March 8: International Women’s Day …but where have all the women gone?

It seems to me that women are “disappearing” after a certain age.

For the past year or so, I have observed a significant lack of the “older” woman (and by that I mean, the over 45’s) from the usual hustle of the commuter rush in and out of London during Mondays to Fridays. The statistics tell us that women now account for close to 50% of the working population, however these statistics mask the observation (at least my observation) that these working women, are in the main, the under 45’s. So where are the rest of the women?

It used to be recognised that certain industries attract a particular demographic. So, the media industry has a high population of the young and youngish whereas the more traditional industries have the over 40’s. However, even in the latter, it does appear that the older demographics are predominantly represented by men. So, what has happened to the women?

Childbirth and child rearing are possible explanations. However thanks to the ever ticking biological clock, most women after 45 have already got children of school, secondary school and university ages. Therefore this explanation is, at best, weak. Could it be that after age 45, women leave the work place to start their own businesses? Or is it that after 45, women are no longer perceived as being able to perform the multi-tasks of doing their jobs well and being “eye candy” for their Organisations? As such, they either jump or are pushed?

This may seem like a trivial issue – but it is not. The international woman’s day, every year on March 8th, celebrates the achievements of women worldwide and highlights the political and social struggles and barriers that women still encounter every day. In business, there is a wide acceptance that more should be done to show a better representation of women in senior management and in the boardrooms. The question remains though that if these women are “disappearing” en masse from the workplace after a certain age, where are we going to get qualified and experienced women to fill these senior positions?

Many years ago, I watched a brilliant film called Logan’s Run – which made a significant impression on me. In the film, set in the future, a person’s age is revealed by the “Life clock” crystal embedded in the palm of their right hand and this turns red when they get to 30 years of age. On their 30th birthdays, each person has to take part in a spectator ritual called “Carrousel” in which they are vaporized to be “renewed”. As Logan approaches 30, he begins to question this renewal/ rebirth and goes on the run to escape.

I remember finding the Carousel scene above and indeed the whole film quite shocking but, I consoled myself with the thought that the storyline was ridiculous and the product of an over active imagination. It would never happen in real life, I reasoned with myself!

Now, I am thinking, perhaps I was naive to have been so dismissive. In 2012, we may not have a “Carrousel” ritual but perhaps there is a “vaporization” of sorts happening in the workplaces – only this time the undesirable age is 45 and the vaporized are women?

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Posted in Facilitating Diversity, Sounding Off! and tagged , , .