Over 50 and Self-Employed: Where Are Our Role Models?
Does age matter when we talk about the challenges for self-employed women? We all have questions about time management, how to track invoices, hire quality staff, marketing and other issues. The basic business questions are unrelated to age, ethnicity, marital status and number of children (or lack of). As women we have at least one thing in common…two if you consider that we’re all in business for ourselves. But from there we diverge wildly.
According to a U.S Census Bureau survey published in 2010, 60.7% of all self-employed women are over the age of 45. But, if you do an online search for women in business, one might think the average self-employed woman is under the age of 35, a stay-at-home mom with at least two children; she has a partner and is Caucasian. It’s a skewed picture of self-employed women. What we’re seeing is a younger group of women who are tuned into the online world and networking in record numbers. Older women have an online presence but don’t seem to be marketing themselves as intently as their younger counterparts.
I began my freelance writing career after leaving a very stressful job. I wanted to indulge my dream of becoming a writer. There were few resources that addressed the complexities of starting over again. As a 58-year-old self-employed woman I have very different needs from the 30-year-old who is balancing motherhood, marriage and a business. I may find useful information in a ‘mommy’ blog if I’m willing to wade through ads for baby products, sandwiched in between tips for working while baby sleeps and how to find the right daycare. But it’s way too much work.
Forbes Magazine‘s annual 100 Top Websites For Women. The list includes mommy blogs, marketing/social media sites, how to start-up blogs and powerful big-name women.
Vibrant Nation, Better After 50, ThirdAge.com and Huffington Post’s Huff Post50 are a few of the websites catering to older women, with a community focus. The topics are more heavily slanted towards lifestyle, health and relationships but you can find conversation threads on work-related topics. The emphasis is mainly on ‘community’, with occasional feature articles written by professional women.
As older women, we are trying to run our businesses in a culture that values youthfulness rather than experience and wisdom. Those assumptions and attitudes work against us and often leave us feeling out of place and out of sync with today’s world. As we search for role models and mentors we want someone who resembles us. It’s difficult to see how a work model based on the life experience of a 25 year old can hold comparable value for a 58 year old.
What is the image that older women want to promote? We could show off photos of our grandchildren and talk about our menopausal journeys but that just reinforces the perception of “Old”. And, old doesn’t evoke the same respect or billing rate as young and sassy. At my age I don’t define myself as a Senior and I don’t really want to read blogs on senior health, caregiving, retirement, and grandparenting. I want to know how women my age are sustaining their business and how they function in the larger business world. I want to know how to fight the subtle perception that ‘old’ means less successful or employable.
I want what most older women want—solid advice, examples and resources from women who can talk about the sacrifices, balancing acts, challenges and benefits of being a successful self-employed woman over the age of 50. What do you want as an older woman in business?