Seasoned working women: may the force be with you


Caroline Dowd Higgins - Courtesy Photo
Author Caroline Dowd-Higgins is pictured. Courtesy Photo

The double standard for men and women continues in the workplace.

The recent media debate about whether Carrie Fisher is aging well or not in the blockbuster, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” movie, is an example of women facing scrutiny about looks and appearance in the workplace that does not equally apply to men.

It’s a given that the Hollywood lens is more critical for actresses in the film industry with unrealistic Fountain of Youth expectations.

But why isn’t the focus on Carrie Fisher’s acting and her onscreen chemistry with Harrison Ford almost 40 years after the first “Star Wars” movie’s debut?

Harrison Ford remains multi-generational eye candy as the suave, silver fox with impeccable line delivery and comic timing in his iconic portrayal of Han Solo. Nobody thinks he looks long in the tooth—and he doesn’t because our expectations are different for men.

I think the critics are doing Carrie Fisher a disservice. Her performance is powerful, intelligent and empathetic – not to mention the fact that her character, Princess Leia, is also a General in the Federation Army now. Who says women can’t do the same work as men?

We see age discrimination happening to men and women in the workplace, but there are far fewer examples of men being let go because of their less than youthful glow.

Female TV anchors have been known to age-out far earlier than their male counterparts who are permitted to gray gracefully and own their wrinkles from well-earned life experiences. Women anchors are often asked to move on after they have aged out—typically in their 40s.

Some media markets even showcase an anchor woman’s legs in strategically short skirts to boost viewership and ratings.

Since when did reporting the news require a mini skirt?

In 2020, the millennial generation will compromise more than 50 percent of the workforce, which will infuse a youthful vitality into the marketplace and skew the majority of workers to a younger generation.

But even the millennials will age in the future.

They may not believe it now, but it will happen to them, too.

Are youthful looks essential or desired in the workplace for other job sectors?

Must your account, lawyer or physician be beautiful and young to serve you well?

If so, perhaps organizations should allow for beauty expense accounts that pay for personal trainers, Botox, and elective cosmetic surgeries for their female employees.

Sarcasm aside, will we ever embrace the concept of aging gracefully and honor the wisdom, experience and knowledge of our more seasoned professionals?

Advancements in health care enables people to live longer and healthier lives, which means people will be working past the traditional retirement age of 65.

As a professional woman approaching my fifth decade, my Social Security projection indicates that I will need to work until I am at least 74 before I am eligible for federal retirement benefits.

As a woman committed to empowering others with authentic self-confidence in career pursuits, I hope we can teach the next generation that looks come and go, but intelligence and authenticity are long lasting.

I think we should focus on reaching our full potential and celebrating our gifts and strengths since growing old is a privilege not everyone will have.

Let’s cut Carrie Fisher a break and acknowledge that she rocked in the new “Star Wars” movie.

The Force is with her—find your inner force!

This Is Not The Career I Ordered was written by Caroline Dowd Higgings. Courtesy graphic
This Is Not The Career I Ordered was written by Caroline Dowd-Higgings. Courtesy graphic

Caroline Dowd-Higgins authored the book “This Is Not the Career I Ordered” now in the 2nd edition, and maintains the career reinvention blog of the same name. She is Executive Director of Career & Professional Development at the Indiana University Alumni Association. Visit her online at