After all, there’s never been a generation of women like us. We’ve worked all the way through our lives, we’re behind 90% of all household spending decisions and, according to Forbes magazine, we outspend millennial women by an impressive 250%. We’re experienced, skilled, smart and strong, and we want to be acknowledged for the impressive women we are. In the 2019 UK census, women over 40 out-earned women under 40 for the first time; proof that this pioneering generation of women really are different from any that have come before.
Yet, mainstream brands rarely speak to us – hello, big business mistake. Huge! – and according to countless surveys, 60% of women at this stage “feel invisible” in a culture which values wrinkle-free faces and fecundity in females above all else. We feel overlooked in our careers (work discrimination begins at 40), we don’t see ourselves reflected in advertising, and we’re even underrepresented on the big screen with a recent film industry analysis finding that, of films released in 2019-2020, a mere 16% of characters over 40 were female.
Like what you’re reading? SIGN UP to The Suite – it’s a modern mini-magazine for women in leadership.
This story needs to change, so let’s start a ‘new chapter’ right here, right now, shall we? Presenting, 25 powerful quotes on getting older, bolder and braver, from some remarkable leaders, entrepreneurs and creators.
Stacy London, Founder & CEO, State of Menopause
“As I’ve aged, I’ve realised that much of what I feel about ageing can’t be categorised with any kind of qualitative judgment like ‘good’ or ‘bad’. It simply doesn’t make sense to label our life experience in such a black and white way. Ageing brings both clarity and confusion, excitement and anxiety, anticipation and grief – these things are inexorably intertwined. When the ‘me’ inside looks and feels different from the ‘me’ others see, our sense of identity can be badly shaken.
“At the same time, when we can feel the most like ourselves, our most empowered, it’s also the time culture tends to push us to the sidelines. Perhaps the gift of ageing isn’t just in seeing how nuanced our feelings towards it becomes, but also in being able to see past the cultural tropes and live into our own individual experience. It is essential to cultivate self-awareness, maintain or discover a deep sense of purpose, and utilise all that we’ve learned to imagine what is possible – not what is no longer – to lead deeply rich and fulfilling lives, and shift these cultural norms. The more women we see living their purpose in middle age, the more we understand what is possible for us.”
Jane Huxley, CEO, Are Media
“In some ways I wish I had ‘aged’ earlier. By that, I mean I wish I knew that my new best friends – ‘Comfort’ and ‘Confidence’ – would arrive and pull up a stool to sit somewhere in the recesses of my mind. They would edge out the imposter – no room for you here – take off their uncomfortable heels forever, and settle in to mull over the pros and cons (as opposed to the cons and cons) of whatever is troubling. They’d then reach a conclusion for which they could be at peace, regardless of the outcome.
“We spend a lot of time talking about (the very real) issues associated with ageing, but perhaps we should start to think more about what it really means to ‘come of age’. It may not be as per its definition, ‘when one legally reaches the age of majority’, but rather when one grows into it. Ageing is not easy, and it’s not perfect. But it comes to me with the gift of being incredibly pragmatic which really helps to clarify what is important and critical from what isn’t. If I could add one more learning, that same gift of becoming more pragmatic has finally helped me to bring a practical understanding to one of my most favourite mottos: ‘Don’t believe everything you think.’ Life is way less exhausting when you stop shadow boxing.”
Trish Halpin, Podcast Co-Host, Postcards From Midlife
“Do not be afraid of hitting your midlife years. As women, we are conditioned to feel that ageing is a bad thing. We are bombarded by these messages constantly in everyday life, made to feel invisible and irrelevant once we get past our mid-40s. But the tide is turning. Why? Because Generation X is now at this stage of life and we refuse to be ignored. We are changing the narrative of what it means to be older women. We are openly discussing the issues that matter to us and affect our lives, such as raising teenagers, ageing parents, menopause… and we’re making sure we get the help and support that our mothers’ generation did not. I honestly feel fitter, happier and healthier in my mid-50s than at any other time in my life. With age comes wisdom and a sense of freedom because you just stop caring what people think. What could be more liberating than that?”
Coco Brown, Founder & CEO, Athena Alliance
“One of the things I love about where I am now is I have the privilege of building the world instead of just living in it. By comparison, if I look at what my mum’s generation had to do, they had to fight to get to be able to live off the dorms; they had to fight to be considered for scholarship… I’ve spent my entire career in the work world – I never took a break – which is a new thing for women. We’re the first generation to do this. If we choose to seize it, we have the ability to build the world. All of the generations prior had to live in it; they had to fight for their place in it. As women, we still operate as if we’re still fighting for our place in it, without recognising that we are now the ones who can choose. I’m excited about that because I do choose – I choose to build the world at this time in my life. There’s so much power in that.”
Sonya Lennon, Speaker & Thought Leader For Equitable Workplaces/ Co-Founder, Lennon Courtney
“I’m 54. I’m proud of every year I’ve lived. They count for everything. I don’t want to arrest my ageing, conceal it or deny it. Equally, I want to continue to enjoy, value and support myself to look and feel as good as I can for the age that I am and the significantly younger age that I feel. If you bought a thoroughbred racehorse, would you feed it junk and not exercise it? No, you would not. You are the racehorse.
“Experience has value. Every decision, solution, creation and offer is imbued with our life’s experience. We need to reteach our society to value that because, actually, that stuff can’t be taught. It must be lived. The real work with ageing is not, however, an outside game. Yes, your neck will start to annoy you, your body temperature will rise, and surprise reflections will tell true the stories that posed photographs won’t.
“I recently worked with an extraordinary executive coach. She told me I had one of the most defined identities she had ever encountered, a deep sense of who I was and who I wasn’t. I was shaping up to thank her for this observation, deludedly thinking it was a compliment. It wasn’t. She suggested that maybe I should rub out some of the hard lines around myself and create porosity and openness to flex my identity in new and surprising directions.
“The real work is the inside game. It is about setting a course for the rest of your days to manage mindset, curiosity, context and intergenerational social engagement. Tap into the energy, vitality, information and experience of the young because reality is changing as fast as your cells. Be curious, be connected and keep up.”
Like what you’re reading? SIGN UP to The Suite – it’s the modern mini-magazine for women in leadership.
Odile Roujol, Fab Ventures in Los Angeles / Founder, Fab Community
“At 50-plus, you care about your impact and giving back to others; you no longer have to prove who you are. And you can choose to interact with those people who share your values, interests and passions.
“I’m humbled to back female founders in the seed stage within the beauty and fashion categories. We are all obsessed by sustainability and circularity, and new commerce. We have diverse backgrounds and profiles. I learn from them, they learn from me, and we love what we are building. It’s all about trust and long-term relationships. I believe when you’re older you’re better at offering guidance and giving insights on demand, if not in a board seat. Your leadership is more poised, less impatient and assertive. That’s why I chose to be the founder of a fund, an investor in early stage, and to focus especially on backing female founders and underrepresented founders.”
Sarah Bradden, Founder, The Bradden Method
“For me, I love the feeling that with age and experience I continue to become more accepting, comfortable and in tune with who I am, both physically and emotionally. I’m just about to turn 50 and at the point where I’m happy in my own skin and have stopped comparing myself to other people. Having the knowledge that if I lean into the fact that just like a fine wine, I can get better with age, is a superpower! I’m also at the point of recognising that it’s important for me to surround myself with the right people, who share my values and beliefs. Positive energy is really good for me, and definitely drives my creativity and desire to live a very full and happy life.
“Looking ahead, I don’t view life as getting older, but as an opportunity to enjoy more adventures. I have so much to be thankful for, both personally and professionally. I see each next step as simply having more time to live and love life as my very best self.”
Mimi Ison, Creator & Age Positive Motivator
“I’ve done a lot at a so-called ‘older age’ – a baby at 36, adult ballet at 40, an internship at 43, first real career job at 45, and boxing training at 50. When it comes to doing new things and taking action, age hasn’t been an obstacle for me, and that hasn’t changed, even at age 59. What has changed, and what I love about getting older is that I’m honouring my true self and desires by shoving expectations out of the way; the expectation to be a people-pleaser by yielding to others, the expectation to meet unattainable beauty standards, the expectation that I should be at a particular place in this stage of life. It comes from the ability to say no, and to not care what others think. The feeling is liberating, and opens the door to massive possibilities.
“I’m familiar with the statistics about the dismal lack of representation in the media and marketing of women in middle age and beyond – and ageism in the workplace that starts at a mind-boggling 40! It’s ironic because we get pushed off the stage just when a lot of women are coming into epic amounts of confidence, experience and strength. We have so much to contribute and the world doesn’t want to take advantage of the value we bring to the table (not to mention our buying power). This is what needs to change. It’s good for intergenerational relationships, the economy, and the battle to dismantle ageism.
I have an itty-bitty space in the digital world where I’ll keep crushing age stereotypes so people of all ages can see middle age redefined. As we get older, we become more different from each other. Let’s respect our individuality, and knock down ridiculous assumptions based on age.”
Jackie Frank, Founder, Be Frank Group
“I’m in ‘act two’ of my life and it’s just beginning. I started my business four years ago and I’m taking more risks now than I did when I was younger. I’m so much more self-assured. I feel empowered, I’m unapologetic and I feel very authentic about who I am – and I have the life experiences to back it all up. It’s not a false narrative, it’s true life experiences and I’m very, very comfortable in that. All of these have helped me to make decisions, and I’m now very confident in my decision-making. This allows me to look at my priorities and decide on what’s important, and what’s not. Women in midlife don’t sweat the small stuff anymore, and we don’t get side tracked by all the white noise.
“Of course, I understand and recognise that areas of my life feel part of ‘the invisible generation’. I also feel the ageism. But, for me, it’s really not about age, it’s about attitude – cliched, yes, but true. We’re independent, we’re accomplished and we have so much spending power. We’re the ultimate influencer, really. We’re the primary caregivers for children, we look after the elderly, we’re also driving the purchasing decisions for the men in our lives. There’s that multiplier effect.
“One in two women are the main breadwinner in the household, so we actually have the responsibilities that were given to men in the past, but no one is addressing us. The female economy is the largest growth market in the world. What a missed business opportunity to overlook women in midlife!
“I do think there’s change happening, but we’ve got so far to go. And we can’t do it alone. We need men to be part of the conversation – we’re fooling ourselves if we think we can just do it. We need the other 50% of the population to get on board.”
Lulu Garcia-Navarro, Journalist, The New York Times
“After taking the Times job last fall, I had people tell me, ‘Man, you’re doing that at your age? That’s really brave.’ There is a real push for women to be eternally youthful, especially in the workplace. After 50, we’re let go at higher rates than men, and the problem is even worse for women of colour. It feels like there’s an expiration date, that somehow your fertility and your viability as a working person are interconnected. I think that’s bullshit. There’s a complicity of silence around ageing and menopause. We feel like if we dye our hair and get Botox that we can somehow evade these biases that are built into our system. I’ve always been the kind of person who speaks about the uncomfortable things and goes to the places where people don’t want to go. I think that’s the only way that you can move the needle.” The Cut
Di Mantell, CEO, Celsus
“Age is a state of mind – calendar years provide opportunities to gain experience, confidence, skills and hopefully financial security. Calendar years have given me the confidence to speak out and speak up. I love that I now have the skills to make decisions and be confident that these decisions are right for me, or right for the company. I have never been good at conforming (I’m not the normal image of a CEO). I can honestly say I have never, ever asked someone their age when meeting them for the first time or interviewing and employing someone. I am not sure why we are so fixated on age – in my view you are either a wonderful and interesting human being who I would like to connect with, or you are not – age is not the determinant.
“Now in my sixth decade I love being a wife, a mother, an Ouma, a good friend and a CEO. I enjoy sharing what I have learnt through my various executive roles with others, coaching, mentoring, keynote speaking, making major decisions within the company, delivering a $2.2 billion refinancing and embedding sustainability into our workplace. I will continue to challenge myself and be the best person I can possibly be. My age will not be what determines what I choose to do next or stop me being me – that is my choice.”
Taraji P. Henson, Actress
“I want to be the representation for women that your sexy never dies ‘till you’re in the box. I decided that I wasn’t going to allow the world, men or this industry dictate how I live my life and how I age. I’m going to turn 50 just like I turned 30, except you know, my knees are a little different. I’m not going to buy into ‘my career is over’, or ‘life for me is over’, or ‘sexy is over’, or ‘I shouldn’t wear this’. I’m going to do what I feel.”
Suzie Coen, Content Creator & Commercial Stylist
“There are some wonderful things about getting older. My 40s were great, but my early 50s are even better. I’ve got used to my face, made peace(ish) with my body and I’ve finally decided where I like to be, who I like to be with and what I like to do. I’m so thrilled to arrive at this spot, past the nervy, angst-ridden years of people-pleasing palaver. (I should have done a Helen Mirren F*ck Off earlier…)
“I’m finally proud and happy that I have a freelance career (a mix of bread and butter commercial gigs and quirky creative projects) because it gives me true freedom – time off whenever and the choice to say no to soul-sucking jobs and toxic workplaces. I’m aware how lucky and privileged I am that my life is as ‘me-centric’ as it is, in part because I don’t have kids. I have never wanted them and I really, really like how certain I am about this. It’s probably the only thing I have never fretted about.
“And quite by accident, in my late 40s, I met a marvellous man with a big heart who likes to cook, makes me laugh every day and who rather brilliantly (for independent me) lives a good two hours away. Ours is a wonderfully unconventional mid-life relationship full of craic and joyous contentment. And I know, there’s more to come.
“Naively I used to think I’d be ‘fully formed’ by my 50s, but I see now, you never are. I am not at full capacity for friends, connection, love, adventure, happiness. And how fabulous is that?”
Like what you’re reading? SIGN UP to The Suite – it’s the modern mini-magazine for women in leadership.
Sandra Sully, Journalist, Senior Editor & News Presenter
“I have always believed life is what you make it. At every stage it’s up to YOU to determine your mindset and approach to what’s in front of you. Getting older is just a reality; however, if you’re lucky enough to experience it then you should enjoy it.
“For women, frustratingly, it’s also coupled with the realisation that we are somehow slowly becoming invisible. So many of my friends agree. We often lament that there’s a reason the new face of homelessness in Australia is older women, yet not a lot is being done to change it. Also, the gender pay gap stubbornly stands at around 14 percent and while it often makes the news, nothing is really being done to fix it. And in my industry, while older women are finally becoming more accepted, the challenges still remain.
“All anyone can do is try to stay wedded to the positives and not focus too much on the negatives. I enjoy the road and journey I am on and, every day, taking those small steps to help out where I can. Giving back is far more rewarding than just taking, so I always urge the young women and men around me to stay kind, be generous of heart and stay true to one’s values. In the end, that’s all we’ve got.”
Monika Tu, Founder & Director, Black Diamondz Group
“No one likes getting older, but I now live in the moment and appreciate what I have right now. I’ve learnt my lessons; I’ve been through so much but everything I did in the past has benefited me today. I’m unique and I’m really proud of who I am right now. My energy, the way I look and what I have, other people don’t and it’s all about what you focus on. You have to embrace your strengths and weaknesses – have nothing to hide. I just turned 60 and I think I’m pretty fabulous.”
Rosaleen McMeel, Director of Publishing, Jobbio
“As women, we’ve been raised to believe that ageing is a negative. But reframing it as a privilege, not afforded to all, has stopped me wasting time resisting it and looking forward to the adventures yet to come. Where you focus your energy and your thoughts feels like the real secret to a successful life, if there really is such a thing. Of course, there’s always a degree of mourning for youth (and that’s okay), but there is also a lot to love about ageing, including reaching the point where you have disposable income yet brands largely ignore you. For me, there’s a liberation in that – being more in control of where I spend my money and knowing it’s not because I’ve weakly succumbed to some marketing ploy.
“Spending time with those both younger and older is the only way I know how to successfully live outside a prison of ageing. Younger generations guide me through all things new and help me to realise the value in my own experience. While older generations inspire me to reflect on my life’s accomplishments, while also providing me with a blueprint for positive ageing. Both the very young and the very old sharpen my focus to live in the now, which is really all we’re guaranteed anyway.”
Brooke Shields, Actress
“So I want that message to be out there, because I want especially women over a certain age in their 50s to feel like they are at a new beginning. You know, just because their ovaries are not producing babies anymore, are they supposedly not as important or not as valuable? I don’t believe so.” NPR
Bec Brideson, Founder & CEO, Venus Comms
“I’m inside-out a Gen-X daughter of the Silent Generation/Boomer folk. I remember Madonna blasting onto the screen and Boy George breaking ground for gender-fluidity. We had high interest rates, saw Lady Di becoming a Princess and remember the exact tragic moment of her death. The Spice Girls resonated, Sex and the City liberated and my feminist mother emancipated.
“I used to joke I’d forgotten to build a personal life because I did serious career yards and secured property in my 20s and 30s – starting a business before looking to marriage and children by my 40s. I was the generation that had an Atari then a Nintendo Octopus, mobile phones became a thing with a Nokia 5130 and I was totally amazed that I could use a Blackberry to send emails while breastfeeding in the middle of the night because I didn’t think I could ever stop working. The pandemic was the first time I was a stay-at-home parent and this was a silver lining for me… I experienced the highs and lows of motherhood which I had outsourced to keep my hard-fought-for career.
“I have been at the frontline of the gender-equality quest. I have advocated and I have endured remaining silent. But as I have got older and society has evolved, I too have found my voice. Gen X women were taught to suck it up and now we’re using lived experience to help women find a way to call it out. I have been doing a lot of work to reconcile the things we used to put up with… and I am angry that we are still fighting for equality. The explosion of data has helped in the transparency of the facts – it is irrefutable evidence.
“Ageing for everyone is a reconciliation with reality. For women it has been given a bad rap – ‘invisible’ in media and role models still too few. But now in my 50s I feel as youthful as ever with an even more developed and emboldened heart that beats stronger and louder. I saw transformation through my life and I’m committed to riding the waves of breakthroughs and not letting a decade define who I am or where I am going. My future will involve redefining wisdom and blending generational experiences and the art of seeing differences to deliver diverse perspectives and open attitude.”
Oonagh O’Hagan, Owner and MD, Meagher’s Pharmacy Group
“I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on how I feel about ageing as I turned 50 in July. I’d say the strongest feeling I have is that of gratitude. Unfortunately working in the healthcare profession and engaging with customers daily, I have met, got to know and lost many great friends who have not made it this far. Now I realise that life is so precious and that it’s an absolute privilege to reach 50 and have both positive physical and emotional health. I am eternally grateful for that.
“I’ve realised that all the imperfections and flaws that annoyed me in the past are the things that actually define me and make me the person I truly am – my authentic and true self. I laugh at how I tried to change the very essence of me in the past when now I literally could not give a hoot what others think of me. I know that once I can look in the mirror and tell myself that I am doing the best that I can, then that is all that matters to me.
“Now the words of Oscar Wilde really ring true for me when he said: ‘Be yourself because everyone else is already taken.'”
Like what you’re reading? SIGN UP to The Suite – it’s the modern mini-magazine for women in leadership.
Naomi Watts, Actress / Founder, Stripes
“Getting older is a privilege and a time for us to feel proud of our cumulative experiences – to feel empowered, unapologetically so. I think being part of a change-maker generation is exciting. No more walking through this alone.”
Sangeeta Venkatesan, President, WiBF/ ED EGX / Chairman, RSL Lifecare
“As I near my 50th, I feel a sense of independence, self-worth, and a stronger belief to stay authentic. While I am not as fit and toned as I used to be 20 years ago, I have the power and conviction to do anything that I put my mind to. I am wiser and know my voice. I’ve learnt to embrace the good and bad that life has to offer, to not take things personally and to not control every outcome. I have some amazing friends, and don’t feel the need to be liked by everyone. I’m happily single and don’t feel incomplete without a partner.
“I feel bloody good where I am in life, and plan to feel that way as I approach my 50s and beyond. But one thing is clear to me, self-care is important. As women, we’ve come a long way in not letting our age define our ability to make choices. Our lives are very different from what our grandmothers had, who perhaps never reached their full potential despite being capable women.
“However, our belief on female beauty continues to be damaging, with older women still feeling the pressure of looking 15 years younger. Similarly, menopause and other health-related matters, synonyms to ageing, need to be discussed more openly.”
Nicky Vaux, Partner & BDM, Empire Marinas Group
“There is no way that 10 years ago I would have started a podcast, and put myself out there for others to judge. But that’s a confidence that being in your 50s brings. In my view, it’s about leading well, encouraging others, sharing your knowledge, using your maturity from experience to help others and lighting up a room with your energy. At this age I am confident of my knowledge, my amazing network and my status. I have achieved a level in my businesses that makes me feel confident in my ability and equal to others in a room. As I always say, a rising tide lifts all boats.”
Shannah Kennedy, Executive Life Coach / Business Strategist / Author of The Life Plan
“I think post-50 is an ever-growing vision and understanding of life. The gift is inspiration, mastery, and growing power. We are blessed with a wealth of experience, which has given us a certain wisdom. This is the time for me to embrace a consciousness with greater clarity. It is a time of blessing, grace and opportunity, as we are teachers, advisors, guides and sources of inspiration to others. For me, it is the happiest I have felt in life, as I have really devoted my time into creating a structure that supports me best. I’m putting my mental, physical and emotional health first and wanting to feel fulfilment instead of focusing just on achievement.”
Diane von Furstenberg, Designer
“I don’t agree with our tendency to glorify youth. I never really understand it when I see someone freak about turning 30. There is something helpless about being a child. I always looked older than my age, and I loved that, because I always wanted to be in charge of myself.”
Karen Pethard, Co-Founder, Inu8 Collective
“At this stage of life I feel more comfortable about myself than I think I ever have. There was a period not that long ago where I felt I’d lost my sense of direction and purpose, but by allowing myself to turn inwards and accept the myriad of emotions that went with that, I have found myself on a new path. It sounds a little clichéd but I am now feeling freer to be me. As a result, new opportunities have found their way to me.
“I love that I’ve taken on physical challenges later in my life. In my 20s, I would never have believed that in my 40s I would run 55kms in a trail-running event or take part in endurance events and outdoor adventures. I don’t break any records, that’s for sure, but I love the feeling of challenging myself physically and mentally and sharing these experiences with other women. I also love the feeling of sisterhood that comes from being a little older and a little wiser. Instead of criticising my changing body, I can honestly appreciate it for everything it has allowed me to do and continues to allow me to do.
“These days, I’m excited that I get to work with my friend, Cassandra Carey, as a business partner as we create a new brand (Inu8) that is all about recognising, supporting and celebrating the journey of womanhood. Next year I turn 50 and I’m excited about what is yet to unfold from this newfound place of acceptance.”
Like what you’ve read and want more? We can definitely recommend our article, Menopause: Everything You Need To Know. You can read it HERE.