A few weeks ago, I read an article that was written by Lisa Miller for The Cut. It was titled, “Why We Need Older Women in the Workplace.” In the piece, Miller writes about how she was hired to be an editor at The Wall Street Journal when she was approximately 30 years old. She tells the story of how others probably were better qualified, but how her boss, who was a woman in her 40’s, decided that Miller was the right person for the job.
Miller’s boss is described as “…tough, funny, brilliant,” and, “Sharp. Hilarious. Quick-witted. Irreverent. Also: kind, responsible, ethical, serious. Direct. A meritocrat. She loved people who made her laugh or think. She followed rules carefully and broke them knowingly. She loved wielding her power.”
I know what Miller writes about because at my company, I have women who are very similar to Miller’s description of her boss serving in the following roles, among others:
- Chief Operations Officer
- Vice-President, Marketing
- Vice-President, Branding
- Vice-President, Finance
Women in the Workforce
Despite the reality that having women, especially older women over the age of 40, leads to greater success, the country has a long way to go toward ensuring parity between women and men in the workforce. According to reporting from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, women in the workforce:
- Account for almost half of the workforce.
- They are the only breadwinner or co-breadwinner for half of the families in our country with children.
- Obtain more college degrees than men.
- Earn less than men. In 2017, women earned approximately $0.80 for every $1 earned by men, in almost “every single occupation for which there is sufficient earnings data.”
- Gender parity for white women concerning pay equity will happen in 2059. For Black women, the year will be 2119, and for Hispanic women, it will be 2224.
How Companies Can Grow with Women at the Helm
By now, most people understand that women carry the bulk of the load at home, even if they work outside of it. Women in business don’t tend to have linear careers as men do because most have to make compromises in their jobs if they decide to become mothers. And, when their parents grow old and are in need of extra help, it is typically women who shoulder more of the burden concerning taking care of them, while they also hold the fort with their families and work either in the home or outside of it.
Unfortunately, the reality is also that women end up having to accept the consequences for decisions they make about their careers that many men do not. Often if they leave the workforce to raise children or to care for aging parents, it’s so very tough for them to return to work, especially if they are over the age of 40. If they do end up back at work, it’s often in jobs that pay them less. Studies have shown the wage gap increases with age, also negatively impacting women. Ultimately, it’s not uncommon for women to end up with fewer savings and retirement money than men, although statistically, they live longer. As women grow older, they also tend to report that they’re underemployed at higher rates than men.
However, what I have seen in having women, most over the age of 40, in leadership positions is that my companies have benefited from their work and what they offer. I rely on their intelligence and how they see the world. Although women are not a monolithic block, the women on my team have the smarts, as I’ve mentioned, but also the talent, straightforwardness, toughness, diversity, drive, ambition, persistence, confidence and very importantly, humor, to lead others.
All of the qualities that women bring to the business table are the reasons why the women who work with me have helped us become a leader in the industry where we operate. What I’ve recognized is that hiring women, including in leadership positions, not only brings diverse voices to my team, but women also bring out the best qualities in all of us for getting things done.
Author of “Not Your Father’s Charity: Grip & Rip Leadership for Social Impact”(Free Digital Download)
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