A new resource, Mature Women Can!, by South Australia’s Mature Women’s Ambassador Dr Susan Mitchell in partnership with Council on the Ageing (COTA) SA and the Office of the Ageing and the Office for Women, aims to highlight this culture of looking past women after a certain age.
The resource, which includes interviews with mature women on the barriers they face in the paid workforce, has been described as making a compelling case for increasing the participation of mature women in employment, reporting that almost a third of Australians perceive some form of age-related discrimination while employed or looking for work.
Dr Mitchell says the new resource is all about getting the message into people’s consciousness, getting a movement going and ensuring people realise that a change in culture of how mature women are viewed is needed.
“The way we are thinking is acceptable for 40-50 years ago - not today,” she says.
“These women are capable and have all kinds of experiences and skills and they are just thrown on the scrap heap - it’s an endemic in our culture to think this way and it needs to change.
“It is expected now that we will continue to work until we are 70, but to make that happen, there needs to be a change in attitude - we need to employ mature women.”
The interviews with the 40+ women over the age of 50, who came forward to share their personal stories, have been described as “eye opening” by Dr Mitchell.
COTA SA Chief Executive Jane Mussared says she is proud of COTA SA’s involvement in supporting not only the Mature Women’s Ambassador Project, but also Dr Mitchell in her role as Ambassador for Mature Women, and has welcomed the resource that has been created.
“The resource is a quick and very compelling story about the risks for older women because of ageism,” she says.
“We need to tackle age discrimination in employment - it is widespread, it is hurtful and it is wasteful.”
She adds that through this double-jeopardy discrimination of both age and gender, that society is missing out on the talents and contributions of older women, and placing them at greater risk, with the report stating that there has been a 75 percent increase in women aged 55+ sleeping in their cars, presenting at homelessness services.
“The result is that we will experience rapidly rising levels of homelessness and poverty among older women,” Ms Mussared says.
“This resource wastes no words in spelling that out and we hope it will be the bass for explaining why it matters so much.”
Following the official launch of the resource, Dr Mitchell says this is all part of the first step which aims to raise awareness of the issue.
“The next step is to build the movement and lift the issue into the consciousness and encourage women to talk about it and speak up,” she says.
“We hope the resource - which is aimed at everyone from employers to mature women and their families - to identify the issue and change perception.
“Bringing this issue to the surface is what we have to do so people are made to realise.
“Just like domestic violence, the issue remains under the radar until people start talking about it which is why this year, it’s all about spreading the word.
“The resource is there to offer encouragement to everyone and to give opportunities to mature women and for them to know they are not alone.”
In her role as the first State ambassador for mature women, Dr Mitchell will be using the new resource as a basis for conversation with businesses as she takes to talking and spreading awareness via a social media campaign.