Why Lustre? Because We Are Modern Retired Women
By Erica and Karen
Forty years in the workforce. Hundreds of millions in buying power. Vast and varied experience. And a strong desire to continue to contribute and be productive. We are the first large group of career women who worked full time outside the home. We are now retiring. We once changed the working world. We now want to disrupt the meaning of retirement.
From the start, we have been at the forefront of change. Coming up, with few role models, we forged a path for future generations. We broke through that most basic stereotype of “women’s work”—something to fill the gap between school and marriage. We confronted discrimination, both obvious and subtle. We rose to the challenge of having to work harder and prove more. We did everything our male colleagues did but, like Ginger to Fred, backwards and in heels.
Over time, our presence was acknowledged. At work, we were at the table. Outside of work, we were offered new products and services. We graduated from navy pinstriped suits and blouses with bows to DVF wrap dresses in the 70’s and Donna Karan chic in the 80’s. We exchanged clunky low heels for spikes in colors, and brief cases for tote bags. Grocery stores opened earlier and closed later to accommodate our schedules. An image of career women emerged that was different from that of working men, or of women whose work was mainly in the home.
As long as we worked, we were a highly visible and valued component of the diversifying work force. Now that we are separated from the institutions that structured our lives for so long, suddenly and unexpectedly we have become invisible, hidden behind a new stereotype.
This stereotype says that we want to take it easy, rest on our laurels, and just smell the roses. It says we are done with the world. It says that we don’t want to be—and maybe can’t be—as engaged and productive, as interested and interesting, as we were yesterday. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Why do we care about an image? We care because we understand the power of images. Positive ones can help you advance. You feel good about yourself and others feel good about you. Negative ones diminish you, and rob you of opportunity and possibility. You don’t value yourself, and others don’t value you either.
So think about what happens when we challenge this stereotype and become visible again.
First, because we feel good about ourselves, the world sees us as a vital part of the rapidly changing labor force. The freelance economy and other new employment models are emerging. Business likes them because they provide a more strategic match between their needs and worker skills. Millennials like them because they enable a different kind of engagement. And, because they provide flexible ways to engage, they suit us too.
Millennials bring new knowledge and a fresh perspective; we bring experience and judgment. Imagine what retired ad executives could bring to a new age media campaign to counter ISIS’ propaganda, or how retired entrepreneurs could use their insights to bring to life the brilliant idea of a millennial start-up. Together, we would be a great team.
Second, as more of us reach retirement, our increasing purchasing power, and what we want to do with it, becomes an economic force. According to one expert, the projected global income of women will rise from $12.5 trillion currently to $18.5 trillion by 2018. The market will once again offer us not just what we need--medical and financial assistance--but what we want--technology, goods and services that fit our age and status. Where once, by necessity, we used the internet for our shopping, now that we have time, stores with merchandise we can see and feel, and attentive sales personnel, hold great appeal.
Third, we become a political force. We care deeply about politics because we know it affects everyone and everything. We vote. We read. We follow the news, closely. As we mobilize (again), we will make a difference.
We do not want to relive our past accomplishments. We do want to create a more fulfilling future. What we seek now is not so very different from what we sought when we started our careers. We wanted to be visible then, as the new career women that we were then. We want the same now, as we are now.
The purpose of Lustre is to put us back on the map and show that this group is as vibrant and engaged as we ever were. If we do that, retirement will be another rewarding stage of our journey, a time of new opportunity and challenge.