SCOTTISH women over 50 feel“undervalued” and “invisible” in the workplace because government and employers are failing to tackle age discrimination.

A report revealed that “age discrimination continues to be an issue for many women in the work force” and employers are lagging behind when it comes to addressing challenges older women face in the labour market.

The study, entitled The Scottish Commission on Older Women Older Women and Work: Looking to the Future, also highlighted that some feel pressured into taking redundancy or are “managed out” to make way for younger colleagues, and health and wellbeing issues specific to older women are frequently being ignored.

There are also major concerns that employers are denying older women systematic training to help them adapt to changing workplace demands or to develop their own skills.

Many older women also reported that they were given fewer chances to progress their careers, leaving them feeling frustrated in roles that are no longer challenging or fulfilling.

The Scottish Commission on Older Women has called for urgent action to address the increasing pressures women over the age of 50 are encountering in the labour market. Research conducted over two years identified that older women often struggle with the responsibility of caring for elderly parents and grandchildren.

It concludes: “Public policy has not kept up with the changing realities of the complex patterns of caring demands placed on older women.”

The report says women aged 50 to 64 face the largest gender-based pay gap, are more likely to be in lower-skilled positions than their male counterparts and are being “disproportionately negatively impacted’’ by welfare reforms.

As part of the research, the Commission also heard numerous personal stories of age discrimination in the workplace.

The report states: “The experiences shared with the Commission in focus groups reinforced the findings of existing literature: that older women feel undervalued and often invisible in the workplace.

It calls on UK, Scottish and local governments, as well as employers and trade unions, to take steps to improve the situation, including more transparency over pay, flexible working policies and statutory entitlement to carers leave.

Commission member Wendy Loretto, professor of organisational behaviour at the University of Edinburgh Business School, said: “For too long the UK policy debate has ignored the complex challenges facing older women. Faced with a rising state-pension age and welfare reforms, most Scottish women now face no choice but to work well into later life to make ends meet.

“Meanwhile, they often have the added responsibility of providing unpaid care to elderly relatives, or for their grandchildren whose own parents are unable to work.

“There is no quick fix to these challenges but we all have a vested interest in addressing them.

“By starting a dialogue with this report we hope the UK and Scotland’s policy-makers can work together with the country’s employers and trade unions to develop a new framework to reduce pressure on women working in later life, and unlock their economic potential for the benefit of Scotland as a whole.’’

In the report, older women spoke of a lack of opportunities, inflexible responses to additional caring responsibilities, poor health and financial pressures.

Commission co-chairman Morag Alexander said: “This report is based on a review of existing literature and a new statistical analysis undertaken specifically for the Scottish Commission on Older Women.

“Most importantly, however, we drew on two years of consultations, round table meetings and conferences throughout Scotland where we listened to the voices and lived experiences of this neglected and often invisible generation.

“Older women spoke to us about their paid work and unpaid caring, and generously shared sometimes painful experiences of harassment and discrimination.’

Agnes Tolmie, chairman of the Scottish Women’s Convention, has been an active campaigner in the women’s movement for more than 30 years.

She said: “This report has raised awareness of the problem and it informs the people of Scotland the sheer enormity of the problem. Hopefully the politicians and decision-makers will pick it up and run with it.

“Women, who once they turn 50, somehow appear to the people who are managing them to be less effective and less productive, when in fact, it is an absolute fallacy and we have never really got round this idea that young good, old bad.”

Emma Ritch, executive director of Engender, added: “The work of the Commission is invaluable in giving us better information about the experiences of older women in Scotland.

“One of the speakers from the floor at the launch mistakenly described women over 50 as ‘invincible’ before correcting that to ‘invisible’, and we would hope that the recommendations the Commission has made bring us closer to the former situation than the latter.”

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