On Aging as a Female Member of the Workforce

One thing working women all have in common, regardless of occupation, is that with each passing day we get a little older. This is true of our male counterparts, but somehow age as it relates to the workplace is different when you’re a woman.


Women who start their careers right out of school, whether it be high school or college, are acutely aware they’re young. One reason is that others in the workplace are constantly reminding them.


There’s the kindly older woman who treats you like a daughter or even granddaughter. There’s the nice, slightly older man who treats you like a kid sister. On the negative side, there’s the nasty, resentful older woman who thinks she should have had your opportunity, as well as the lecherous older man who thinks you’re his opportunity.


Whoever you run into in your career—and chances are you’ve run into all of them—it reminds you that you’re young, inexperienced, a girl. People may even call you girl.


As you get a little older, things start to change. You’re no longer the kid at work. However, as a woman, it seems you’re still ridiculously aware of your age.


There are all kinds of reasons for this, from external issues like fashion to personal matters like children or lack of (the biological clock is ticking; you are aging), as well as being single long-term or recently divorced.


In addition to the reasons mentioned, I think women are obsessed with age because of our society. A woman need only look to Hollywood, and Josie Brown can back me up on this: Male actors in their 40s, 50s, and beyond still land great roles; older women, not so many.


For some of these very reasons, men don’t tend to view age in the same way. Instead, men typically view age in relation to milestones, often related to their careers, as in, “by the time I’m 55, I hope to be CEO.”


This isn’t to say women don’t have similar career goals; they just don’t tend to view age in the context of career. It’s a curious difference.


It seems we go from girls, babes in the woods, if you will, to has-beens very quickly.


Yet, it’s really not true.


In fact, we may be guilty of allowing this kind of thinking to infiltrate our psyches.


I’ll give you a perfect example. A male friend finds it laughable that an article categorizes any worker over 40 as old, pointing out that most people nowadays plan to work until 65 or 70; a woman friend, on the other hand, cringes.


Of course how you feel about age as it relates to your work and your life may depend partly on your occupation. A teacher, for example, may be able to retire after 30 years. If she started teaching at 22, it means her career can end at 52. She may indeed feel older in comparison to the other teachers.


Still, no matter where you are in life, nearing the end of a career or beginning one, it’s important to shake any false limitations you may impose upon yourself. And for women, it seems age is a big one.


What can you do to shake it?


As cliché as it sounds, to borrow a line from the Army, be all you can be. Do the best job you can, wherever you’re at in your career, and whatever job you hold. Strive to learn all you can, while keeping your mind open to new possibilities.


Have a career plan that, like our male friends’ plans, includes milestones related to age. Chances are you have or have had personal goals related to your age; why not career goals?


Nevertheless, be willing to change or adapt those goals to fit who you become or want to become as you move forward.


And, ultimately, that’s what life and work are all about: moving forward.


Today, women have limitless career opportunities. Whether you’re 24 or 54 or somewhere in between, don’t let preconceived notions about your capabilities get in the way of your goals. Shake those thoughts and Hollywood’s stereotypes. Be a star—at every stage of life.


Paula Santonocito, Career Editor, SingleMindedWomen.com