While significant attention has been focused recently on the lack of female leaders and the need to “Lean In”, let’s not forget the women that have been leaning in: the often overlooked older females who are quietly creating new jobs and making an impact. Our entrepreneurial culture feeds the notion that the future of economy rests on the youth. But in fact, older women are not only good for the economy– they are also good for the world.
A substantial body of research supports the fact that investing in women results in an increasing return on CSR investment.
Some quick data:
A. Older workers are starting businesses at an increasing rate.
According to the Kauffman Foundation, entrepreneurship growth is highest among American adults in the 45-to 54-year-old age category. Expect this rise to continue as the number of over 55 workers in the labor force grows in size from 18.4 million in 2000 to an estimated 32 million by 2015.
B. The number of female-owned businesses is growing.
A new report from American Express shows that “between 1997-2013, the number of women-owned firms [grew] at 1 1/2 times the national average.” Additionally, the number of women between the ages of 55 and 64 in the workforce increased 10% from 2000-2008.
C. Women-run businesses put more back into their communities and world.
A recent Forbes article states that women are more likely to start businesses with both social and economic goals. We also know that women entrepreneurs are more likely to reinvest their profits in education, family and community.
Thus, a new hypothesis: It’s not just women that are good for CSR– it’s women over 40. The value of promoting and helping women over 40 is equal to –and perhaps even of greater value than– focusing on the young-gun entrepreneur that we hear so much about nowadays.
As more women continue to work and thrive after 40, what will it mean for companies engaged in CSR today?
1) Change Your Perspective
If your CSR efforts are focused on empowering women, don’t automatically focus on youth and young adults. Tereza Nemessanyi recommends an incubator for women 40-plus.
She points to research to make the case that the start-up sweet spot for women is between the ages of 35 and 45, after they have “gained professional experience and transitioned out of the early ‘interruption parenting’ years.” Yet, despite this evidence, almost all start-up accelerators are geared towards young entrepreneurs.
Seeking opportunities to fill this void in entrepreneurial support for business founded by older women can help accelerate CSR goals, as women-owned businesses are more likely to have a social and economic impact.
2. Change the Ratio
According to the Greenbiz Salary Survey, women in CSR make 20% less than men at the director level. And that’s if they make it there. At the VP and above level, men still rule. Yet companies with more women corporate officers historically have a better giving profile.
Additionally, now that CSR is a cost of entry for any consumer-facing industry, there is increasing focus on aligning one’s values with one’s actions. If you support a women’s cause, you better be supporting women in your own company.
Show over 40 female workers a little respect. It will likely go a long way.
As power lists shift from “40 under 40” to “30 under 30”, it’s easy for older women to feel marginalized. And these age-defying boomers are not used to it.
With all the talk about entitled Millennials, we forget that older workers today are the trailing boomer generation. Boomers were the original Generation Me. They might not need an award for everything they do, but they do thrive on recognition for the skills they bring to the table.
A recent study shows older workers care more about feeling respected by co-workers (90%) than healthcare and insurance benefits (84%) or a flexible schedule (76%).
What can workplaces do to recognize older workers and celebrate their achievements?
The majority of retention efforts focus on younger workers, but companies that also focus on older employees are the ones that will be well prepared for the future. As with many under-served markets, when you pay attention, you get paid back in loyalty.
That’s why Whitney Johnson and I partnered up to create the 40 Women to Watch Over 40 List. We aim to give women over 40 some respect, recognition and visibility.
Whitney and I share a conviction that women over 40 have reached a point in life where they are better able to align purpose and passion, and are making a difference. Ultimately, our goal is to inspire these under-the-radar achievers to persist, while giving younger women role models that are within reach.
Early nominations show a strong application base of social entrepreneurs. It appears over 40 female entrepreneurs are much more “change the world” than “world domination”.
Nominate a woman you respect here, and keep your eye on the list for opportunities to collaborate and co-create with the up-and-coming women who are creating momentum.
Nominations are open until April 30th and the list will be published in mid-June.
Christina Vuleta is a brand consultant, trends and futures expert and founder of 40:20 Vision, a resource to facilitate mentorship between generations. She also created 7×7 Mentoring, an advisory program for female entrepreneurs. You can follow her blog at www.4020vision and tweets at @4020vision.
Whitney Johnson is co-founder of Clayton M. Christensen’s investment firm Rose Park Advisors (Disruptive Innovation Fund), a former Institutional Investor-ranked sell-side analyst on Wall Street, a regular contributor to the Harvard Business Review, Senior Advisor to the Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Awards, a TEDx speaker and author of Dare Dream Do, Remarkable Things Happen When You Dare to Dream. You can follow her blog at www.whitneyjohnson.com and tweets at @johnsonwhitney.