering the helm of larger corporations only interested in portraying, youth, beauty and agility. I had a friend who lost her position with a large financial institution after a tenure of 30 years. She was forced to retire with a 2 month severance package. She looked for work in her field and couldn’t even get an interview. Then one day she was called in to interview with a corporation for a part-time position as the assistant to the CEO. She did get the job … well at least until the CEO, a millennial, returned from a business trip only to find that she would be fired. This was not what he wanted as the first face to be seen representing his corporation. He insisted on a younger, prettier and more vivacious candidate.

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  • Menopause – There is absolutely no support in the workplace for women going through menopause. While menopause is a temporary phase, younger female and male managers/executives have no training in handling this matter. However, if you’re trying to handle stress, depression or pregnancy there is openness and support, but this is not the case for the older woman.  Often times, even the highest-achieving woman will decide to leave because they have a hard time handling their symptoms. I feel if there was more support in the workplace these women would stay in their current positions and go on to fulfilling future careers.

In any event, if a middle-aged woman does desire to continue to work, the lower paying sector of employment is where she will be welcome. In some cases, a part-time, low paying position might fit into her lifestyle. Especially, if she is caring for aging parents or grandchildren as her priority. But this leaves very little for the woman who desires to progress in her current career, there seems to be to many challenges to overcome leaving them in a state of self-doubt and depression.

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Will society be able to overcome these adversities?

While I would love to give you the answer “yes, we will overcome as a society”,  I cannot. Ageism and sexism have reportedly been an issue for centuries. We are now in the 21st century and I feel if it hasn’t been eradicated thus far I sadly feel it never will be. However, women can take control of their later years by empowering themselves with knowledge of this impending predicament, prepare themselves either through entrepreneurialism or an aggressive retirement strategy during their younger years. But, of course, when you’re 20 you don’t see yourself as being set out to pasture at 50. This is where our mothers and grandmothers should foster the younger women in our lives and prepare them for the days ahead of them.

Do you feel there would be a major shift in society’s thinking if our daughters were knowledgeable and the normal retirement age for women became 50 in the future?

See you in the comments,

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By Mrs. R