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Middle-aged women and workplace perceptions

A recent survey conducted by Durham Business School and Age with Attitude has explored the attitudes of women of mid-life women in the workplace. The results seem to reveal a mix of personal and professional self-confidence which goes against the typical media stereotypes. However, they also reveal a commonly held belief that they are treated differently and negatively by others as a result of their age.


Surely these findings point towards freelancing and contracting as the way forward?


During
 the
 period
 March‐April
 2010,

 an
 anonymous
 online
 survey

 invited women over the age of 40
 to
 answer
 a
 range
 of
 questions
 about
 their
 own
 beliefs
 regarding
 mid‐life
 as
 well
 as 
those 
portrayed 
by 
the 
media.


The following is what they had to say about workplace perceptions:


68% say they are treated differently to men in the workplace.
82% say they are treated differently to younger women

68% say it’s still hard to break through the glass ceiling
62% say they lose out to men in the promotion steaks.


But the findings become very different when they are asked to evaluate themselves personally:


77% say they like themselves more as they get older (self-confidence?)
61% say they are happier as they get older

55%are more likely to change their career mid-life
68% believe they can improve their status in their workplace


What was particularly surprising was how positive the women were about themselves despite a massive 82%
 feeling that they are treated differently to younger women in
 the
 workplace.
 
 
There
 seems to be
 a
 real

 contradiction
 here
 between
 how they are seen by society and how they
 see
 themselves.


When questioned what the key challenges were in their lives, the highest result showed 58% felt a lack of time to re-focus was the biggest issue.


“I
 was
 pleasantly
 surprised
 with
 the
 general
 positive
 views
 the
 women
 held
 about
 midlife
 and
 this
 was
 contrary
 to
 the
 views
 often
 portrayed
 in
 the
 media,
 that
 midlife
 women
 are
 over
 the
 hill
 and
 lacking
 in
 the
 confidence
 or
 ambition
 to
 achieve
 their
 goals,” said Lindsey Agness, founder of Age with Attitude.
 “Having
 said
 that,
 it
 is
 clear
 that
 whilst
 these
 barriers
 to 
success 
may
 not 
be 
as
 prevalent 
in 
the 
minds 
of 
the 
women 
in 
the
 survey, 
they 
are 
very 
real
 in 
society
 and
 as
 a
 result 
are 
holding 
many
 women 
back 
from 
achieving 
their 
true 
potential.
”


Perhaps it’s time for women, who feel their age is being used as a constraint in the workplace, to think about going it alone. Certainly these findings suggest the confidence is there.


Lindsey continued: “What
 this
 research 
says 
to 
me 
is
that 
these 
women 
have
 the
 desire 
and 
motivation 
to 
achieve
 success
 in 
later
 life 
but 
don’t 
always 
have 
the 
skills 
and 
techniques 
to 
harness 
this 
ability.
 The
 thought 
it is 
there 
but 
they
 often
 fall
 down
 when
 it
 comes
 to
 converting
 that
 thought
 into
 action.
 With
 the
 right
 guidance
 and
 a
 more
 welcoming
 society,
 I
 predict
 that
 midlife
 women
 will
 have
 a
 much
 more
 prominent
 and
 long‐standing 
role in 
future 
society.”


It is highly likely that this ‘more prominent and long-standing role’ will be accelerated by more and more women over the age of 40 starting up their own businesses. We could be on the cusp of a mid-life freelance revolution!


Over 130 women above the age of 40 participated in the survey. They were taken across a wide range of sectors.


Age with Attitude is the personal development programme for mid-life women.

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