The Gray Gender Gap

On the surface gender differences in marital status may appear to be disconnected to talent management issues. In fact, they are far more entwined than one might expect. A recently released federal study reveals that across age groups, older men are far more likely to be married than older women. As reported in the New York Times:

About three-quarters of men ages 65 to 74 are married, compared with 58 percent of women in that age group. More surprisingly, the proportion of men who are married at 75 to 84 doesn’t decline; among women, it drops to 42 percent. Even among men over 85, nearly 60 percent are married. By that point, only 17 percent of women are.

So what explains the difference? Yes, women live longer than men but that’s not the only factor. Men areold far more likely to remarry. Why? Some sociologists maintain that it is simply because women are better able to take care of themselves without any help.  Of course, there are consequences.

Living alone is nearly always more expensive. It means that there is one person not two carrying the rent or mortgage, paying for utilities and the monthly cost of a phone, and for any other regular expenses. Of course, because women still make far less than men (and older women, who entered the workforce in the 1950s to early 1970s, made significantly far less than men over the course of their lifetimes), there is also a higher likelihood that older unmarried women must continue to work. If they were divorced when they were still raising children and ended up carrying the burden of childcare costs too, they are even more likely to still be working well past 65 since they are more likely to be in debt.

Supporting the Gray Gender Gap

Given the reality that there are now thousands of women in their 70s who must work to survive, the question arises, how should talent managers approach this population? Like it or not, many recruiters are looking for young, tech-savvy Millennials who often happen to be young men due to the gender gap in the tech world. They are not looking for older women who entered the workforce long before it was considered acceptable to wear pants to work but when it was considered acceptable to wear a skirt well above the knee to work. Despite the biases many recruiters have about older workers, and perhaps especially older female workers, there are several reasons why recruiters should not overlook this growing part of the workforce.

Leadership Skills: Older workers often have well developed leadership skills and nearly always have stronger communication skills.

A Calm and Steady Demeanor: Older workers have seen it all. After 50 or more years in the work world, they are unlikely to get riled up over petty office disputes or seemingly catastrophic business news. They’ve lived through multiple office meltdowns and multiple financial meltdowns, including several major recessions.

Experienced Multitaskers: Older women in particular have been multitasking for decades. They have juggled children, overly dependent spouses (e.g., many men of their generation never cooked or cleaned), and professional positions that have undergone major changes over time. Don’t assume they can’t adapt to technological changes nor multitask just as well as any digitally distracted Millennial.

Highly Loyal:  As reported in a recent Talent Management 360 article on Millennials, 71% of Millennials are either not engaged or disengaged at work and more alarming, only 50% of Millennials plan to still be working for their current employer a year from now. By contrast, the vast majority of older workers do plan to be in their current job in another year and in most cases, they intend to stay in their current job until they retire. This is evidently good news for employers. Hiring an older qualified worker likely means hiring a worker who will require less training (since they are already a seasoned worker), less supervision (because they have a stronger worker ethic), and hiring someone who will stick around for the long haul. Oddly, older workers are often overlooked by recruiters because its falsely assumed they will not stick around and as such, they are seen to represent a poor return on investment. In fact, evidence suggest the opposite may be true–younger workers are more likely to result in retention problems and lost recruitment and training dollars.

 

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October 8, 2016   Updated :October 9, 2016      

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