Tag Archives: ageism

“Old Women” and the search for jobs

Coming to ask for your prayers.  I just got word that probably by Oct. I’ll no longer be employed.  They’re transitioning everything to TN and I haven’t been invited to go.  So pray I’ll find another job VERY QUICKLY.  If anyone knows of anything PLEASE let me know.  Thank you all.

There it was. First email in my box. This is from a friend of mine who started a Red Hat group which is no longer a Red Hat group but the women meet on a monthly basis anyway.

She’s always appeared to me as being light-hearted. She loves to joke and laugh, even when she’s experiencing situations that are far from laughable. She’s not joking and laughing now. She sounds scared…as well she has a right to. She is joining the next crew of people being laid off of work. The day she sent this the headlines read:

                                    U.S. lost 216,000 jobs in August

The nation’s unemployment rate grew to 9.7 percent in August — the highest level since 1983 — as non-farm payrolls shed 216,000 jobs. USA Today. That was the August figure. She will be in the September lay-offs reported in October.

That 9.7% does not include those who have given up trying to find employment.

I have talked with a number of women who have found it increasingly more difficult to find jobs once the company has downsized or relocated or they are trying to reenter the work force after years of  being a stay at home mom. These were women barely over forty-five. This friend has an additional fourteen (?) years on them.

Many women are encountering both ageism and sexism. I also ran across a term new to me: lookism. The term is new but the ism it represents is as old to me as I am. Let’s face it. Older men are “distinguished”. Older women…forgeddaboutit!

Oxford’s 1999 “20th Century Words,” by John Ayto, defines lookism as “prejudice or discrimination on the grounds of appearance (i.e., uglies are done down and the beautiful people get all the breaks).” The lexicographer’s earliest citation was in The Washington Post Magazine in 1978, which reported that fat people coined a defensive word: “lookism — discrimination based on looks.”

When I left teaching in 2004, I did so with the intention of finding employment with a non-profit organization as a “jill-of-all-trades”. It’s amazing the number of skills an elementary school teacher gathers over thirty years in the system. I had had a similiar job before re-entering teaching and I really loved it. I am not one to sit at a desk all day long or to stand all day long either. I like variety in a job.

I started reapplying for work. Of course many of the applications had to be submitted on line. I did not keep a record of the number that I submitted. I do know that I did not receive a single response through this method.

I was hired as a tutor part time for the district the following year. I really enjoyed it, but the year after that, the program that hired retired part timers like myself folded.

There is a local university in town. I sent in my resume and was asked to come in to take a typing-math-filing-computer skills  general knowledge test. I scored a 95 on the thing. The results went out to the departments and the department heads did the interviewing. I never heard a word. My son graduated from the university. When I mentioned my lack of interviews to him, he looked directly at me and said, “Mom, do you really think those thirty year old professors want to hire an assistant that’s as old or older than their mothers?” Ouch! but true.

Here in this town older women not only have to compete with young, fresh recent graduates, they also have to compete with those who speak Spanish. I can’t remember the number of jobs that sounded interesting that said, “bilingual required”. It is difficult to accept that as an experienced professional, a recent Spanish-speaking high school graduate was preferred. Of course that is the nature of the great majority of non-profits in the area. Their Spanish speaking clientele is increasing exponentially.

I know a couple my age at church. He is self-employed and she lost her job. I don’t know the details but I can’t imagine it was because of incompetancy. Anyway, they had to live almost three years on his income alone before she found another position. This was a few years ago just at the start of the recession when his clientele base started to diminish. They were really hurting by the time she found another job.

Older women have been stereotyped forever. “Little old lady”, hag, witch, crone, etc. to name a few words, have a firm place in our vocabularies. With the continuation of the recession, the continued number of baby boomers entering this population, and the young Spanish speaking high school graduates out there, my friend is not going to have an easy time finding another position unless she really knows how to network and happens to be at the right place, talking to the right person, at the right time. I hope she is on the look out for synchronicity.

Before I gave up trying to find a job, I got very tired of hearing, “You should volunteer!”  The past four years seem to have gone relatively quickly. I don’t really mind not having my mind occupied sixteen hours a day. I’ve enjoyed the change of pace. However, I have grown somewhat restless and know there are volunteer opportunities to fill my time. So far I have been fortunate enough to not desperately need another job in order to survive. That may not be the case for the rest of my life.

This is a society that doesn’t respect the old. One of my favorite recently read books is the Alaskan tale of Two Old Women. It is a story of women the rest of the community saw as being useless in a time of starvation. They were left behind to die. They did not give up but remembered vital survival skills mastered over a life time. They survived to the point that the rest of the community eventually had to come to them for help. It’s the kind of book that a “little old lady” like me can read and shout “Yes!”

A great read

A great read

As for my friend, she needs as much help as she can get. If anyone has any suggestions as to where to search for jobs, please feel free to comment. In the meantime, it’s time for church again. Namaste. Attic Annie


Filed under Casual conversation, economics, general topics, musings, self worth, transition, Uncategorized