The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that twice as many women over 55 will be in the labor force as women ages 16-24. That means supporting women throughout their careers is not only a matter of equality but also a strategic imperative for businesses. In particular, empowering older women in the workforce is crucial as they face unique challenges and often experience barriers to career advancement. This article explores the importance of supporting older women and offers practical insights for employers to create an empowering ecosystem.
Prioritizing Healthcare for Older Women:
Older women often face specific healthcare concerns, and addressing these needs is paramount for their overall well-being and productivity. Despite the significant impact it has on numerous women, menopause continues to be an overlooked and disregarded aspect of women’s healthcare. It is worth noting that every woman will go through menopause, assuming she lives long enough. However, a survey conducted by Gennev (via Businesswire), a telehealth service specializing in menopause, revealed that a staggering 99% of women in the United States lack access to menopause care benefits provided by their employers. Global menopause productivity losses can exceed $150 billion annually, according to Reenita Das, a partner and senior vice president for healthcare and life sciences at the consulting firm Frost and Sullivan. Comprehensive healthcare benefits that encompass regular health screenings, preventive care, access to specialized medical professionals, employee assistance programs, and counseling services are essential for older female workers. By prioritizing the health of female employees throughout their careers, employers create an environment where they can maximize productivity and thrive professionally.
Workplace Caregiver Support Programs:
When older women leave the workforce, it is often an involuntary decision rather than a carefully planned retirement. Various unforeseen factors such as layoffs, health issues, and caregiving responsibilities can force them to exit earlier than intended. For instance, nearly 20 percent of women aged 55 to 64 who are not in the labor force are full-time caregivers, a figure more than 4.5 times higher than that of men in the same age group. Research shows that a majority of retired Black women (55 percent) and Hispanic women (60 percent) stopped working earlier than planned, in contrast to less than half (46 percent) of workers in general. This situation poses a higher risk for women, particularly women of color, as they may face inadequate financial resources to meet their needs during their later years. Therefore, implementing paid leave policies is crucial to ensure that all workers, especially older individuals, can take the time to care for loved ones and then return to work, thereby maintaining their connection to the labor force. Emphasizing work-life integration and encouraging self-care can help older women manage their multiple roles effectively. Offering eldercare assistance or resources can also alleviate the caregiving burden and ensure a healthy work-life balance. Employers can establish caregiver support programs that provide resources, guidance, and referrals to services such as respite care, counseling, or support groups. These programs help alleviate the challenges faced by older women in managing their caregiving responsibilities while remaining engaged in the workforce. Education and Training Opportunities:
Despite all the evidence of the benefits reskilling and upskilling bring to the workforce, approximately 90% of workforce development programs provide services to students and younger adults, leaving just 10% to address the needs of mid-career and older adults. Mid-career and older female workers are eager to acquire new skills, including technology, computer proficiency, professional development, and licensing.
Employers have a crucial role in supporting continuous learning and maintaining a skilled workforce. However, employees tend to have access to fewer training opportunities as they age. A study by City & Guilds Group found that in the past five years, only half (53%) of people surveyed aged 55 and over have taken part in formal workplace training, compared to 67% of 35- to 54-year-olds and 83% of 18- to 34-year-olds. And over a third (38%) of people 55+ reported last receiving workplace training more than 10 years ago, or never at all. They are also the age group most likely to say that the last workplace training they received was not useful for their current role (20%).
By recognizing the unique contributions that older women can bring, employers can tap into a diverse talent pool and ensure that open positions are filled with qualified individuals who offer a wealth of knowledge and perspective. As the U.S. population grows older, future productivity and economic growth will increasingly rely specifically on older women. By recognizing and addressing their unique health challenges, supporting their role as a caregiver, and offering education and training opportunities to all women regardless of their age, employers tap into the valuable expertise and contributions of women throughout their careers, creating a more equitable and successful workplace.