Supporting Diverse Older Women Seeking Jobs
In honor of Black History Month, SAGE will be sharing a series of posts from partners and constituents sharing their stories. SAGE’s partners at the Diverse Elders Coalition are pleased to present this guest post from Jenna McDavid, Communications and Logistics Associate, Diverse Elders Coalition.
I remember reading this article in the New York Times back in January – on New Year’s Day, no less; what a way to kick off 2016! – and thinking about the older women I’ve met and worked with at the Diverse Elders Coalition. I’ve had the opportunity to speak with elders at the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging and the Asian Counseling and Referral Services here in Seattle, and I was fortunate to observe a computer class at SAGE’s Midtown Manhattan Center in New York City when I visited their offices last year. In almost every instance, I heard about the bleak job-hunting prospects for diverse women over 50.
The New York Times article linked above offers some heartbreaking anecdotes of women who are unemployed and unable to find meaningful work; in addition to those who are counted on census data as “unemployed,” still more women are working but unable to make ends meet with low-paying, low-skilled jobs. Add in the multiple layers of racism, homophobia, transphobia, and xenophobia that our elders of color and LGBT elders may face, and we find harsh employment reality for the communities we serve.
This graph from the New York Times shows long-term unemployment in older American women, but does not account for race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
So, what can we do to support the women in our communities who are looking for work? One solution comes from SAGE, whose SAGEWorks program provides education and training to LGBT job-seekers over 40. I love this program, because it offers support from start to finish through the job-hunting process, including technology and resume-building workshops, computer software and internet access, and job placement assistance.
A colleague at SAGE recently shared with me a recent video interview with Diane Wilson, a SAGEWorks participant from New York, and I was moved by Diane’s years of experience with unemployment and underemployment. She is trained in film and TV production but is currently working only part-time as a professor at a local university. Like so many of the women in the New York Times article and in our families and communities, Diane has skills, knowledge, and training in a specialized field that hasn’t manifested in steady employment, especially since the 2008 recession.
My resolution this year is to better support the older women in my communities who are seeking employment. Through my work with the DEC and in volunteering with programs like SAGEWorks, I hope that on New Year’s Day 2017, we’ll instead be reading articles about the employment gains being made by our diverse elders. I’ve already even worked out a headline: Baby Boomers Enjoy Employment Boom! New York Times editorial board, take note.