- By Kerry Hannon
Women power is center stage these days.
We saw it in Oscar winner Patricia Arquette’s rousing equal pay for women shoutout at the Academy Awards (with Meryl Streep lending her fist shaking in support). We’ve seen it in Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg’s push for women to “Lean In” and become leaders in business.
I’m not suggesting it’s a redux of the sweeping women’s movement of the 1960s, but something is clearly shifting — particularly for women over 50.
(MORE: Sheryl Sandberg’s Best ‘Lean In’ Tips)
Shattering Stereotypes of Older Women
Increasingly, this band of sisters is joining together in membership groups, signing up for women’s empowerment workshops and online newsletters and launching websites for and about 50+ women. A primary goal: to shatter stereotypes of older women lurking in the business world and American culture.
Meet Enid Weishaus, founder of the Smarter, Bolder, Older, Workshop for Women Redefining Life After 50 and an ex-staffer for former Senator Hillary Clinton and current Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).
“Women are craving community and support,” Weishaus told me. “They are looking for help with their finances and starting businesses. They don't know where to go get it.”
So Weishaus, a trainer for the Women's Economic Development Center in Westchester County, N.Y. (assisting prospective entrepreneurs), has been working with a few female friends on a new offering to serve 50+ women, called Live Bold.
They’ve set up a Facebook page, but the official launch is waiting in the wings while they wrestle with how, what and when to launch. I’ll fill you in about Live Bold in a minute.
Live Bold will be the latest in a variety of women-only networking models that have been steadily gaining loyal followers and members.
(MORE: 9 Best Things About Being Over 50)
The Transition Network
One of my personal favorites, which I’ve been a member of, is The Transition Network, a national nonprofit for women over 50 that offers programs and workshops for its 12 local chapters; basic membership is $100 a year.
As I wrote in this Next Avenue post, “Why Women Should Join Networking Groups,” The Transition Network co-founders Charlotte Frank and Christine Millen launched a grassroots movement that “reimagines retirement,” a period they define as a series of transitions — a bridge from one career to another or from employment to volunteerism, advocacy or community service.
Sixty and Me and Boomerly
Then there’s the always interesting Sixty and Me, a free website community “dedicated to helping women over 60 create independent, healthy and financially secure lives,” according to founder Margaret Manning, a marketing consultant. Manning just launched a new blog via Sixty and Me called Boomerly — for women and men; she's working on adding a service to it for people to make friends with others sharing similar interests.
“I love my Sixty and Me Community — it is full of women searching, dreaming, scheming — trying to reinvent their lives,” Manning told me. “But many are alone and sad. Many are in state of what they consider ‘forced’ reinvention and really struggling.”
After hearing one too many heartbreaking stories and surveying over 1,000 boomers, Manning decided she wanted to help curb loneliness among older adults. “Boomerly will provide a new way for baby boomers to make friends with like-minded people. It will also inspire people to live better lives and contribute financially to aging and loneliness-related causes,” she says.
Why Weishaus Is Undeterred
I genuinely applaud all of these efforts, but from my viewpoint, trying to get women over 50 to unite behind a single cause or a community these days is a murky proposition. Some are looking for a network to find a book club with other women or a troop to take in an art exhibit. Others want serious help learning about investing or landing a job. This diffusion of interests makes it hard for new 50+ women's groups to survive and grow.
Weishaus is undeterred. She envisions Live Bold as a fee-based membership venture and is convinced the demand is there. Her inspiration began a little over four years ago when she was turning 60 and had just lost her job working for the federal government. “I was thinking: ‘OK, now what? What the hell am I going to do?’,” Weishaus recalls.
(MORE: The Good News About Women Working After 60)
That got her thinking. “I saw that things were changing for me and I got very excited about creating a dialogue for other women to come together and explore who they are and who they want to be and what this time of life looks like,” she explained. “It’s about redefining life after 50. Our mission is to encourage women to continue to live bold, to grow, to continue with adventure, take risks, start businesses.”
The Live Bold group, Weishaus hopes, will let members network together, support each other and attend webinars with savvy speakers. But it’s been hard for her to get a bead on who these women are, exactly what they’d want and how much they’d pay to belong, she said.
3 Tips to Go Bolder
While she’s figuring things out, Weishaus wanted to pass along three tips that she thinks can help 50+ women lead bolder lives:
1. Don’t be afraid to dream. “Ask yourself these questions: What do you want to accomplish? What do you want to create? What’s important to you at 50+ and how is it different than in previous years. What have you always longed to do?,” says Weishaus. “Go after it. Take a risk.”
2. Talk about your age. “There’s a stereotype that you shouldn’t talk about your age when you’re over 50. Do it! We’re extraordinary. Why hide that?,” she says. “We all age, but for women, it’s like a disease. We need to get rid of that whole concept.”
3. Know where you stand financially. “If there are things you don't know about money, find out. Do the research. Connect with other women,” says Weishaus. “What are you going to need, in terms of savings, to live a long life? How are you going to reach that goal?”
And be sure you know the ins and outs of your household’s investments, insurance, estate plans and overall finances, she says. “We have all heard stories of women whose husbands drop dead and they don’t know where anything is. Get educated. Know where things are and how they all work,” advises Weishaus.
Now that’s some bold advice I can get behind.