The way to change the image of older women is to look at the reality of smart, high-performing women who fit in this category.
In my June blog post, I did a rant about how older women are represented in commercials as slightly befuddled, comical characters. The latest Wendy’s commercial called Where’s the Bacon is a case in point. Having vented my anger at this insulting misrepresentation of older women, I thought that I should now present a positive point of view about older women.
Older Women to Watch
Here is my nomination list for some of the most impressive and noteworthy women that I know about. They are all doing and have done high-profile interesting work. Some have changed paths in their careers. All are rewriting the script on what it means to be an older woman.
- Beverly McLaughlin 78, former Chief Justice of the Canadian Supreme Court, author
- Rita Moreno 90, actress, singer, dancer, activist for racial justice
- Christine LaGarde, 66, former President of the European Central Bank, lawyer, politician
- Janet Yellen 76, current US Secretary of the Treasury, former 15th Chair of the Federal Reserve, economist
- Jane Fonda 84, activist, actress, TV producer
- Maye Musk 74, model, dietician
- Jane Goodall 88, primatologist, and activist
Clearly, these women are incredibly smart and talented in a variety of fields. While they are exceptional because they are all very well known, there are millions of smart older women doing important meaningful work making the world a better place. They do not fit the image of an older women in our modern society which equates age with decrepitude. This image has got to change.
The last third of our lives cannot be seen as a closet where we get stored until we finally die. We all must be role models for younger women who fear owning their age and their power at the same time.
In our May blog we talked about how our crystalized intelligence increases as we age unlike our fluid intelligence which declines. This crystalized intelligence allows us to use our experience to consider complex issues in new ways. These important abilities cannot be wasted because the prevailing societal attitudes are so dismissive.
Action for Change
The way to change attitudes in society is to start by changing our own attitudes about ourselves. While many of us may be retiring to a less high-pressure life, we cannot buy into the belief that we are no longer relevant. Look at Maye Musk who at 74 is this year’s cover girl of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition!
The other thing that we must do and inspire others to do is to call out ageism when we see it. Every time we see a dismissive commercial or hear a dismissive comment in media or even from friends and loved ones, we must say this is JUST NOT TRUE.
The ultimate goal is for the women on my list to come to mind when we think of older women not the confused, befuddled creatures of currently portrayed in the media.
Let me know what is the image that comes to mind for you when you say older woman. Who would you nominate to my list?