This is not going to be an eloquently written piece, or really a well-thought-out piece, because I am writing it from the heart, I am writing it because I am angry, and I am writing it because something I read this morning has really hit a nerve.
In this morning’s newspaper, Sheryl Sandberg who was the chief operating officer of Facebook, stated she left the company, and has now made it her mission to help fight ageism, as she has seen first-hand that midlife women are the hardest hit. Age discrimination hits women harder than men. Sadly, it is a fact. She was dubbed middle-aged at 35 when she started at Facebook. 35! Where the hell does that leave us midlifers?
I see age discrimination everywhere. It is in retail, it is in marketing, it is in the workplace, it is on billboards, it is in the boardroom, it is everywhere!
Let’s take ad campaigns for example, there are a few that use midlife women, not many. I am not saying that every single ad campaign should feature midlife women, because we are only one sector of the generational landscape and brands do have different target markets. I am talking about brands that ‘silently’ target midlifers, but do not want to promote it, in case it ‘damages’ their brand.
Let’s look at the latest travel campaigns, with young marketing managers sending young, good looking influencers to destinations to promote them. The Pacific islands have been a hot destination for the young Instagram set. Have you seen any midlifers being sent over to show off the destination to their followers? NO, no you have not. Let’s be honest here, midlifers are one of the most powerful spenders in the world. We need to make noise; we need to be heard and I for one am not going to sit back and no nothing.
Here’s an example. I got approached by a PR company, asking me to run a story on their destination. The story was about going to their island to enjoy your ‘golden years’ in retirement. This young PR women thought 50 was ‘golden years’. I’m not there yet and when I am, I will be extremely happy. BUT the mere fact she thought 50 was ‘golden years/retirement’ is indicative of the systemic ageism. I pushed back. I told her to change her pitch, look at my Instagram, look at my audience, look at what 50 really is, and come back to me.
Midlife women have a voice, we need to use it. We need to call out companies and brands who discriminate because of our age.
Some brands are wonderful, it is not all bad. But they are few and far between!
I remember getting hold of Ceres Life, a clothing brand based out of Melbourne, telling them I loved their clothes, and it is a shame they do not collaborate with midlife women. Cheeky, yes, but it was a fact. I got a response, and a relationship was formed. Now that is a brand that listened. Adrift Clothing are another brand that share the importance of cross-generational promotions (a company run by a mid-life women). ESK is another one, run by a mid-life woman and there are more and that is brilliant. But I want to see more. I want to see more brands speaking to the very people who support them.
Age discrimination is hitting us hard. The repercussions of this are midlife women are now the fastest growing homeless cohort in Australia.
Midlife women are being tossed aside and discarded. It is unacceptable, but it is a fact. If I walked into an interview and had more quantifications than a twenty something, I can bet you, the 25-year-old would get the job. Sad, but it is a fact.
I have had enough. I have had enough of society not putting value on experience, on age and I am really pissed off that we have raised a generation that think it is bad to age. Should we take some responsibility for this?
Do I sound like an ageing, moaning, bitter women? To some, yes. But I am not. I am a midlife woman who is passionate about all midlife women (and men) living their best lives, being treated as equals, being able to live in a society that values them, values their experience, their contribution and the fact that with age comes wisdom and empathy.