Nifty at fifty

aut2.2 2016 For smart, innovative employers, the silver decades may yield gold.

‘For both women and men, it’s not just our professional life that peaks in our fifties,’ relates Avivah Wittenberg-Cox1 in Harvard Business Review (April 22 2016). ‘After the stress of the mid-life years, the data shows that happiness levels rise in the early 50s. New mental skills emerge. Indeed, in 2010, research by the Economist showed that older people have fewer rows and come up with better solutions to conflict.’

‘Every decade so far has had its different joys and challenges,’ concurs AHEAD’s Alison Tizard. ‘Twenty years ago I would have expected to be slowing down by now, rather than be full steam ahead. Looking to the future, I certainly don’t rule out another big challenge or adventure.’

As Wittenberg-Cox reports, instead of feeling old and tired, fifty somethings have figured out how to play the game, and can focus on influencing the outcome. While many still assume that careers are more or less over by the time you pass 50, the baby boomers are rewriting the roles. ‘The combination of empty nest, established reputations, and paid-off real estate, means that the silver decades offer an unexpected cocktail of reduced costs, more flexibility, and -for some- exciting new career opportunities.’

aut2 2016Although women have traditionally been the primary parent, this is changing as companies and countries are starting to favour parental leave for mums and dads. Others of course are instead caring for elderly parents or choosing to look after or spend time with grandchildren.

In the meantime, an increasing number of talented women are re-emerging post-family and are more ambitious than ever. Clever companies are recognising this potent new force in global business. ‘For these smart, innovative employers, the silver decades may yield gold.’

1  Avivah Wittenberg-Cox is CEO of 20-first, one of the world’s leading gender consulting firms, and author of Seven Steps to Leading a Gender-Balanced Business.
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