Female Leaders At Fifty
You may think it odd that I start the first blog for Female Leaders At Fifty (FL@50) and talk about being 49, however, it will be no surprise to those already age 50 and indeed those who are still in their 40s or indeed 49ers that are turning 50 is a pivotal time in a woman’s life.
As soon as you hit 49 ( by the way I’m still 49) partners and friends start to joke about being in your “50th year”. You will deal with this in good humour but at the back of your mind is that little mortality fairy smirking and saying “ your definitely middle aged now”.
So what does that mean?
Well, it’s lots of things, as a woman it’s the onset or waiting for the menopause that women don’t seem to really want to talk about. Why is that?
It’s seeing other women and men who are dear friends experiencing separation and divorce after years of marriage because it just doesn’t work anymore. It’s also for those with children the start of the empty nest syndrome.
It’s eyesight my goodness! The rapid change is tangible. Out with friends I’ve noted it’s not just me popping my glasses on my head to read a bar menu. “I’m sure the font is getting smaller!” we joke knowing it’s time to go see the optician).
It’s scent (anyone else?) for years (twenty years) Allure by Chanel was my go to perfume, two years ago that all changed and it did not smell right anymore and I am now firmly a Laura Mercier Ambre Vanille fan.
Predominantly for me though it’s work.
It started with a creeping feeling I may be losing a bit of myself, my self assurance, my confidence in my role at work. I read lots about the imposter syndrome and thought “that’s it “ but it wasn’t, well, not fully but that’s another blog. It was the realisation as a new female executive I was pretty much one of three of the most senior female leaders in my organisation and then it hit me – I had no other females older than me as a reference point even externally or if there where they are a limited number. Even in the public eye when you google it there are few Female Leaders at Fifty or older.
How could that be ?
Where are all the Female Leaders at Fifty and beyond who can coach guide and support the 20, 30, 40, 50 year old female leader? Mentorship in my role was and is available but is predominately male. A female mentor doing an Executive role is a rarity.
This is not to knock the men in our lives, many who have championed me in my roles, two in particular have been my greatest cheerleaders. Turning 49 and approaching 50 made me query if they could mentor me and talk me through managing all of the above at work and guide me through being a female leader at 50 and beyond. How comfortable would I be talking about the impending menopause and tactics to managing it at work ?
Let’s face it despite lots of great change to increase female leadership at the top level we have a way to go. Cranfield FTSE 100 report outlines
•FTSE 100 – while the percentage of female non-executive directors is at an all-time high of 35.4%, female executive positions have flat-lined for a fourth consecutive year at 9.7%. Despite this, the percentage of women on boards has increased from 27.7% in October 2017 to 29% in June 2018, meaning it may be possible to reach the target set by the Hampton-Alexander Review of 33% by the end of 2020
•FTSE 250 – the number of female executive directorships dropped from 38 to 30 between October 2017 and June 2018. There has also only been a marginal increase in the number of women on boards, from 22.8% in October 2017 to 23.7% in June 2018
However its more than becoming an Executive or to use my female leadership icon Sheryl Sandberg words “lean in” this is about having access to women with experience, wisdom and empathy. Who have done it all, or are doing it all, or doing it in their own way after fifty.
Being a leader at fifty and seeing no female in front or not having many in sight is sobering. Turning fifty is certainly momentous, It can be a time in which women evaluate what’s important and what’s not and decide if, where and when change is needed. Whether that is remaining or aiming for Executive level or as a friend has recently done giving it all up and setting up her own fashion school, still a leader and still sending the lift down to help those on the way up. Or a dear. cousin who has set up an art gallery to support a cooperative of artists.
So this 49er recognises fifty isn’t the end of the world, however, what I do recognise is I and people like me who are still curious about life, with thirty years work and life experience behind me as a wife, mother, lover, friend, daughter, sister, AND a leader owe it to those like you and I behind me to network widely and support other women. We must seek out the hidden female leaders at 60, 70, 80 , 90 and beyond and learn from them, to see what’s next.
Yes leadership at fifty may be scary , there’ll be difficult times as well as possibly the best years of our lives , let’s do it together for the future Female Leader at Fifty who will see ahead of her “a sisterhood of female leadership” (thank you Hannah) whose wisdom she can access. Leaders from C-suite to entrepreneurs, to those who want to get back to work because their main career of raising a family is done, to wise grannies and know she is not alone.
So this forum is for you, we are on an adventure together whether you’re 20 or 90 or like me almost 50 (damn that mortality fairy ) to seek advice, receive knowledge from each other and celebrate a full life after fifty, at any level of leadership and beyond . Thank you for following.
Keep curious, share and network.
If you want to learn more about Female Leaders At Fifty you can follow us on Twitter FL@50
The Office for National Statistics puts UK life expectancy at 79.4 years for men and 83.1 years for women.