Image library collection recognises contributions of “invisible” older women in work
We're celebrating the role of older women in work, as part of the latest update to our Age-positive image library.
In celebration of the UN International Day of Older Persons (IDOP), the Centre for Ageing Better is unveiling a timely new image library collection. The new set of photos showing older women in work is inspired by this year’s IDOP theme reflecting on the ‘Resilience and Contributions of Older Women’.
Our new collection, titled A Woman’s Work, features more than 200 photos of women aged over 50 in their workplaces, in a range of settings including offices, cafés and warehouses. The collection responds to the lack of images of over 50s, and particularly older women, in print media, magazines, and advertising.
We're also encouraging older women to get involved by sending in their own photos on social media, using the hashtag #AWomansWork.
According to a 2018 survey conducted by UCL Institute of Education, women over the age of 55 were the least likely to feel represented in adverts they saw in London. They reported feeling 'invisible' and 'irrelevant', with fewer than one in four respondents able to recall seeing an advert featuring someone with wrinkles.
Our own research indicates older people, particularly older women, are under-represented in magazine imagery. Where images of older women are used, they present an idealised view of ageing that is impossible for most to achieve. We hope the newly released photos will help to improve representation of older women.
The image library was launched by Ageing Better in January 2021 in a bid to challenge negative and ageist views of later life and aims to improve the representation of ageing in stock image collections.
The first free image library of its kind, the collection now features more than 2,000 positive and realistic images of people aged 50 and over. The latest collection has been released to coincide with the 32nd UN International Day of Older Persons which will take place this Saturday (October 1 2022).
The theme for this year celebrates The Resilience and Contributions of Older Women, highlighting the resilience of older women in the face of environmental, social, economic and lifelong inequalities.
Ageing Better has frequently highlighted the inequalities women face in employment. The number of women in paid work in their 60s is still almost half the rate of men while the gender pay gap is most pronounced for women in their 50s and 60s. By any measure of wealth, women are approximately 10% worse off than men – a figure that does not even factor in their significantly smaller pension pots.
Kim Chaplain, Specialist Adviser for Work at the Centre for Ageing Better, said:
"Although the general trend of over the past two decades has seen increasing numbers of older women in work, by many measures women still do not receive equal treatment in the workplace.
“The story of the contribution and resilience of women still in work and the benefits they bring to the workforce should be something to be celebrated and shared. Their influence is a beacon to employers and other women but all too often their contribution goes largely unnoticed and many of these women feel invisible in the workplace.
“Our research shows that women are confronted by both age and gender stereotypes. Depictions of women over 50 are currently extremely limited in the media and the photos that do exist often reinforce stereotypical tropes. Addressing this lack of representation could play a huge role in challenging these beliefs and we hope the image library can play its part in redressing the balance.”
Claire McCartney, resourcing and inclusion adviser for the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, said:
“When it comes to creating positive change at work, it’s often a case of ‘seeing is believing’. We fully support the latest collection of photos from the Centre for Ageing Better, emphasising the resilience and contributions of older women at work, and are delighted that several of our members are included.
“Older women play an invaluable role in our economy and our society and we need to ensure that any barriers or challenges they face are addressed by both employers and policymakers. This is likely to include improving recruitment, training and retention practices and ensuring they are free from bias, as well as increasing the provision of flexible working and menopause support in the workplace.”
Fiona Hathorn, co-founder and CEO of Women on Boards UK, said:
“Increasing numbers of women are joining boards as non-executive directors, in many cases bringing decades of experience and resulting wisdom to a range of organisations, across public, private and charitable sectors. Many of our members say they are busier than ever, after 'retiring' from executive life, with active, diverse portfolios of board roles.
“We hugely welcome this initiative. Our marketing team has always struggled to find stock photos representative of our membership. Although our members are all ages (and genders), we do have a great number of stylish, professional women over 60 – and from a range of ethnicities – who are rarely featured in mainstream image banks. Thank you for helping redress this balance.”