Skip to content

This Women’s History Month Stoltz engaged its audience in an activation to debunk common myths about women in the workplace.

As we navigated through topics like a woman’s ability to start a family while working, women being ‘too emotional to lead,’ and women not being ‘as good at hard skills’ I started thinking about how women are treated in general, and especially the difference in treatment as they age.

As I get older, I notice how quickly time goes by for everyone. As the increasing number of years I’ve spent in post-grad gets more shocking, I notice how Gen Z has taken the place of Millennials as the topic of conversation, and I notice how much people truly cherish their youth. Some hopelessly cling to their youth, others look back with regret, and the lucky ones fall somewhere in the middle. Observing this has made me reflect on my own age and how I will adapt to getting older. 

No matter what, time will pass, and what has happened to women of older generations will happen to me. I will get wrinkles, find my first gray hair, shrink 3 inches, and lose my ability to avoid hangovers — all of the signs of getting older — if I’m lucky. Getting older should be viewed as a privilege, but for so many people, especially women, getting older feels comparable to when an item goes on discount because it wasn’t selling at full price — it loses its value. 

Women aren’t at fault for feeling this way — it’s a reflection of how they are treated as they age. A survey by Harvard Business Review revealed, ”As women age, they are often not seen as valuable or relevant in the way that male counterparts are. Older women in our research expressed that they were deemed unworthy of advancement. ‘While men become wells of wisdom as they age, older women are seen as outdated, harpy, strident,’ one physician noted.”

This effect is known as gendered ageism, which is the intersectionality of gender and age bias. And it’s not limited to older women — women of all ages face it. 

Young women in the same HBR survey reported experiencing role incredulity and credibility deficit, which occurs when women’s statements and expertise are not believed. Unsurprisingly, young women also had their appearance scrutinized. One physician recalled an experience where a male colleague told her that she “looked like a Barbie doll up there!” after giving a scientific presentation she was proud of. 

Younger women have historically been “more valued” (than women of other ages) by men due to their hyper-sexualization. A study published by Science Advances even found that the desirability of women in the eyes of men sharply decreases as women age. On the other hand, a man’s desirability peaks around 50 on average and then declines. Just look at Leonardo Dicaprio, who doesn’t date anyone older than half his age — the objectification of young women in our culture is undeniable.

Things still don’t get better for middle-aged women. According to HBR, women in this age group were denied opportunities because of obligations they owed to their families, menopause-related concerns, or simply because the women did not ‘look vital’ although men similarly aged were given the role. 

So, are you too young, too old, or are you just a woman? There is no sweet spot. Women of any age face gendered ageism that blocks them from equal opportunities. No wonder so many are afraid to age — but we shouldn’t be. 

Aging is a gift and it should be treated as such. Luckily, I’ve witnessed that as you get older you do in fact get wiser. As women age, the layer of self-doubt sheds and they are able to unapologetically show their true selves. I notice an increased confidence in older women that I admire. 

I think of other women as sources of absolute truth. In my mind, there is no one more intelligent, trustworthy, or more impressive than a woman who’s experienced more than me. I think of women like Amy Poehler, Michelle Obama, Jane Fonda, my mom, my friends, and my coworkers who inspire me and remind me of how much more there is to accomplish in this life. 

I hope that collectively we can realize the amazing resources and teachers that other women, especially older women, are — and treat them as such. It all starts with overcoming decades of internal biases and intentionally consuming content from women you admire.

To get you started, check out the resources below.

  • The Female Lead partnered with Sane Seven in this campaign featuring women aged 40 to 89 sharing their life stories, proving that dreams have no expiration date and that beauty is found in every stage of life.
  • Binchtopia is a female-led podcast that shares sociological and psychological perspectives on pop culture but with a fun, comedic twist. The episode “My Year of Prolonged Suffering and Decrepitude” tackles women and the fear of aging. 
  • “Grace and Frankie” stars Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin — real life best friends who play enemies to friends in a funny, heart-warming sitcom. 
  • Cindy Gallop, an ad industry legend, discusses how “if we change ageism in the ad industry we change the way age is depicted in advertising and therefore change ideas about aging in society.”
  • For Women’s History Month, Stoltz celebrated with a couple of activities that celebrated women and revealed the invisible labor they take on outside of their work responsibilities. If you want to use our activity guide for your team click the links for the WHM Game and Activity Sheet.