Article by Ceri Wheeldon
Last week Women’s Hour dedicated a programme to highlighting the issue of women over 50 being invisible. Numerous projects are popping up in my Instagram feed addressing the invisibility dilemma…..but are we really as invisible as these initiatives suggest?
How is invisibility measured?
Firstly, how is ‘invisibility’ measured? Is it the column inches gained by women over 50 in mainstream media? Is it the number of models over 50 in advertising campaigns? Is it the number of women over 50 appearing on TV and film? in Is it the number of women over 50 in the workplace? Is it how women perceive themselves? Are some women /outlets talking women into believing they are invisible?
I started the Fab after Fifty website 12 years ago. At that time the only women over 50 referred to in the press seemed to be Helen Mirren and Judy Dench. Whenever I went to meetings invariably their names would be brought up as role models for the over 50s, I used to get tired of pointing out that while both were successful and inspirational women, if they were the benchmark being used by advertisers and brands then perceptions and strategies were a generation out – Judy Dench is in fact older than my mother. I used to highlight other women who had celebrated their milestone birthday – in fact if we look at today’s list it would include Kylie Minogue, Jennifer Aniston, Julia Roberts, while Michelle Pfeiffer, Madonna and Lorraine Kelly have celebrated their 60ths. The visual image of a 50 plus woman just hasn’t caught up with the reality of how we are and how we live.
Women over 50 on our screens
There are more women over 50 on our screens – Jane Seymour is 70 and has never been more in demand, Tess Daly hosts THE BBC flagship programme at 50, Davina McCall is constantly fronting programmes, Lorraine Kelly still fronts her daily morning talk show, Catherine O’Hara took centre stage in Schitt’s Creek, Frances McDormand has just won the Oscar for Best Actress. There has been a significant improvement over the past decade.
Until the pandemic hit the number of women over 50 in the workplace was increasing year on year – with employers recognising the contribution they are able to make in the workplace. In fact all senior UK ambassadors are now female and mostly over 50. The most recent appointment being Menna Rawlings who has been appointed as ambassador to France at the age of 53. High profile, visible roles. Let’s not forget that Kamala Harris is the first female Vice President of the Unites States at the age of 56.
One area where there is still considerable progress that needs to be made is representation in advertising. Despite having the most spending power, the over 50s are still vastly underrepresented in advertising campaigns. Brands seem happy to embrace all the other ‘diversity’ issues but sadly age is still the poor relation when it comes to inclusivity.
We can choose to be visible
What about how we see ourselves over 50? I am going to be make a statement which I know will be controversial. I believe that we are only invisible if we choose to be. For me it’s all about mindset. We all have the opportunity to stay engaged and current when it comes to interests, skills etc. Being visible is not about how we look but about our energy and enjoyment of life. Yes, we can all do things from a visual standpoint to be more visible – there are lots of tips about what to wear, how to update our make up etc, but at the end of the day I think it is about zest for life.
I have often used the phrase ‘why be invisible when you can be fabulous’. You only have to look at the number of women on instagram who are happy to share their 50plus journey. They have no intention of fading into the background ! Nor should any of us. There is no need to be invisible when there are so many options to be visible ……and fabulous!!
Is the notion of women over 50 based on facts – or is it another misconception about ageing?
What do you think??