Gender discrimination and age discrimination are real and both apply to women over 50 seeking employment.
The harsh reality is that women over fifty are the most disadvantaged group of workers in America. Finding a job after fifty is more challenging for women than for any segment of society according to economists. Why is this so?
Dire Financial Straits for Older Women
Older women are frequently in worse financial situations than their men counterparts. The work history for most women include some years off for caring for children. Some relocated with their spouse to his new job and did not find a new job quickly, if at all. Many chose to be dependent fully or in part on their husbands most of their lives. These circumstances have real consequences. Women’s decisions earlier in life impact their ability to find employment after age fifty.
Women over fifty often experience loss of income because husbands may no longer be alive to provide support. Many women find themselves, by choice or otherwise, divorced later in life. Even those women who worked steadily throughout their lives often earned less than men, resulting in smaller Social Security and pension benefits and less in savings for retirement.
Over 90% of Americans do not have enough saved and half of Americans who are currently working have less than $5,000 saved for retirement, according to Teresa Ghilarducci, a retirement expert and Professor of Economics at the New School for Social Research. For women who have lost a husband through death or divorce and have also lost a job, meager savings means heading back to work or depending on family for support.
Most older workers face the daunting choice of either experiencing downward mobility – and possibly deprivation – in their old age, or working later in life than anyone would hope or dream. Women are among the majority of these older workers in this predicament.
Looking for an Employer
Faced with the need to return to work, many women begin a job search at a distinct disadvantage. A woman may face gender-based as well as age-based discrimination. This is often more true for women in lower-paying jobs and unskilled labor positions. College-educated women and those with advanced degrees are not immune from such discrimination and bias.
Ghilarducci explains that a worker’s “worth” to an employer is based upon preconceived notions about the amount of time in the job market that a potential employee can show. Many employers know that many women, especially in lower paying jobs, have typically spent some time out of the job market to care for children or other family members.
Women’s work as a caretaker has no value in the job market according to economists. Therefore, a woman’s value as an employee may be considered substantially less than a man’s because of the assumption, and in many cases, the reality, that she has fewer years of work experience than a man of comparable age.
How to Overcome Employment Bias
What does all of this mean to the older woman looking for work? Age and gender discrimination is real. Statistics show that women are the most challenged in finding work after age 50. What, if anything, can a women do to overcome these challenges to finding employment? Older women looking for employment have a steeper hill to climb than a man of a similar age generally.
For a woman needing a job, it is critical that she be creative, persistent and flexible. Economists suggest that she may need to be ready to take a significant pay cut in the range of 25% less than she earned previously. She may need to be willing to relocate to where the job is. She may need to look creatively at her skill set and reposition herself for a job she had never considered before.
Women’s Valuable Skills
Fortunately, most women are creative, persistent and flexible. These very qualities have been honed in the years of taking care of children and other family members. These skills, devalued by employers as “care-taking skills”, are the very skills that can prove most valuable to a woman looking for work.
How a woman values herself is the key factor in finding an employer to hire her. Remind yourself of your worth. Reassess and value your skill set. You are more likely to impress an employer if you are impressed with yourself!
RESOURCES: Teresa Ghilarducci’s book: How to Retire with Enough Money: And How to Know What Enough Is and her website.
What experiences have you had in looking for work after age fifty? What compromises did you have to make in finding a job?