I was inspired to write my very first blog on this topic while watching the presentation by Brandon Griffin from the Merrick Community Services Project on Saturday. A woman, over 50 years of age shared her experience after loosing her job, after many years of dedication and service. Her story is more common then we aware of or choose to acknowledge. But it was her dignity and perseverance that captivated my thoughts. In spite of her own personal challenges at home and in the workforce, she chose to serve the community. This is an example of the value of a diverse workforce. Just because you are of a certain age does not mean you are done contributing to society.
What concerned me most while looking for links and data on the topic was the limited amount of resources available. The Harvard Business Review article by Lauren Stiller Rikleen (March 10, 2016) states “One in three American are 50 or older, and by 2030, 1 in 5 will be 65 and above.” The majority of them will be women outliving their husbands and taking care of aging parents and helping their children raise the grandchildren.
Whether you are a teacher, nurse, bartender, executive, secretary or doctor. I have watched women of 50+ forced out of employment and some points harassed to quit because of their age. Short story (name change) Dr. Annie was assigned (2) weekends every month (72 hour on call shifts) for almost three years. Her complaints were ignored until she finally chose to retire. What value did she bring to the clinic? After serving the community for three generations and winning countless awards her presence was sorely missed. In fact, many of her patients left the clinic once they were advised of her retirement. Why ? Because her experience , dedication and knowledge was valued by her patients.
My first interview at ABC News in 1978 was with the Director of Operations, Barbara Clark. She was confident, direct, knowledgeable and interested in why I wanted to work there. I explained to her that it was always a dream of mine to influence and inspire other women to pursue their dreams. She told me that “if there is any career out there that you wanted to pursue; be prepared and willing to work. I will stand by your decisions and provide you with the opportunities to learn and grow.” On that day I had a model of what my career could look like if I took her advice. I was 21 and she was 55. Just two years later she was demoted and moved to another department. It upset me terribly. I went to see her before she left to thank her for those words of wisdom at our first meeting. And with grace and style, she showed me how to behave when I would be faced with the same situation some thirty five years later.
Thank you women of all ages.