A Reader Writes: An open letter to local employers

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These are austere times for many. Those of us who are employed are worried about redundancies, changes in child benefit, and the ever increasing rises in petrol and utility costs and even our weekly grocery bill.

Youth unemployment is at unprecedented levels, which is a grave problem, but there is also another group experiencing real difficulties in getting a job: women over 50. This is rarely spoken of, even if statistics show more than 60 per cent of jobs go to the under 35s, and 80 per cent of the rest to men.

The Government’s retirement age changes do not help as most employers won’t want to employ anybody over a certain age for fear of having them until they drop. The pension age needs to rise, that is obvious, but employers do not seem to embrace this change and it will probably take a long time before employing say 60-year-olds will be business as usual.

This leaves the current batch of over 50s women looking for work in an unenviable position. We just can’t win.

Adding to injury, most employers in this buyer’s market play safe and hence do not employ anybody who hasn’t done exactly the same job for at least the past two years. Transferrable skills are not a la mode, and there are many employers who are now wary of employing older women for fear of sexism or ageism writs.

Dear reader, you probably think this is sour grapes, but nothing could be further from the truth. I am just one of the many well qualified women in this group wanting a job and finding it nigh impossible. I haven’t lost my edge and I keep trying, though the frequent rejections are hard to take sometimes.

As an example, I recently applied to an international company, based locally, for a position which required working with their international branches. I didn’t get an interview, despite more than matching the requirements and being fluent in five languages. I cannot but think that this is due to either ageism or the usual “she is over-qualified and will leave” thinking.

So, here is my plea:

Local companies, please consider female applicants over a certain age. Many of us are extremely well qualified, motivated and capable. We’re not all “frumpy women” and many of us embrace change and learning new skills. We are also flexible, able to relate to any age group and, dare I say it, we won’t need maternity leave either. If we apply for a local job that you as an employer feel we are slightly over-qualified for, then we have probably weighed the pros and cons of taking a local job vs one in London, say, where we would have to earn £10K more in gross just for travel.

We are an asset. Please give us the benefit of doubt!

Do you agree with Joanna that employers would do well to consider older, well-qualified people for jobs? Write to the Mercury at Sheep Market, Stamford PE9 2QZ or e-mail smeditor@stamfordmercury.co.uk