Women’s Voices: Too Soft for Their Own Good?
Business professional Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and author of the new business handbook for women, Lean In, exhorts and supports women to go all the way to the top in their careers, to speak up, “sit at the table,” and in general meet men on the turf men have always taken for granted. She’s a welcome mentor to young women on their way up.
But what about older women? While there have always been a few standout women leaders, from Golda Meir to Hillary Clinton, they’ve been the exception. Most older women, especially those who grew up in the 1920s, 30s and 40s, were raised to be deferential and to manage a household. If they worked in the business world, it was often in a support capacity. What does this mean now that they’re retired, or nearly so? They may be back-burnering their own needs, either because they’re still putting others first, or simply because they “don’t want to make a fuss.” And this can translate into real financial or health challenges.
Here’s what one Boomer-aged man discovered:
“A few years ago I suggested that my mother, who was in her 70s, do something that would help her with her Social Security. I live in a different city, and when I visited her I asked if she had taken care of it. She had not, saying it was too much trouble. I made a phone call and handled matters in just a few minutes. Then she told me that in many instances, older women are not taken seriously, are ignored or are taken advantage of financially.
“This was a revelation to me! Since that experience I’ve learned she was right a lot of the time. Many older people (men as well as women) don’t want to be bothered making changes…even small ones. Older women, especially, will often benefit when either a younger person or a man accompanies them when repairs are needed or financial matters are under discussion.”
So we can see that it’s not sexist, but simply practical, for younger men to support mature women in speaking up and taking steps to meet their needs.
As a reverse mortgage professional, this might mean including adult children in the process with elderly clients. Everyone learns the details of what a reverse mortgage entails, without diminishing the senior’s role or the importance of thoroughly understanding the finer points of a complex, life-altering transaction.
By the time their grandchildren are ready to consider a reverse mortgage, no doubt the women will be initiating the call!