WHAT’S YOUR number?

Increasingly, the way we are viewing an individual’s age across industries is changing – so, from the CEO’s office to beauty pageants, what’s that Australian age landscape looking like now? Get it’s Kathleen Loxton finds out how women are empowering each other and firing back at ageist industries

From the boardrooms of Hollywood’s major producers to corporations right here on the Gold Coast, ageism continues to be an important topic, especially when it comes to its impact on equality for women across all industries.

In late 2018, The Sydney Morning Herald published that ‘30 per cent of employers are still reluctant to take on workers over 50,’ however, this notion is changing. With the Human Rights Commission predicting in 2015 that the population of Australians aged 65 and over will double by 2055, it’s high time the workplace adapts  to include a changing demographic. In fact, it was cited in the same article by The Sydney Morning Herald, that the proportion of employers who weren’t reluctant to hire older workers increased from 8 percent in 2014, to 28 percent in 2018.

It’s clear that although we are moving in a positive direction when it comes to ageism in the workplace, there is still a lot of work to be done. This was reflected in the Australian Human Rights Commission’s 2016 Willing to Work report, which found that although Australians aged 55 and over made up a quarter of the population, they represented only 16 percent of the workforce.

Ageism in particular, is something that has a huge impact on women and their careers. The pressures of society, misogyny and sexism create a toxic blend and an additional barrier to smashing that glass ceiling. No industry is immune, with representation in society and in the media, being one of the toughest challenges.

In film? An IMDb study found that while women in their 20s actually get 80 percent of leading roles, this changes by the time they’re 40, when male leads take 80 percent of those roles – meaning women get shorter careers that start earlier.

In fashion and beauty? It’s still commonplace to see the likes of 23-year-old Kendall Jenner modelling for anti-ageing beauty products. However, times are changing, and women are using their voices to further equality and challenge outdated stereotypes.

Two ladies making huge strides in redefining the standards of their industry, are Australia’s two oldest beauty queens, 56-year-old Suzi Dent (Mrs. Earth Ambassador) of the Gold Coast and 60-year-old Robbie Canner (Ms. World) of Sydney. Defying societal and industry norms, both Suzi and Robbie have previously won international beauty pageants at the ages of 55 and 60 respectively. Recently, Suzi and Robbie took home the two highest honours at the 2018 Australian Beauty Pageant Awards in Sydney, Suzi being crowned Role Model of the Year and Robbie Beauty Queen of the Year.

Both Suzi and Robbie represent the progression we are starting to see in the media and right here at home in our workforce (which you can follow on suzident.com). As Robbie put it,”It’s not all about the younger visual beauty, bikinis and under 30 anymore, the Silverfox age group as we are commonly known, bring the same visual beauty, fitness wear and over 50 personality into the media world, giving us all a new outlook on life and being recognised for it.”

Both women noted how this group has endless potential in terms of marketplace value to add to the Australian workforce.

This was a common theme when Get it discussed the topic of ageism with these amazing ladies, but that’s not to say they didn’t face their fair share of struggles though. While on a whole, the atmosphere amongst contestants has been a nurturing and encouraging one throughout their beauty pageant careers, they had to rely on their self-belief and have confidence in their abilities, to be able to achieve what they have throughout their careers. It has been a process of finding the inner-strength to try different things throughout their working lives, and say yes, despite any negative self-talk.

Women can continue to learn and grow and reinvent themselves and their career at any age.

Suzi described how an important part of this is women sharing their stories and putting their hand up in the office to take-on new projects and promotions.

“By not being insecure or embarrassed about talking about their age, because these limiting self – beliefs and internalised ‘I’m too old’ feelings, can actually stop them from flourishing,”she explained.

“Women can continue to learn and grow and reinvent themselves and their career at any age.”

Both women have taken their skills and experiences gained from varied careers and competing as beauty queens to inspire others, and their lessons are ones that are applicable to all workplaces.

As Robbie found, the vital moment is taking the spot at the table you’ve worked hard for.

I am hoping to inspire women to stop paying attention to their age number, and be fearless about making changes in their lives, and to celebrate their life experiences and knowledge.

“The most empowered I have felt during the pageants is when I got out on stage strutting my stuff and realised that finally this was where I wanted to be,” she described.

“The audience, the judges, the other ladies – I had moved past how I thought I had to be, or look, and found just being me so self-empowering.”

These ladies plan to keep their career momentum going for a long time yet, and are a wonderful example of doing what you love and taking opportunities to develop your career at any age. Suzi is also a motivational speaker and will shortly be on the road to be involved with her Dead Gorgeous and Flawless workshops, that will be touring across the major shopping centres of Australia, teaching over 40s women to embrace their natural beauty and empower them to step out into the world with confidence. Robbie is a sports therapist who has operated her home business for the past 33 years and a passionate charity advocate since her 22-year-old son died of non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma seven years ago.

Their passion and drive was beautifully summed-up by Suzi, who said, “I am hoping to inspire women to stop paying attention
to their age number, and be fearless about making changes in their lives, and to celebrate their life experiences and knowledge.”

Across all industries, women like Suzi and Robbie are galvanising women to speak out about the ageism that they’ve faced in their own industries and embody what it means to be a modern woman who if fearless, can accomplish anything, at any age.

So, what’s your number and what’s your story?

Photos: David Fuentes Photography

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