Women are on the cover of People magazine!
OK, we get that ordinarily, that’s not exactly stop-the-presses news, but there’s something special about their People of the Year cover.
First, there are actually four People of the Year covers for 2019. Second, three of them feature women 50 and older: Jennifer Aniston (50), Jennifer Lopez (50), and Michelle Obama (55). (The fourth is Taylor Swift, who is a bit young for this discussion, but we cannot WAIT to see her at 50!)
When People magazine, a publication known for the many youthful faces gracing its covers over the years, recognizes the power, strength, influence, and beauty of women over 50, you know that midlife has truly arrived.
“You don’t have the power anymore…. We are doing this my way.” Voiced by Jennifer Aniston’s character to a roomful of men in The Morning Show, this could be women’s motto for 2019. Women are taking on the attitudes that have held them back, stepping into their power, and proving that gender, age, or a combination of both are sources of strength – not limitations on it.
Once, women over a “certain age” couldn’t get cast in shows; now they’re owning the screens, large and small. From daytime talk shows (Kelly Rippa turns 50 next year; Behar and Goldberg on The View are 77 and 64, respectively; Ellen DeGeneres is 61) to big-screen blockbusters, with 53-year-old Robin Wright’s fierce Antiope in Wonder Woman to extremely popular series such as The Morning Show, featuring Jennifer Aniston’s Alex Levy.
They’re beating back middle-aged-woman stereotypes in other realms as well: Michelle Obama’s book Becoming is on track to be the biggest-selling memoir in history. Jennifer Lopez’s new film Hustlers earned $33.2M at opening and she appears to be on her way to an Oscar nomination.
Turning 50 hasn’t slowed Gwen Stefani, who continues to tour and draw huge, fanatic audiences of all ages.
It’s not just entertainment where midlife women are thriving. Though she’s perhaps not as well known as Obama or Stefani, Mary Winston’s accomplishments are no less impressive: at 57, she’s taken over the reins as Interim CEO at Bed Bath & Beyond. One of the first African American women to lead a Fortune 500 company, she brings a resume chock-full of experience and accomplishment.
What’s more, a larger-than-ever percentage of those women who are crushing it in life are doing it while contending with menopause. Hot flashes, irritability that can tip over into rage, interrupted sleep, brain fog; confidence-crushers like hair loss, weight gain or redistribution, acne, and wrinkles; unpredictable and often extremely heavy periods in the perimenopausal years leading up to menopause; depression and anxiety, and so much more.
Despite all those things, women are clearly still thriving in the second chapter of life. Imagine what they could do with the right support and with safe, effective solutions to help them manage the challenges of menopause.
Great, you say. Women are doing better. I guess we’re done here.
Despite women’s many accomplishments, there’s a long way to go. Women are still far more likely to be judged on their appearance. They receive far less investment capital when starting a business (a measly 2.3% of venture capital finds its way to women-led start-ups). Women’s “likeability” still matters much too much in elections and promotions.
Ageism hits women particularly hard: a woman’s earning potential tops out at age 40 (and has been trailing behind her male colleagues’ all along, particularly if the woman is of color), where a man’s will likely continue to rise until he hits 49. And women at 65 earn 25% less than men on average, potentially drastically limiting their retirement options and security.
The People magazine covers matter because representation matters: Women in this age group just haven’t traditionally been represented accurately – or at all.
Look for images of mature women (as I do, writing frequent articles about women in midlife), for example. There are a nearly infinite number of pictures of young women, doing all sorts of awesome things, and that’s terrific. Look for images of a woman 45+, and you’ll get a few women fanning themselves. That doesn’t represent me. It doesn’t represent the vital, active, ambitious, intelligent women I know and work with and see all around me. In midlife, women disappear and don’t return until they are “interesting again” as seniors.
This lack of representation repeats, rather more importantly, in a lack of research into mature women’s health issues, a huge gap in access to health care professionals who are versed in mature women’s challenges, a terrible dearth of information women can access to understand what they’re going through and solutions to manage it.
Seeing older women, acknowledging their existence, hearing their voices, learning about their triumphs and their struggles matters because what stays secret rarely gets solved.
Granted, Aniston, Lopez, and Obama may not be truly representative of the “average” woman, but I’d say they’re closer to us than we’ve been allowed to believe in the past.
Women over 50 are natural leaders. They have built up a lifetime of experience and insight. They are, often, less willing to brook the bulls**t of others. Women have spending power: 27% of consumer spending, or $15 trillion is in the hands of older women in the US. And mature women in power are bringing other women along. When there’s at least one female senior executive, women are three times more likely to be promoted to the same rank than when all the positions are held by men.
Menopause, despite its numerous and often-serious challenges, doesn’t have to be a limiting factor. Gennev exists to support women through midlife hormonal challenges because women have so much to do and so much to offer, and with just a little appropriate support, could have even richer, fuller, more vibrant lives.
How are you dominating midlife? We'd love to hear about your amazing accomplishments despite menopause symptoms, ageism, sexism, and so on. Share your triumphs and challenges in our community forums! And if you're ready to start conquering the world, get your plan in order with a Gennev Health Coach.