I know it’s a bit of a joke – hit your middle years and you become invisible. No cat calls, no unwanted attention, in fact, no attention at all one way or the other. It’s a superpower of sorts – we can become anything we want, from spies to leaders of industry.
So far, so lean-in-tastic. We’ve got gender pay gap reporting and most places have flexible working or other arrangements to make women’s lives easier. There are targets for parity on boards and in management teams. Eye-lids even stay un-batted when a man wants his parental leave or work changes to accommodate his caring duties.
Yes, at last. Equality might be getting a teeny-tiny step nearer. In fact, for younger women, it could well appear that your chances are as good as the chaps’. Yup, almost. There is, however, one ever so small wrinkle. Or, rather, no wrinkles at all.
Nowhere on a website, brochure, video or other glossy bit of business puffery will you see a woman with wrinkles – unless, of course, it’s a care-home business or one selling knitting machines or having something to do with teaching. But even then…
Go on, I challenge you. There isn’t one to be found. No standard, stock photos of an older bird (not geriatric, just in her middle years, laughter lines and the odd silver strand) doing an ordinary businessy kind of thing, especially if she is doing it with a younger man. I looked and looked and there simply aren’t any. No older dentists fixing teeth, no wrinkled bosses shaking hands and grinning, no grey-haired types standing around in those shiny offices. Lord knows where they are, but they don’t make it anywhere I can see them on the internet, posters, magazines or similar.
Sure there are men – silver foxes abound – grinning, advising, greeting. You get aged accountants, senior solicitors, mature marketers and almost over-the-hill bosses of a generic nature. All of them exuding wisdom, experience and the sleek air of a career well played. But the old and twinkly club is very much men only.
So we have the Bechdel Test for movies and the Finkbeiner Test for science journalists. I propose a test for business material – websites, brochures, leaflets, adverts etc (what marketing types call ‘collateral’, but I couldn’t possibly because it’s a horrible bit of jargon).
- Is there a woman in your picture who is at work?
- Is she older than the man to whom she is talking but not his patient or parent?
- Is she in a role that is not traditionally female (teacher, nurse, florist, secretary)?
That’s it – now here’s the challenge. Find me something that passes this test… I couldn’t.
Meantime, here’s a wee selection of photos and an actual silver fox…