Big women: sisters grow up. This, to paraphrase the title of the famous novel by American writer Louise May Alcott, is what sprang to mind when we read the “Talenti senza età” (or Ageless Talents) survey commissioned by Valore D (an association promoting corporate gender equality). Conducted in collaboration with the Family Studies and Research University Centre of the Catholic University of Milan, the survey investigates the "potential of women at the middle-to-late career stage".
The survey, involving a representative sample of about 5,000 Italian women aged between 50 and 65, sourced from 18 companies associated with Valore D, has provided the first ever snapshot of the working condition of Italian women over 50. And it looks like this “category” is destined to play an increasingly important role in the labour market. This unique survey has identified some essential parameters with which to assess ageing in the work world, and new ways of favouring this particular target.
The study was coordinated by Claudia Manzi, professor of Social Psychology, together with a research team comprising Letizia Bosoni, Paola Castello, Mara Gorli, Sara Mazzucchelli, Fabio Paderi, Angela Sorgente and Semira Tagliabue. "Our aim was to break down negative stereotypes and change the condition of women over 50," explains Professor Manzi.
The survey has identified three types of working women: active and satisfied workers (36.9%), active but struggling workers (36.1%) and dissatisfied workers (27%). Just over a third of these women have a high level of job potential. If we consider the other two categories, however, we can see a progressive increase in problems.
"This survey was prompted by a strong need, among companies, to understand the ageing phenomenon, because the population is ageing fast and the labour reform introduced by Italy's former Minister Fornero has had a significant impact on the working population. We have filled a void. But what struck me most, interviewing many women over 50, was the way they thanked me for making them a little less 'invisible' and making them feel more appreciated," says Claudia Manzi.
Upon processing the respondents' answers, the “Talenti senza età” survey also identified a series of operative procedures that may help companies anticipate and manage an ageing female workforce.
The results are very useful and extremely interesting. Now we need to analyse the feedback more thoroughly, as almost 1000 female colleagues took part in the survey
"This survey is of particular interest in the current business context, where there is an increase in the number of working women aged 55 and over," says Claudia Schininà, Corporate Social Responsibility Officer of BNL, a historical partner of Valore D. "The results are very useful and extremely interesting. Now we need to analyse the feedback more thoroughly, as almost 1000 female colleagues took part in the survey, and integrate the conclusions with another study we have conducted. This will allow us to gain a greater understanding of the situation and develop further action plans; for example, finding ways to promote a better work-life balance, especially with the introduction of smart working methods, thus enabling women to work from home one day a week."
We believe that having staff of different genders, ages, cultural origins and backgrounds enriches the life of the company
Raffaella Alberi, Human Resources Manager for Alstom Italy and Switzerland, also feels positively: "We believe that having staff of different genders, ages, cultural origins and backgrounds enriches the life of the company, helping to improve its management and the quality of the decisions made. That's why we were happy to take part in the Valore D survey, because we feel that the time has come for companies to face this issue. The survey has given us important information on this significant part of the female population; women who often have to juggle a career, with which they may or may not be satisfied, with the difficulties of running a family, with growing children and perhaps elderly parents to look after. The psychological and physical strain of all this often falls entirely to the woman, who is not always supported by society or by her family. As the age of retirement increases, this issue of "ageless talents" is extremely topical, and companies need to start looking into it. We have decided to adopt forms of smart working and a counselling project . There is still plenty to do, but these experiences help to clarify the situation, increase awareness, and bring together people with different points of view".