Research published by Chwarae Teg, reveals that too many women aged fifty and over feel invisible and overlooked by employers, government and society.
The report, Working Experiences of Women over 50 in Wales, reveals that many women in this age group face barriers to remaining in work, and experience disadvantage and discrimination within work.
Indeed, women over fifty are experiencing multiple forms of discrimination in the workplace. Nearly half who reported discrimination based on sex/gender also experienced age-related discrimination. This includes indirect and direct discrimination and harassment, which has wide-reaching impacts on confidence, wellbeing and mental health.
Caring responsibilities are preventing women over fifty from continuing to progress in their careers, with more and more women in this age group now caring for both older parents and dependent children or grandchildren. Caring for both younger and older people mean this group are at the sharp end of gaps in childcare and social care systems.
Menopause symptoms also adversely affect many women’s ability to work as usual. Chwarae Teg found that menopause stigma is persistent and prevented women from having open conversations with managers and colleagues about their needs. 27% of women had taken time off work due to menopause symptoms, but less than half had told their manager the real reason for their absence.
The impact of these issues and of gender inequality over a lifetime is significant for both pay and pensions for women over fifty. The gender pay gap widens with age, reaching 21% for women aged 50-59. While there is no official measure of the gender pension gap, research suggests that the gender pension gap for women in Wales is 31.2% – significantly higher than the gender pay gap. This leaves women at far greater risk of financial hardship as they move towards retirement.
To tackle these issues, Chwarae Teg’s recommendations include a call for Welsh Government to develop an Over 50s Guarantee, to ensure those not yet retired have access to work, training or self-employment, for providers of support services to ensure that their offer is inclusive of workers over 50 and for employers to ensure that flexible working policies are in place and that people are supported to work flexibly.
More awareness of gendered ageism and support for associated issues such as the menopause should also be encouraged across Wales to ensure that women over fifty can secure and progress within work.
Lucy Reynolds, Chief Executive, Chwarae Teg, said:
“This research exposes the specific barriers and discrimination that women over fifty face in the labour market in Wales. It also shows the impact of gender inequality, which widens as we age.
“Women over fifty are key to the economic health of our society, and support services and employers should be doing more to support them to secure and progress within meaningful work. There is a huge amount of diversity of experience and circumstance amongst women over fifty in Wales. Instead of characterising economic inactivity of over fifty’s as a result of affluent workers retiring early, we need to be addressing the barriers different groups of women face to staying in work.
“Women remain most likely to reduce hours or leave work entirely to care for family members. Our research shows that women over fifty are doubly impacted by the lack of adequate provision of both childcare and adult social care as they are more likely to be caring for grandchildren and aging parents. Coupled with the patchy offering of flexible working, many women over fifty are leaving or reducing fulfilling work due to caring responsibilities. Government must address the gaps in childcare and adult social care to ensure that women can access employment if they choose to.”