This blog post has been updated due to new regulations introduced by the government in Australia where the age pension has moved up from 65 to 70 years.
When you look down through the ages, girls of 12 years were being married off to men twice or three times their age. At least in those days, the roles played in a marriage were more distinct—women became homemakers and had children; men fought the wars and provided for their family.
This went on until after WWII, when women went out to do the men’s jobs, because the men were fighting the war (which they started in the first place, I might add). And once we returned to peacetime, women discovered they could do a man’s job and then some. Therefore, although they had a very difficult time in fighting for equal rights through the ages, women finally made it—well, mostly.
One thing we didn’t reckon on was the aging factor. Sadly, the likes of Hollywood and the media made it acceptable for a 20-year-old to be paired off with a 50-something actor. Movies such as Funny Face and Sabrina with Audrey Hepburn are a case in point. Having said this, once again, the woman became the homemaker and had the children, while the man provided for her; and because the man was older, it stood to reason he would die off first and leave his family well provided for.
So what happened in more recent years? Men still like the idea of a younger woman—don’t they always gravitate toward someone younger than themselves? Where does this leave the older woman? If she’s lucky, she’s married to a wonderful man who will grow old alongside her until death do them part. If she’s unlucky, she’ll be abandoned by her spouse and must fend for herself.
Okay, I think most women have accepted that at one time or another they will go through a separation or divorce, and therefore, they must fend for themselves unless their ex pays maintenance for them. More than likely, however, the woman will have to work and maintain herself, and the chances of her meeting another man after the age of 45 is almost nil. The reason? Men her age are looking for someone up to 15 years younger! So all of a sudden, older women find themselves in an aging purgatory from which there is no escape.
This isn’t so bad if a woman is successful and financially secure. After all, it’s better to be single than stay in a marriage for all the wrong reasons. The problem comes when a woman is not financially secure. She must earn her living, but cannot find a job if she’s been laid off from work. If she’s age 40 or so, she'll probably just scrape by and find another job, but by age 45+ it’s almost a miracle unless she’s well connected or is prepared to take several steps down from what she used to do and take up some menial job. So much for the Human Rights Commission and all their crappy talk about age discrimination, especially for women.
So what happens now? The official pension age is 65 (and our government has recently increased the qualifying age for pension, and depending what year you were born you may have to wait until you turn 70 before you can claim it). And now we have a late-40s/early-50s woman looking for a job, but she cannot find one because the labour market is like Hollywood: They only want them young.
What does this woman do? How does she survive the next 15 or so years until she can collect her age pension?
There are plenty of famous actresses in Hollywood who are over 45 and still working, and even if they didn’t work, many of them have already made their fortune and can live the rest of their lives in comfort. But come closer to reality and we have a disaster. We have women in their 40s, 50s and 60s who cannot find work, who become invisible to men their own age (and even men older than them! Yes, a 60-something male is still going for the young babes), and who pretty much get ignored by society in general.
I am talking in general here. There are those women who make waves and make themselves heard or who become influential in some way or even famous, but what happens to the majority of us?
I am fortunate to have a bread and butter job in recruitment right now, so I try to help older women where possible. Mind you, I’ve had some tough battles with ex-bosses when trying to convince them to consider an older female candidate rather than a younger one, despite the fact that the younger woman was under-qualified. Nine of out ten, I was overruled, and we had to give the job to the younger female.
My experience with the aging factor and finding work frightens me when I see this kind of thing going on all around me, and I start to think about what is going to happen to me one day. It’s scary to think that if I lose my present job, I may never be employed again.
I am working toward my dream of becoming a full-time author. After all, writing has no age limit, but making it in any kind of creative field is very difficult, and it may be that one day I may have to take up a job walking dogs instead.
It is stressful to see I don’t have the influence I used to when I was in my 30s, and at the top of my career. Meanwhile, older guys than myself still have powerful jobs. It's sad but true when we have to admit that it’s still a man’s world out there.
If you have a story to share about the trials and tribulations of growing older as a female, please share it here.
Author Sylvia Massara's: