The resilience and contribution of older women to the workforce of 2022
Progress is being made for older women in the workforce, but why is the gender pay gap the most pronounced for women in their 50s and 60s?
In this blog, our Specialist Adviser for Work, Kim Chaplain, outlines the inequalities that still remain for older women in the workplace.
Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, the number of over 50s in the workforce had been steadily increasing. There were 4 million more workers in this age group than in 2000. This means approximately one in three workers are now over 50, and demographically those numbers are set to increase as the number of younger workers falls.
Much of this increase can be put down to a generation of women whose working life may have benefited from policy changes such statutory maternity leave and equal pay, and changing expectations of work after marriage. These women have been at the forefront of a significant shift in our labour market, which enabled them to pursue lifelong careers and pave the way for better representation of their gender.
It has not been an easy road to walk. Often they have needed to fulfil the intentions of policymakers themselves by negotiating and pushing at doors that were not always open and proving that policy concepts can be made to work in practice.
Although participation is increasing, there is still some way to go. The number of women in paid work in their 60s is still almost half the rate of men. While the gender pay gap is now very narrow for the youngest age groups, it is most pronounced for women in their 50s and 60s. By any measure of wealth women are approximately 10% worse off than men, and that is before even considering women’s significantly smaller pension pots.
Given the pressure to grow our economy we need to see more women from this age group thriving in work. Currently, older women are not seen as the workforce of the future. Older women themselves say they feel invisible in the workforce. We need them to be seen. We need to have more representation of older women in the media, and for employers to actively seek the skills and experiences of older women.
That’s why Ageing Better is running its campaign 'A woman's work'. In the latest update to our award-nominated image library, this collection is a celebration of the role of older women in work. The collection features more than 200 photos of women over 50 in their workplaces in a variety of settings, from the charity sector to customer service.
We hope that these photos can help older women feel relevant and seen with their depiction of a gender and age-inclusive workforce. The story of the contribution and resilience of women still working should be something we celebrate and share. The workforce has been enriched by the capacity and capability these women bring. They provide a beacon to employers and other women, and they demonstrate the potential of a huge pool of talent that goes largely unnoticed.