GRACE'S MUSINGS: International Women’s Day – And why we’re not done yet

GRACE'S MUSINGS: International Women’s Day – And why we’re not done yet

Happy International Women’s Day for March 8th. It’s a celebration that stirs up all kinds of emotions for many of us. On the one hand, we can congratulate ourselves on how far we’ve come, but days like these also remind us how much there is still to achieve. That’s why I’m not done yet – and nor should you be.

This year’s #IWD is all about continuing our forward motion, striving for a gender-equal world free of bias and stereotypes. My goal at Studio10 has always been to celebrate women’s achievements while raising awareness of discrimination. And yes, collectively we can all #InspireInclusion – this year’s IWD theme – but we have to be as loud as we can as we’re doing it. We’re an opinionated bunch and we know what we want. We’re not going quietly.

Midlife for women is a space where “-isms” collide: ageism meets sexism in a horrible double whammy, especially in the workplace. It’s one of the last taboos. As we grow older, we face skewed perceptions about our productivity. For every dollar a man makes at work in the US, women earn 81 cents, at best. In some industries, that pay disparity is even greater.

The World Economic Forum says that, at current rates, it will take more than 200 years to make up the economic gap that exists between women and men. That’s just too long, clearly. But actually, is it clear? It’s obvious to us as women, but is it clear to the business leaders (mostly men) running companies today?

To challenge gendered ageism, the first thing we must do is call attention to it. Businesses won’t look for solutions to an issue they don’t believe exists, or prefer to ignore. The State of Ageing report from the Centre for Ageing Better reveals that the UK population is older than ever before. Almost 40% of people in England are currently over 50, and almost 20% are over 65, an increase of almost 50% since the early 1980s. That’s most of us reading this.

One in three workers in the UK is aged 50 or over. Yet research shows that women are the primary victims of age discrimination in hiring, which means we are driven out of the workplace earlier and have a much harder time finding a way back. The gap gets larger the older you are. We must challenge this kind of sexist ageism. The strength, skills and knowledge of midlife women need to be rewarded and respected.

How do we achieve this? By changing the perceptions people hold, about others and about themselves. We need to ensure there are varied and realistic portrayals of women’s lives visible to all. How often do we see that in mainstream advertising, in film and TV, in the print media and online? Strong, vibrant women in midlife and beyond? You can’t be it if you can’t see it – that’s something we tell our young people. Shouldn’t that count for us, too?

Everyone loses out when women in midlife are prevented from bringing their talents, expertise and experience to the workplace. So let’s inspire the next generation to step up too, and help us challenge these outdated misconceptions of middle age and beyond. They rob us of our power, not just at work, but in our whole lives. They undermine our self-esteem and our confidence. And they deny society a valuable resource.

It’s something I’ll go on talking about until I see a change. I refuse to be invisible and undervalued. So happy International Women’s Day to all of you out there. Let’s be the change we want to see in the world.

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published

Shop now