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The Truth About Older Women? We Aren’t All Elders

Sandra Hughes October 7, 2019

I am uniquely qualified to talk about “The Truth About Older Women.”  I’m a woman who entered a new chapter in my fifties, and at 57, I don’t remotely feel like an “elder.” That designation is about 20 years from now.

And that’s the problem with labels—they invite ageism. As the huge population of baby boomers enter their elderhood, there is an equally huge population of trailing boomers and generation Xers who are in a completely different stage of life with a radically different set of needs. Yet the blurring of “older” and “elder” tells the world we are the same.

Not All Older Women are Gray-haired or Grandmothers

Any women reading this who can identify with me?  I’m a mother of two children in their 20’s who suspended my successful corporate career to raise children. With a divorce behind me and an MBA at 52, I embraced a huge vision for my future and started my own business.

Late-stage boomers and early gen Xers are really sandwiched. We care for aging parents and our children, while maintaining demanding careers. We are working and likely will be for the rest of our lives, as retirement is being completely redefined. Being sandwiched has many considering starting our own businesses for control over our time, our future, and for the flexibility to meet the demands of this lifestage. And of course, many of us have “aged out” or been pushed out of our corporate jobs.

While we are older, experienced, wise and resilient, we are not close to elderhood. My godmother, who is approaching 80, definitely has an elder mindset. The concept conjures up a circle of wizened members of the community who provide advice and guidance—for me that is at least 70 years old! Generalizations about every woman over 50 being the same or having similar need states just don’t make sense. 

Nearly 12 Million Women Own Businesses

The number of women choosing to own their own business continues to rise. Women owned businesses generate more than $3.1 trillion in revenue and employee nearly 9 million people. And according to the 2019 Small Business Report, “while baby boomers rule small business ownership… women in small business skew younger than their male counterparts. Fifty-two percent of female small business owners are over 50, compared to the 59% of men.”

There is simply an entrepreneurial way of being and thinking. We entrepreneurs who had corporate jobs worked them from entrepreneurial point of view. We were rock stars because we could hold a vision, could see what others couldn’t, could be strategic and were able to persuade those that we reported to that what we were advocating would work. That mindset led us to success both in business and personally.

This has served we women well as we have aged out of our corporate careers into entrepreneurship. Beginning in our late 30’s, society accepts men as wiser as they age, and women as just older. This translates into bring replaceable by someone younger and more appealing—the younger, fresh “face” of the company.

Different Reasons for Different Stages

Women embrace entrepreneurship for a variety of reasons at different stages of their lives. Some know from the outset of their careers that they want to work for themselves and not for someone else. Others start their own businesses while they have young children at home because of the flexibility in their schedules, and as their children grow, their businesses grow and evolve as well. Some start businesses post-divorce because they have to go back to work and that is what makes the most sense for them to do. Some, like me, start later in life.  There is no right or wrong time to start a business. And no matter what the age or the stage, we all have two things in common; that we are women and that we have a vision that we are meant to step into.

The Importance of Mentorship

Older women entrepreneurs possess wisdom, experience and resiliency, and are great mentors for those just embarking on the entrepreneurial journey. As today’s entrepreneurs are more diverse, both ethnically and by age, mentorship and reverse mentorship provide opportunities to learn from each other and open doors to greater opportunity.

I am a mentor—I have always been and still am mentored. Having guidance and input from someone who is experienced in business building is useful. Showing someone what it means to be strategic and execute a plan will fuel their vision and energize yours.

A Community of Entrepreneurs

I created Life Reinvented because I want people who are starting new businesses to have the guidance and tools available to people in large firms. I want to help entrepreneurs learn the importance of planning and strategy to finding success in business. Having a community like the one that I am creating inside Life Reinvented is critical. A support system and accountability are keys to success.

Visit www.lifereinvented.com to learn more about the tools and courses available to fuel your business success. Feel free to reach out to me at sandra@lifereinvented.com with any questions or thoughts. My new book, “Reinventing Your Life: Your guide to finding fulfillment in starting your business,” is available now on Amazon. Join me on Facebook for regular tips and posts on finding success as a business owner.

Want more from Sandra Hughes? Enter to win a copy of her book “Reinventing Your Life” in this month’s book giveaway!

And here are her required reading recommendations for more about women, leadership and influence.

Stria sponsor Life Reinvented made “The Truth About Older Women” special editorial series possible.

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Sandra Hughes

Sandra Hughes is the author of “Reinventing Your Life: Your Guide to Finding Fulfillment In Starting Your Business,” and a mentor for new small business entrepreneurs. She is a former Gap executive, where she co-developed and executed the brand's breakout real estate expansion strategy in the U.K. She has 30 years’ experience in strategic planning, business development, leading teams, mentoring and advising startup companies. This story is sponsored content and the author is not part of the Stria News editorial team.

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