Back when I started my brand, 40 and 50 plus women were not even an afterthought for the beauty, fashion and media industries; you could argue that we just weren’t considered.
Research showed that 74% of us felt many products and services didn’t reflect our needs and as a result, we were left feeling invisible, ignored and certainly not catered for.
The only ‘older’ women seen in the media were the same token faces seen everywhere as if using one beautiful older woman in an occasional campaign made up for the complete dearth of diversity across the board.
Talented, experienced actresses like Reese Witherspoon and Kate Winslet shared that they still have to fight ageism in Hollywood, with many admitting they’ve lied about their age or been called ‘too old’ to act as a love interest to leading men 30 years their senior.
And yet, despite the complete lack of interest in the sophistication, buying power and influence of our demographic, a quiet revolution was beginning to take place.
We account for up to two-thirds of all retail spend, buying for husbands and families as well as ourselves and have bigger budgets than millennial shoppers. We buy, on average, five beauty products per month – the same as the ‘silver shoppers’, those women over 65 that the industry had decided were much more interesting. In other words, we have real value.
Still, advertisers and the film, fashion and beauty industries were adamant that all they had to do was show us a picture of a twenty-something supermodel or a ridiculously airbrushed star from the eighties and we’d hand over our hard-earned pounds in our droves. And they wondered why we were increasingly furious about it!
As you might expect from a generation that grew up with Girl Power, Chrissie Hynde and the mid-nineties third wave of feminism, we’ve become vocal about our frustration, taking to social platforms (we make up the most engaged Facebook user demographic) to share our irritation at the brands not meeting our needs.
Women today are more independent and much more opinionated. We have our own sense of agency and our expectations are higher; we fundamentally feel that we matter.
With the media not really talking to us, smart female entrepreneurs and editors like The Pool’s Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne teamed up to launch new publications aimed at a woman who wanted more than ‘10 ways to look younger today’.
Beauty writers with real clout like Sali Hughes, India Knight and Nadine Baggott, and influencers like Caroline Hirons, have begun challenging brands on their double standards.
Last year’s ‘That’s not me’ campaign saw a huge backlash to Dior using Cara Delevingne to promote their new anti-wrinkle cream. In a poll, 97% of respondents agreed that Dior should have used a model with wrinkles. There’s still a big disconnect between marketing and advertising and what we want to see.
Big Little Lies created by and starring Hollywood’s pro-age power players Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman is winning multiple awards. Brilliant bloggers like Stylist Mum and That’s Not My Age is forcing fashion brands to face the fact that we are not content with cropped trousers, big jewellery and camel cardigans anymore.
We’ve come a long way and all of us taking a stand against ageism can take a moment to appreciate the strides we’ve made in a relatively short space of time.
But, the work isn’t done.
A survey we conducted showed that 42% of us feel getting older is a negative thing. Marketing agency ‘We Are SuperHuman’ found that 81% of mature women don’t identify with the stereotypes still perpetuated about ageing.
Technically I am 'middle-aged’ - I don’t have a problem with it, but why are all the connotations and social labels so negative? And worse, why do so many women feel invisible, undervalued and unattractive?
We’re still facing invisible barriers to success every day and so much of that is reflected in the opinion of us in society.
We must continue to bang the drum for how much we matter, step forward confidently and celebrate our age and make sure that no matter what we never, ever, allow anyone to consider us invisible again.
So, let’s stand united and challenge these outdated misconceptions of middle-age that rob us of our beauty, self-esteem and confidence. Let’s do it for ourselves. And let’s inspire the next generation to stamp out ageism once and for all.
It’s time to be seen and be heard.