I was watching the Netflix drama House of Cards the other night. When the beautiful 40-something Robin Wright character fires her highly competent, smart, loyal-to-a-fault office manager, not one viewer blinked when the office manager responded “But I’m 59. I’ll never find another job.”
We all know it’s true.
Sure sexism/ageism isn’t fair. But let’s talk dollars and cents. We are wasting a vast natural resource when we overlook middle aged women in the workforce. Businesses need this deep talent pool. In the book Often Wrong, Never in Doubt, the successful Donnie Deutsch discusses the superiority of women in business. “Women are easier to deal with than men, less insecure, more concerned with doing their job and working collaboratively and getting paid fairly”.
The truth is that menopausal and post-menopausal women run the world. Quite literally.
One of the richest people in the world: Oprah Winfrey. Some of the most powerful people the world: Angela Merkel. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Add your own names to the female power list including women in your own life. (A shout out to my middle aged sisters who serve as 24/7 caregivers to our mother. No man I know would do what they have done for four years.)
Here is the cold, hard truth: Middle aged women rock. No longer tied down by family demands, women bring all the best qualities of womanhood to the table: Loyalty, commitment, collaborative skills, negotiation tactics, problem solving and persuasiveness. They give and give and give and then give blood. They tend to like a challenge and to be honest. They are expressive (which, by this age, they’ve learned to focus), reasonable and patient. And the few women who’ve learned how to promote themselves, who’ve had the benefit of a skilled or powerful mentor and who persevere can end up at the top.
We can turn this around by admitting our built-in bias. Studies show both men and women judge male/female resumes differently. We hire men based on potential and women based on past performance. In the hiring loop? Remind yourself of that bias tendency as your read resumes. Your company deserves best talent.
There are opportunities to help, support and promote other women at work and build powerful relationships.
So middle-aged women- step up and take responsibility. Stop waiting to be recognized and raise your hand. As the Harvard Business School Gender Study suggests: Raise it high and keep it up there until it’s time to speak (@nytimes). Then speak with the confidence, knowledge and power we all possess. You are a national treasure. It’s time to start behaving that way.
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