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Older Women Rock!

June 25, 2010 4:48 PM

Inc. is one of my favorite magazines and the June issue focuses on America’s best run companies. One of the top places to work is Patagonia, the outdoor apparel company based in California. When asked what he’d do to create the best workplace if he were starting a company today, founder Yvon Chouinard said, "I'd search out older women as employees. Ones that have already raised families and are looking for something to do. These people have lived with a budget. They are aggressive. They are honest. You can't find better employees. They are one of the most underused resources in America." Why don’t more business leaders believe that way—and, more importantly, what can we do to convince them to follow this theory?

Comments (21)

A lot of women are still hung up about age. I'm probably one of them because I catch myself wishing that I had the same vision and drive when I was 40 that I have now at 63. It just means I have to move a lot faster and smarter to accomplish my new dreams.

I have been on the job market for about a year.

The major obstacle I find is that no one wants to PAY an older person what she's worth. "We're not sure we can afford you," is what I hear a lot. Although I can't be sure, I doubt if older men get that response as much as women. Of course, by comparison, twenty-somethings are cheap labor.

Like the comments listed above, potential employers often question my commitment (e.g.,we don't know how long this will hold your interest, how long you will stay, you have so many other obligations, etc.).

By the way, many of these responses came from OTHER older women who were in a position to hire! Hmm....

Once in a while someone who gets it comes along. Makes you wonder about the others and how they run their companies. Discrimination is alive and well despite all the legislation we have to prevent it. Its a pity that we are still in this state of affairs after so many years and trying so hard. My conclusion is that fear and hatred of women persists everywhere - not just in the obvious communities but everywhere- even here and even among women.

Legislation has helped but not as it should. Education also has helped but not enough- We need bold action- we women need to organize and step into the limelight bigtime. We have examples to help us and sisters who can and will help as well. So what is stopping us?

I wish I lived on the west coast instead of the east; I'd certainly apply. I have been job hunting for 14 months and find it amazing the sneaky ways interviewers use tactics to get an estimation of your age (since no one puts dates on college graduation on their resumes anymore.) Of course I'm never told I'm too old, just over-qualified. Yvon Chouinard deserves a medal

Hiring older woman is a very smart business decision. I owned by own businesses for 15 years and hired mainly older woman; they have more creditabily when selling expensives items, more responsible, not running to pick up sick kids at school, and very dependable. There were several incidents of stealing from the younger employees but not from the older. They also did not spend extra time on the phone. They actually listened to the customers and tried to assist them even to the point of suggesting another store. They cared in their actions and importantly came dressed to work.

Are they hiring??? Or should I just send my resume to Mr. Chouinard directly…. I copied this information from Inc. and posted it on my LinkedIn page for all the CEO’ and companies that have made me feel so dismissed by the sending of an e-mail. Unfortunately for them I don’t go quietly and so I end up sending them an e-mail back. The last one I apologized for their loss of not even bothering to get to know me….. How unfortunate for them. After working for a customer service, travel-member based organization for twenty years I was laid off in March of 09. Thinking I would start my own travel business, since I had all this experience, I hooked up with a host agency. Unfortunately, even though they only pay commission, had a stack of rules and regulations, un-employment deemed me self-employed. So I could not collect un-employment, was making on average $85 a week in my travel business, and that’s right, they wanted the 11k they had already paid me back….. Thinking I was collecting from the 20 years I had worked was a misnomer…I would have been better off just collecting un-employment, sitting around watching TV and eating Bon-Bons. I do not have a husband to support me, I could not repay 11k so after the un-employment hearing, after the year contract with the travel host agency was up, after being rejected for being over qualified or under qualified, I decided to go back on line to get my BAA. I am still looking for a CARREA, going to school, working a very limited PT job, trying to build a travel business, volunteering for committees to help the community and network, and wondering how I will pay my mortgage…. However, with all this said, I count myself lucky and my blessings twice…

I couldn't agree more and am living proof of what we can do. I was hired by a friend to manage their merchandise/shipping dept and thousands of dollars worth of inventory. Scarey? Yes, but I did it with 22 people under me and worked along side of them. I had not worked in many years but learned quickly. When the company closed down, I was the last to leave to complete the shipments left undone. I believe it was my years of experience of being a mother managing our home and family that qualified me. I could work faster than our young people and hired several mature ladies to help get the job done. They were faithful and understood what the needs were. I believe many companies are realizing that now for both men and women. By the way, I was in my mid 50's back then. It gave me a lot of self worth knowing I did a good job and was told so many times over.

How refreshing to read such a statement, really! I am one of those women and it's true that we have to have thick skin to face all the rejections when job hunting these days. This is not a competition with the younger generation by any means, I think they can learn from us and us from them always. I completely agree with Yvon Chouinard and any company would be wise to hire older woman. We're seasoned and have lived through many challenges and have a great work ethic to boot!

Hi Tory,

I do not think of myself as an older woman until I look in the mirror,lol. All the reasons above are why we are a wonderful asset to any company. Technology has opened up so much, learning opportunities abound. I learn new things daily and do not feel any more challenged then I did in my 20's. If anything I am more confident due to all the challenges I have met and conquered over the years.

I agree with Patagonia's point of view. I was a "stay-at-home" mom for my children, husband left, midway through and I did the best I could. They are all grown, and have college degrees. I don't. I sold resl estate since 1983 and now there is really not enough business for a living, so I got a full time "corporate" job in Dec, 07 and was laid off last August. Since I don't have a long record of employment with a major employer, I am having a very difficult time securing full time employment. Many of these HR people don't "get it" that I have transferrable skills from running my own business for many years. Any suggestions?

Maybe we should all get together and form our own awesome company. I am not ready to retire and have so much yet to do.

I love this idea! Having gone through a career change and seeing two sisters trying to figure out "what to do next", I know they will be amazing at the next thing they do. The old reason for not hiring older people was that they can't learn new things. HA! How many times have they had to learn subjects in order to help their kids with homework? Another reason - they won't be there long enough to warrant the training. How many of the younger people stick around these days? The world is a place of finding a better place and no loyalty. Time to hire the older people!!!

I can't agree more with this article. I am 49 years old, laid off from the finance industry, and it seems when ever I interview I find employers intimated by the mere facts that I have my act together. Older people have been around the block, we have raised our children, we have no time for game playing we are serious about our lives, and careers, and we have a strong sense of loyalty and ethics. Yes, we know how to build a fire on a fifty cents budget. The older I get I find myself more aware of my sense of self, and what I want. I feel companies can win by looking at us as intelligent people, capable of making a difference in this world even when we are fifty.

This is a very wise man! I was a stay at home mom for many years and held part-time jobs during these years. I enjoyed being home and had no reason to work full-time. Then my husband lost his job of 27 years as a sales rep in the Automotive industry. To go from a high salary to zero income was devastating to say the least. This forced me back into the workforce. I took an entry level job. Boy did I get an eye openner!! I was amazed at how the work environment was managed. Unbelieveable, I thought! This is how they run a company! Yvon Chouinard was right on the money! He is very correct in his assessments.

Older womenn as employees are seasoned workers, they have been there done that. We have lived a full life and can now devote our efforts to work untroubled by the duties of raising a family and keeping a home. We are comfortable in our own skin and see the bigger picture of life.

If someone would back me up with funding I would absolutely love to organize a hiring agency/head hunter organization exclusively for these women. I whole heartedly believe that I will find plently of qualified canidates that would be one of the best employees that a company hires!

Cindy
cindyi@comcast.net

Thanks for the encouragement Chouinard, your positive comments about older women being a great source for the work force was well needed. Just so happens, I am trying to return to the world of work. I have been a stay at home mom for the past 12years now some would deem this as stupid but, I consider it to be an admirable and necessary commitment. Although, I wouldn't take this responsibility on again for a million dollars. Inspite of the fact...I have had some pleasantries.
No coincedence, as Oprah would put it. I am looking to work in the field of fashion not sports apparel but,with clothing all the same.
So, thanks Chouniard for the confirmation to boost my confidence in my journey,I needed it.

Frieda/2gether We Build

WHAT A GUY!!! Someone finally gets it!

I couldn't agree more. Those of us who stayed home, and/or supported our husbands' careers, to/while raise our kids and are now ready to re-enter the workforce have been through it all, and then some! Our life experiences have prepared us to make great contributions, and we are ..'the most underused resource in America'!

AS an older woman (52) who was laid off in October 2009 from a job in financial services I have been fortunate to be getting interviews recently but no one seems to know what to do with me - so they do nothing.

I wholeheartedly agree with Patagonia's concept. We have raised our children, managed our homes and many of us while holding a full time job (I was with my last firm for 11 years). I have a lot of energy and valuable experience to add value immediately to any employer. As a Director, I am an experienced office manager, executive assistant, compliance person, client relationship manager and events planner (conference coordinator, marketing manager) and I have extensive experience talking and dealing with clients (hedge fund managers, mutual funds, pension etc).

I could add value and hit the ground running day one in any one of the above job categories and can work independently. The over 50 age group has so much to offer!!

I LOVE this. As a woman who fits in that category, it thrills me to hear that someone pays attention. I have spent a year and a half looking for work with no luck. Regardless of the legalities (illegality) of it, age has proven to be the biggest challenge I face. Wisdom, experience, stellar work performance--all mean nothing to employers wanting young and perky. Sooooo, I'm in the process of going back to school so I can in time get licensed in the field of my choice (I start July 12.) Meanwhile I'm starting a business of my own and setting the stage of where I want to be in four or five years, SO THAT I am NOT dependent on someone else to provide my livlihood, income, self-worth, or anything else. I am blessed to be married to a man who enthusiastically supports me. It's good to read that there are other men who recognize our value, too.

Older women have the benefit of varied work experience in a number of ways...running a home, working a structured job that requires skills in order to achieve better pay. At my age (58), I am looking to return to school to obtain my Masters degree while working a very stressful job as a manager, in hopes of choosing a job doing something I LOVE to do and not HAVE to do. My age group, both men AND women, are always on time, have an excellent work ethic, and will work towards the company bottom-line!

I saw this quote and also loved it(I'm writing about it myself!). It validates what we've been working toward at iRelaunch where we talk to companies about the quality of this "relaunch pool" of women resuming careers after a career break as we call it. Chouinard is right-women in this pool have excellent experience, credentials, work ethic, enthusiasm, and loyalty. At iRelaunch, we get the word out by talking to companies one by one about how they should pay attention to this gem of the workforce. Thank you for getting the word out to your massive following! Carol Fishman Cohen, Co-founder, iRelaunch www.irelaunch.com

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