Article by Ceri Wheeldon
We can’t ignore the fact that age discrimination exists in the workplace. We are still having to deal with the perception that women over 50 are slow to adapt, are unable to learn new things, are low on the productivity scale. None of these perceptions are actually based on facts and in are indeed not true.
If we want to look at just one shining example as why women over 50 should not be written off and still have so much to achieve and contribute in the workplace we need look no further than the Oxford Astra Zeneca Vaccine team.
The project lead was a woman over 50
The project lead for the Oxford Astra Zeneca vaccine was Professor Sarah Gilbert, who is 59. Her years of experience helped her to achieve what seemed at the outset to be the impossible. From securing funding to developing a way of fast tracking the development of the vaccine, Sarah and her team had to find innovative ways of working in a highly pressurised environment. She enlisted the help of the best, including Cath Green ( they have co-authored a book about their experience) whose age is not listed anywhere, but based on when she completed her doctorate I am placing at late 40s possibly early 50s. These are two women who have made an incredible contribution. They pushed the boundaries and worked themselves to the point of exhaustion.
Dispelling the Myths about Older Workers
Were they productive? Absolutely?
Were they able to solve problems? Certainly
Could they work as part of a team? Yes
Were they able to learn new things? They had no choice – they had to.
Were they willing to take risks? Again yes
Did they ramp up as opposed to slow down? Very much so.
Positive attributes of women over 50 in the workplace
These are all attributes that most employers seem to not associate with women over 50- and yet Sarah was able to demonstrate that when an extraordinary, high stakes situation presented itself she was able to rise to the challenge and inspire her team.
Sarah has been recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in recognition of her outstanding achievement.
If ever proof was needed that women over 50 in the workplace are still able to contribute, are at the top of their game and should be welcomed with open arms then Sarah Gilbert is able to offer all the proof and inspiration we need.
As a recipient of the Astra Zeneca vaccine , which I see as my passport back to freedom, I am so grateful for the personal sacrifices Sarah and her team made.
Women over 50 offer an abundance of talent that employers ignore at their peril!!