Older women don’t have ‘the look’ for work

Old and invisible?: COTA SA says strategies are urgently needed to help older women gain employment.
Old and invisible?: COTA SA says strategies are urgently needed to help older women gain employment.

Poverty, unemployment and homelessness – that’s the future for more and more older women according to one of the country’s leading seniors’ advocates.

“Ageing is becoming a scary prospect for many women,” said Council on the Ageing SA chief executive Jane Mussared.

“It’s time we lifted the cloak of invisibility off these women who have so far garnered little interest from state or federal government. This group of rock star women has been abandoned by policy makers at every level and on all sides of politics.”

Ms Mussared said older women were victims of “lookism” – a mostly unconscious bias to youthfulness in women.

“Being an older woman is just not ‘the look’ that gets you a job in 2018,” she said.

 Women also lost out to triple jeopardy in the job market: being female, older and seeking so-called low skilled jobs. 

“Studies show that around a third of older workers (many of whom are women) experience age discrimination at work, including being overlooked for promotion, missing out on training opportunities and spending twice as long as any other age group out of work – an average of 68 weeks,” Ms Mussared said.

“Myths associated with employing older women include higher rates of absenteeism, higher risk of sustaining injury, lower loyalty and lack of work experience – none of which fit the evidence.”

Women were also disadvantaged when it came to superannuation because they were likely to have had lower wages, time out of work and been employed part time to meet caring responsibilities.

Combined with lower levels of home ownership and little access to public housing, it brought a real possibility of homelessness.

Ms Mussared said state and federal governments must work with employers to tackle ageism in the workplace, and implement mid-career checks to support the recruitment and retention of older workers.

“We must develop strategies to address homelessness, including through a new housing service, a comprehensive housing strategy for older people, and by prioritising age in public housing,” she said.

This article first appeared on www.thesenior.com.au