ITL #473 There’s life after 50: don’t let age stop you1 year, 6 months ago
Age should be seen as a virtue. Yet many older PR practitioners, especially women, face discrimination. By Evadney Campbell.
I’ve just been featured on the inaugural Women in PR (WIPR) ’45 over 45’ list. Wow! Whilst this is flattering, I’m well past 45 years old. It has made me feel, maybe it’s OK not to be ashamed or worried about my age, and almost always being the eldest person in the room.
I was over 50 years old when I decided to leave my secure – well relatively secure job at the BBC to set up my own company, Shiloh PR, with my daughter. Almost nine years later, we’re still here and going from strength to strength.
I want to just say life can really began at 40, 50, or even 60. At any age in fact! So my advice to you, whenever you want to try something new, go for it. Don’t let age stop you.
Taking a look at some of the essays on this site, there was one which particularly caught my attention. “It’s time for women to detox from being overly apologetic and
celebrate their own remarkable talents,” by Kate Dobrucki.
It felt that the universe was trying to tell me something as I had just had a conversation with my daughter, a matter of hours before reading this, when she told me almost the exact same thing.
The request from IPRA to write this essay came on the back of me being on this WIPR ‘45 over 45’ list and hot on the heels of that, I made it into PR Week Power Book 2022 for the first time. What a start to 2022! Yet here I am almost apologising for these recognitions that had taken a lot of years of hard work and dedication to achieve.
Like so many women the world all over, I tend to downplay my success; both in business and in my personal life. In an article I recently read in BC Business, women are more reluctant than men to celebrate their success, and unfortunately, I am no exception.
Loud and proud
Women who are loud and proud about their achievements are often seen as a threat. Thus, in fear of being viewed as arrogant or narcissistic, we opt for staying silent or feeling apologetic if we somehow do get the recognition we deserve.
As we’re talking about older women, I am going to ask you a question. Did you know that the highest rate of people setting up their own business in the US today is among the 55 to 64 age group?
According to Women in PR (WIPR), the reason for launching the ‘45 over 45’ list was to combat the growing number of young women who believed that there is no future for them in this industry once they reach 40. It is alarming how much the number of female PR professionals decreases after the 40 line.
Following data commissioned by WIPR, one in three women working in UK comms has in fact experienced ageism. The creation of this list means shining a light on the amazing and outstanding female PR professionals aged over 45 still active in the sector. To recognise their vital role in the industry, to inspire and motivate the future PR professionals. If you ‘see’ it you can achieve it.
I believe that age is relative and that as people living in the West, we have a view on age that is not necessarily reflected in other countries, particularly in developing nations.
As the saying goes ‘Age is a virtue’. We should respect older professionals, laud the seniority, wisdom and experience they bring. This is, of course, the case in some cultures, but it surely doesn’t feel that way here in the UK, and definitely does not feel that way if you work in the media.
According to a recent article in Forbes, by 2030 the United Kingdom, France, Singapore and the US will be a ‘super-aged’ countries, which means that more than one in five people in the country will be 65 or older.
So, why then is there such agism in our industry? If you network in the way I do, or did when Shiloh PR was first launched, you would be forgiven for thinking that everyone in PR was under the age of 40.
Incomplete view of diversity
Most companies publicly shout about how committed they are to ‘diversity’; but in most cases, what they actually mean by diversity relates to sexuality, gender, disability, race. If you’re lucky, they think about age.
If they are truly committed to promoting diversity then why does age play such a small part? Discrimination is illegal. That’s as true for age as it is for race!
We’re in the business of communications. We try to ‘sell’ to our audience whether through marketing or with our impactful public relations stories.
A significant number of people who buy our products or use the services we promote are Baby Boomers, not only those in the Gen Z category.
Baby Boomers have disposable income, they’re the ones still accessing traditional media. Yet the people working in the sector are part of the Gen Z age range or if a company is really out-going, they may be Millennials.
As PR professionals, we must rethink our views on age. Research shows that the number of people over 50 and in work has increased from 31% in 1992 to 42% in 2020.
Furthermore, following the pandemic where people have been able to carve out a better work-life balance with an increase in home and hybrid working, more and more people, women in particular, will feel much more comfortable working for longer.
Why, because their children may have left home, they’ve got years of untapped lived experience and/or they’re ready to continue working and have so much to offer.
Going it alone
Sadly, in our PR industry, if you’re over 50 and want to feel valued, you may have to go it alone; be a consultant or set up your own company. Too many PR companies still hold the archaic view that we won’t be flexible or dynamic enough.
The reasons for hiring an older professional are endless, from experience to commitment, However, often the most ignored one is that older workers have held down many diverse roles.
This means they’ve worked for a greater variety of industries, company sizes and teams, picking up valuable qualifications along the way. As they’ve aged, they’ve undoubtedly mastered essential skills, engineered unique solutions to problems, and become specialists in specific areas – an advantage for any employer.
Finally, whilst they may not want to employ you, they will value your experience and expertise as a consultant or you can do what I did, set up you own company. This will give you freedom, the power to choose your clients and control your diary. It will almost certainly enable you to get respect from those same companies who won’t employ you.
Evadney Campbell MBE is a multi-award media specialist and co-founder of Shiloh PR. She’s an ambassador for Women in PR (WIPR), a judge for the Great British Entrepreneur Awards (GBEA) and the Royal Television Society Journalism Awards.mail the author
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