• Figures gathered by the Labour Party’s Commission on Older Women have substantiated something that we all know already: Women over 50 are a rare sight on our TV screens. We all know this already because we can see with our own eyes that these women are all but invisible every time we switch on the news.

    Apparently there is some received wisdom that men gain gravitas as they age. They become “silver foxes” or “authoritative”. Women on the other hand simply become invisible. Grey haired women are not silver foxes. Apparently they’re an embarrassment to be excised from our screens lest they offend viewers and remind us that women are not simply decorative objects whose worth is measured in terms of youth and attractiveness.

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    Posted on May 16th, 2013 by Scarlet Harris filed under: Blog

  • There’s plenty of evidence that the government’s programme of austerity has hit women far harder than men. So it can only be a matter of time before the sweeping changes they’ve made to employment law have a similar impact.

    Part of a long-held obsession with reducing the “burden” on business, the coalition approach to employment law now seems to be morphing into a mantra about “delivering” for small and medium-sized businesses.

    As more women than men tend to work in smaller organisations, we can expect the issues they experience – discrimination, bullying, harassment, unequal pay and so forth – to get worse. Women over 50 face additional problems such as a lack of flexibility to accommodate caring responsibilities; not enough decent part time jobs; and pensions so low they cannot afford to retire.

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    Posted on May 15th, 2013 by Victoria Phillips filed under: Blog

  • In January 2011 I won a landmark age discrimination case against the BBC after I had been dropped from BBC1’s Countryfile programme. The tribunal judges also found the Corporation had victimised me by withdrawing work because I had spoken out to senior colleagues about age discrimination.

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    Posted on May 9th, 2013 by Miriam O’Reilly filed under: Blog

  • So you are in the office and your colleagues are discussing volunteers for the redundancy package they include you, after all you’ve been here forever and those looking to go are your age.

    You bite back the ‘I am about a decade too young and can’t afford it’ retort and mutter something about lots of part-time service. It is the case women are far more likely to have worked part-time and to have broken service. They may have opted out of the pension scheme, choosing to pay for childcare instead. What may be a good idea for some men in their fifties and early sixties, to take a redundancy/early retirement package is less likely to appeal to women the same age.

    So what if your workplace/job is under threat, what can you do?

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    Posted on May 1st, 2013 by Chris Haswell filed under: Blog, Work

  • Report cover of the Getting off Lightly or Feeling the Pinch reportLast year Coventry Women’s Voices along with the Centre for Human Rights in Practice launched Getting off lightly or feeling the pinch? a human rights and equality impact assessment of the public spending cuts on women in Coventry.  The report had two main conclusions:

    First we challenge the myth that older people have ‘got off lightly’ from the public spending cuts. When we first started talking about doing this report several people asked me why we were looking at older women. They pointed to the universal benefits that have not yet been affected by spending cuts – free bus passes, winter fuel allowance and so on – and suggested that actually older women had not been that badly hit, compared to other groups.

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    Posted on April 26th, 2013 by Mary-Ann Stephenson filed under: Blog

  • Approximately half of the UK workforce (47%) is made up of women aged 50 years or older. With around two-thirds of women aged 50 to 59 in employment, these women will be experiencing the menopause or have been through it.  The menopause is part of the aging process. It is not a medical disease and it can have a significant impact on psychological well-being, physical health, cognition and social implications on the working lives of women.

    Many managers are unaware of the many physical symptoms of the menopause which might affect a woman’s well-being at work. Menopausal symptoms most likely to affect women include hot flushes (70% of women suffer from them for one year, 30% for five years and 5% – 10% for 10 to 15 years), palpitations, night sweats and sleep disturbance, fatigue, poor concentration, irritability and mood disturbance.  These working women may also have to care for frail and aging parents, look after their own family, experience changes in health and changes in their relationships.

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    Posted on April 15th, 2013 by Angela Thorogood filed under: Blog, Health

  • A few days ago I spoke to several women aged between 50-65 working in low-ish wage jobs in unionised companies. Most had worked all their lives, many from the age of 15, bringing up families – without, as they pointed out, tax credits or other childcare support – and who now saw their retirement date receding as the state pension age went up.

    These were the common themes of their working lives:

    • Dwindling control over their working hours and shift patterns – playing havoc with caring responsibilities – for children, grandchildren, elderly parents.
    • Employers under pressure, passing the strain on to staff: more demanding targets; hours cut; jobs more dependent on advanced and changing IT skills; new competence-based assessments. All this hit older workers disproportionately – especially women who missed out on training opportunities the first time round, or who might be affected by menopausal symptoms.

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    Posted on April 4th, 2013 by Kay Carberry filed under: Blog, Work

  • Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know: the Side Effects of the Femme Fatale

    Note: this piece contains a spoiler
    I went to see the well-reviewed Steven Soderbergh film Side Effects last week, and came out of the screening profoundly depressed by how little has changed in the way in which older women are depicted on screen in mainstream films despite three decades of feminist challenges to stereotypes and standard generic tropes.  While it may sometimes seem as though we are encountering a broader, more complex range of female characters on screen, too often these are confined to women under 40, and representations of women who are 50 or over are both infrequent and limited in range.  For every Meryl Streep led romantic comedy or drama (and it is always Meryl Streep) we can find ten thrillers in which older women appear only as supportive or suspicious housewives and mothers; for each feisty investigating District Attorney a hundred dead hookers litter the mean streets of crime thrillers – and the older the hooker the less likely her death will be the main focus of the narrative’s investigation.

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    Posted on March 27th, 2013 by Estella Tincknell filed under: Blog

  • After many years of seemingly being invisible to the media and policy makers, it’s good to see the recent flurry of interest in the issues facing older women in society. Just in the last few months we’ve seen the TUC’s Age Immaterial campaign, the Labour Party’s Commission on Older Women, labour market analysis from IPPR and the Resolution Foundation, and a range of reports and initiatives from voluntary sector organisations with an interest in older women.

    As Camilla Palmer explains in her blog post, Miriam O’Reilly’s landmark tribunal victory against the BBC highlighted the way in which ageism and sexism combine to create a double whammy of discrimination against older women at work and in public life.

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    Posted on March 27th, 2013 by Scarlet Harris filed under: Blog

  • Two weeks ago The Age and Employment Network (TAEN) published the latest edition of its 50+ Job Seekers Survey. Office of National Statistics figures show more older people in work and there is a general feeling that older people are doing reasonably well in the labour market.

    However, the sad fact is that embedded labour market disadvantages and ingrained ageist attitudes bar hundreds of thousands of older people from returning to work. It is clear that older job seekers struggle harder than most – they have the biggest problem of long term unemployment for example.

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    Posted on March 26th, 2013 by Chris Ball filed under: Blog, Work