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 few years, I have taken a keen interest in observing the significant dearth 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 the weekdays. 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 mainly the under 45’s.

In addition, 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. Having said this, 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, but thanks to the ever ticking biological clock, most women after 45 already have children of primary school, secondary school/sixth form and university ages. Therefore, this explanation is weak at best. 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 in the uncomfortable zone of being too qualified for the comparative junior management roles and under qualified (or lacking the constitution) to push through the proverbial glass ceiling to the very senior posts? As such, are they pushed or do they jump?

The international women’s day, every year on March 8th, celebrates the achievements of women worldwide and highlights the political & 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 had 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 turns red when they get to 30 years. On their 30th birthday, they must take part in a ritual called “Carrousel” in which they are vaporised to be “renewed”. As Logan approaches 30, he begins to question this renewal and goes on the run to escape.

I remember finding the Carousel scene and indeed the whole movie quite shocking, but I consoled myself with the thought that the storyline was ridiculous and the product of an overactive and creative 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 2016 and with the life expectancy longer than at any time in our history, there is no place for a Carousel ritual such as above. Perhaps though, there is a vaporisation of sorts happening in the workplaces – only this time the undesirable age is 45 and the vaporised subjects are women?

Share Button
Posted in Change Management, International Women's Day, Leadership & Development, Motivate for Change, Why few women reach senior positions and tagged , , , , , , , .