I’ve always believed you are as old as you feel i.e age is all in the mind.
It wasn’t until I returned back to the ‘workplace’ (an office with other human beings in) I acknowledged that I was actually a little tiny bit older than the people I was working with.
But it wasn’t because I was old, I was 38. It’s just that with the exception of two senior editors, everyone else was younger than me – either their 20s or – at a push – their early 30s. There were a few (men) in their mid 30s but that was it.
I didn’t think anything more of it, having – somehow by the grace of God managed to establish a career without having to battle with overt sexism or misogny.
But I think that with the recession, and our ‘out for themselves’ government, times have changed.
Even though I was supposedly brought up during the ‘me, me, me’ days of the 80s I’/ve prided myself on my ‘old school’ feminism; in that I believed women still had to keep together in order to educate their male colleagues about institutionalised sexism. It’s not that men were/are the enemy – attitudes were/are.
Trying to live out this ethos is becoming harder. Because I’ve seen first hand how being older than 35 -when it comes to holding down a full-time professional role – can be career suicide.
I’d like to think that the examples of women I know (not just ones with children) that have lost their job or found it harder to get permanent or temporary (as opposed to the bits and pieces of freelance crumbs) employment contracts, are just anomalies.
But I’m afraid that it is part of a wider switch in the job market. As jobs become more scarce the old boys network somehow gets tighter and stronger.
This means ‘older’ women get pushed out. Don’t be kidded by the stories of how women are going it alone and setting up their companies in order to create the work/life balance missing from the corporate world.
Most of us do still want to work in the corporate world – we’re not all mumprenuers, we want to make a difference to our younger female sisters too.
Look around you? How many full time 40something women (not freelance, not self employed) do you see in senior positions in your office?
But it’s not just men, I’ve worked with (normally younger) women who have seem my ‘working mummy’ status as a weakness to be exploited for their own career gain. I don’t think they are even aware of it – it’s just that it’s become a real ‘dog eat dog’ world and that’s the reality.
But younger women, you need to wise up, because in a decade or so it will be you who has joined the ranks of the vanishing 40something women.
And you need to get smart now.
I have no solutions, but I would like to hear from other women who can identify to all this. Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org