Black Women Over 50 Are Your Organization’s Greatest Asset
In recent years organizations have begun to recognize the value of generational diversity and the unique insights that those from different generations can offer. However, many organizations overlook the experience and knowledge that black women in Generation X and the Baby Boomer generation have to offer, instead ignoring or underestimating the value of their contributions.
The time is now for organizations to rethink their views on age as a measure of productivity and competency. The GenX/Baby Boomer generation has a lot to offer organizations if they are willing to give them a chance. Emerging research suggests that there are numerous benefits of hiring GenXers and Baby Boomers, including increased productivity and job satisfaction, lower turnover rates, higher profitability, and reduced absenteeism.
What are some advantages of hiring black women over 50?
We bring a diverse portfolio of experiences and expertise to the table.
- Often overlooked by hiring managers and recruiters, the professional power of black women over 50 is unmatched. The diverse portfolio of experiences and expertise that we bring to the table is precisely what organizations need to thrive in today’s world. Black women over 50 are typically equipped with a level of confidence and professionalism that allows us to approach a situation or problem with an analytical eye as well as a warm, insightful understanding.
- We have experience in multiple industries, multiple roles and positions within each industry, different types of organizations (from startups to Fortune 500) and encounter different types of people, which helps us think on our feet when faced with change and adversity. Not only do we possess the skills required for almost any job — we also bring decades of business acumen that has been cultivated through trial-and-error — and hey, it’s never too late to learn new tricks! Thanks to technological advances creating more opportunities for remote work options, we can apply our skills anywhere in the world from home or from an office location.
We know how to turn challenges into opportunities.
- In a world where hiring managers often prioritize youth over experience, black women over 50 are often overlooked. But these women who have seen and done it all can provide your organization with years of knowledge and insight that younger employees may lack — not to mention leadership skills, resilience and resourcefulness that come with age.
Black women over 50 deserve their shot at becoming the next tech trailblazer or sitting in the C-suite of your organization. Don’t overlook this untapped talent pool!
- One of the things that sets us apart is our ability to turn challenges into opportunities. We know how to look beyond the difficulties and see what we can learn from challenging situations.
When we do face adversities, we stop and ask ourselves: How can I grow from this challenge? What does this reveal about me? What does this teach me about others?
- Instead of focusing on what’s going wrong, we focus on what we can control, which is how we respond to a situation. If a failure occurs, instead of obsessing over it and blaming others, we use these experiences as learning opportunities to try again in the future with a different approach or attitude.
We’re used to being stereotyped, so we work harder to stand out.
Every person in every profession and every industry has their own stereotypes to deal with, their own challenges to overcome. For black women over 50, however, these challenges are a bit more difficult than for others.
This is due in large part to the fact that ageism and sexism are very real challenges that many older black women face — challenges that can hold them back from being recognized for their hard work.
Black women over 50, who may have faced racial prejudice as well as sexism throughout their lives, know all about this type of stereotyping. They know what it’s like to fight against the status quo to get ahead. And yet they continue to work hard and do great things in spite of these obstacles — and even use them to help others along the way.
We’re more goal-oriented than people give us credit for.
“Black women over 50 want to change the world,” says Dr. Linda Villarosa, Director of the Journalism Program at City College and award-winning author of “Body & Soul,” a book about black women’s health. “They’ve been living and struggling for decades before they have some economic security — they have so much to offer.”
The numbers speak for themselves: According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly half (47 percent) of black women over age 50 have an associate’s degree or higher; 15 percent have an MBA or advanced professional degree. More than a quarter (26 percent) are entrepreneurs; 45 percent are interested in starting their own businesses.
Organizations would do well to hire black women over 50 because they can add value in so many ways.
It’s not uncommon for companies to ignore the presence — and potential — of women over 50. Companies need to avoid this knee-jerk reaction and instead work to create a company culture that welcomes and supports black women over 50 as employees and leaders, especially at a time when their numbers in the workforce are growing.
Make sure your organization avoids these common pitfalls:
- Don’t assume that all black women over 50 are the same. Just like any other group, they will have different experiences, goals and motivations. Make sure you’re not making assumptions about them based on false stereotypes of what it means to be “old” or “black.”
- Don’t assume that black women over 50 aren’t interested in working anymore. While some may choose early retirement, these women are increasingly opting to remain in the workforce longer than previous generations did. They can bring many valuable skills with them, such as wisdom from experience, emotional intelligence, leadership ability and an affinity for technology.
What organizations can do to support these women
When your organization hires and promotes black women over 50, you need to make sure that your organizational practices support them in all aspects of their work. Here are seven ways to do so:
- Provide training and development opportunities.
Black women over 50 are often extremely intelligent, with a rare combination of experience, skills and knowledge. They have the ability to assess situations from multiple angles and know how to take action. However, many organizations still don’t realize this, which is why these women aren’t being provided with opportunities for career growth or promotion. If an organization is to retain their black female employees over 50, they need to understand that learning doesn’t stop once someone’s reached a certain age — and accordingly make investments in their training and development initiatives when it comes to these employees.
2. Ensure that they are being heard and valued by the organization at large.
Stereotypes would have us believe that black women over 50 are aggressive, loud or confrontational — and while some may be, more often than not they’re simply confident in their opinions and unafraid of expressing themselves openly when necessary. There can be enormous value in hearing what these women have to say; unfortunately, though, too many organizations make assumptions about older black women before listening carefully enough for them to share their wisdom. Organizations must work harder to ensure that all voices are included at meetings and brainstorming sessions — or risk missing out on priceless insights from some of the most valuable members of their team!
3. Bring age diversity into your DEI programs.
It is a well-known fact that employees can learn new skills when working with other people who have different perspectives from themselves. Leveraging diversity as a source of competitive advantage in the workplace is a global strategy for many employers, but things get trickier when you are looking for something rarer. Finding a way to reach and recruit top talent that are black women over 50 — is even easier said than done.
4. Coach and teach recruiters not to discriminate by age.
All recruiters and hiring managers at your organization should undergo training on explicit and implicit biases. This training should be specifically aimed at identifying and dispelling myths about older workers as well as the typically thought of biases such as race and gender. Bias training is a powerful tool for recruiters that will help them identify when they are most likely to decide based on their assumptions and how to avoid doing so. This training can be incorporated with your wider diversity hiring training and is applicable to all demographics.
5. Create the right policies.
Advocating against age discrimination needs to come from the top of your organization. Leaders must take a stand to call out and dispel ageism across the company for any policy to work (remember all going well you’ll be working in your mature years). Review your discrimination policy. Look at what characteristics and demographics are protected and emphasized in this document. If age isn’t included or given equal emphasis compared to others, then that is a good place to start. Re-write your discrimination policy to ensure that age is given equal weight. Make sure that you communicate this new policy clearly to everyone within your organization.
6. Showcase a multigenerational workforce.
Employee branding is a powerful tool for showcasing your company culture and the type of workforce you value. As an organization, you want to attract the best candidates, when creating employer branding content, make sure that you show workers of all ages, races and genders. Videos, images, and testimonials that show a multigenerational workforce are great ways to show potential candidates that they’re welcome, regardless of how many years of experience they may have.
Simply put — senior black women are an asset and a smart investment for your organization.
If you’re a professional woman over 40 contemplating her next career chapter , or considering your options for a career change but need some support along the way contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit janicesutherland.com for more helpful resources.