Service of Women Confronted by the Same Old Hurdles

November 4th, 2021

Categories: Age, Ageism, Women, Work


Image by Ernesto Eslava from Pixabay

Working women of a certain age in senior positions have countless stories about meetings at which they were asked to serve or order refreshments, take notes or were talked over by a man who was praised for a great idea–the one the woman had just suggested but apparently nobody heard.

Sad to report that little has changed according to speakers and participants at an event I attended this week. Sponsored and produced by #DisruptAging from AARP and Tuenight, the topic was ageism and equity focusing on Gen-X women. Some attendees were younger than 41 to 56 and some older. I don’t know the demographic makeup of the viewers who were streaming the program on their devices. Note: All the tech people installing and running the streaming equipment were men.

Here’s a headline on the #DisruptAging website: “Don’t you hate it when people make assumptions based solely on someone’s age? It’s time we shed the negative stereotypes and unconscious age bias.” Anecdotally, I propose that ageism is worse for women than for men–especially women older than Gen-X. But enough about what I think–on with highlights of the program.

Margit Detweiler, a veteran on the topic and founder of Tuenight, welcomed attendees and introduced the speakers. The 40 over 40 website described her organization as “a cohesive, safe place for women ‘to hang out’ with their peers. It’s the ultimate book club meets Girls’ Night Out.” And about Detweiler, she “combats the idea that women over 40 are somehow meant to be put out to pasture rather than in the prime of their life. She’s truly walking the walk for the ‘over 40’ mission.”



Image by LUM3N from Pixabay

To ace the interviews for a job one of the speakers, Tracey Lynn Lloyd, used the formula for over confidence she’d observed resulted in the [irritating] successes by what she called the “mediocre white man.” She had the techniques down pat and snagged a prestigious marketing position which, in the end, she declined. As she didn’t tell the audience why, I asked her afterwards and she said she wasn’t qualified and that she wanted to be a writer, which she is. She admitted that her Dad was disappointed that she’d passed on such a lucrative salary, but she realized that money doesn’t mean that much to her. [I couldn’t help suggesting that most people are severely deficient in some part of every new job but admired her self-knowledge.]

Another speaker, Abby West, was urged by a friend in HR to ask for $20,000 more even though she was thrilled with the salary, bonus and stock options of a job she coveted. She did ask, after describing to us the reasons she was reluctant to, and with her friend’s guidance with wording, said that she was then offered “significantly more.”

Women continue to discount their worth. In a conversation during the break a manager said that the men who report to her consistently ask for raises–some twice a year–and that the women never do.

I was alarmed to hear Marcelle Karp, well on the road to 60, say she didn’t get a job, in spite of a stellar career that made her a match, because she didn’t have a college degree. She now has one and is working towards a Masters. And how old fashioned am I? I would weigh job history and success over a degree any day. Silly me: I know an organization that insists on Masters degrees for what I’d consider menial administrative positions.

Have you observed advancements for women in the workplace–no more coffee runs, note taking requests or discounting/ignoring their contributions at meetings? What about opportunities for those over 40 or 60–are women still at a bigger disadvantage than men? Is the most viable option to strike out on their own and give up hope of working for a large organization? In spite of the increased number of single mothers and women in the workplace, do companies still think of men as being the primary breadwinners which once was the excuse for paying them more? What do you suggest women do to change the paradigms about them?

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8 Responses to “Service of Women Confronted by the Same Old Hurdles”

  1. Linda Levi Said:

    Linda on Facebook: Be confident, know your value and ask for what you want/deserve. I did when landing my last job at age 50 and it worked.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Linda,

    Key word is confidence. If a person is consistently turned down for jobs it would be extremely difficult to keep feeding that important component.

  3. lucrezia Said:

    These hurdles will remain in place unless and until women stop whining about glass ceilings and start breaking them. Some of the most successful world leaders of modern times are and have been women, the only problem being they don’t come from here. It was a gut wrenching struggle to get one elected as Vice-President, but even that was on the coat-tails of a man!

    Less talk and a lot more action will start things off. People like US Senator Lisa Murkowski and US Representative Liz Cheney show promise. They buck the tide without complaint, and don’t wrap themselves up in self righteous signs and mottos. Set them, and similar counterparts up as examples to follow, and one day we may produce our own Indira Gandhi or Golda Meir.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Lucrezia,

    More than confidence women need to be fearless. And something else: I suspect for some they can’t care too much as in desperation at least at first before they have forged a reputation.Trouble is, at one point, in certain professions, their age and sex enters into the equation. Some weather the situation better than others because of looks or connections or because they silently accept the dynamic of their work environments.

  5. Linda Levi Said:

    Linda on Facebook: True, but if consistently turned down for jobs I bet there are other issues that potential employers see, pick up on or suspect.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Linda,

    Which brings us back full circle if one believes that women 40+ have a problem. You may be the exception —in addition to conducting impressive interviews —bowling over your prospective employer—you have an exemplary reputation.

  7. Martha T Takayama Said:

    I have not applied for work in a long time because I work on my own. I cannot speak effectively about recent interview experiences. I do think that it is clear just from what is considered news and media reportage of the news that there are still differences and inequalities in the ways that women and men are treated professionally. I am always amazed at the wardrobes of female weather reporters in particular when contrasted with their male counterparts. I wonder if they are performing the same functions.

    I do think that women–especially older women –are often at a disadvantage over men of the same age when applying for jobs,though I don’t have concrete examples to furnish.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Martha,

    I have mentioned this previously on this blog and although it covers the woman vs man preference not the age prejudice, it’s worth repeating. A Baruch graduate student I mentored had a foreign name that Americans couldn’t identify as male or female. On her behalf I asked pundits whether they thought that she should make clear, on her resume, that she was a woman. Among the range of responses was one from an HR person who, unofficially, said to leave it fuzzy because if there were two excellent resumes reflecting equal experience the man would be called in for an interview. This was about seven years ago. Quite a few mentioned the legality involved but there are subtle ways of indicating many things about a person’s sex, nationality or race starting with organizations joined.

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