City Eye has always called for more women at all levels and it seems someone was listening.
Mature women, women of experience, wise women or MEWs (Mature Experienced Women), as they are sometimes known, are role models hidden in plain sight. These are not merely role models for high achieving women, they also show that with maturity and experience comes wisdom.
There is a global body centred around this, called theElders.org and includes Mary Robinson and Graca Marcel, wife of Nelson Mandela. Robinson was a lawyer and the first female President of Ireland. She is also a human rights defender, an advocate for gender equality and women’s participation in peace-building and human dignity. Machel is a former President of two countries, an international advocate for women’s and children’s rights and former freedom fighter. Both are still only in their 70s. It is not possible to do justice to them both in a few lines.
But perhaps part of the reason we don’t celebrate these women more has to do with the fact that they’re not easily categorised, because of the many roles they undertake.
Take the following two 84-year-old women. Dame Stephanie ‘Steve’ Shirley is an entrepreneur, philanthropist, TED speaker and most importantly Founder and President of Autistica, who fund autism research. A truly inspiring woman who now uses her fame and power to speak out about refugees on Twitter.
— JCWImmigrants (@JCWInews) 7 July 2016
Narwal el Saadawi was born in Egypt and she started out as a surgeon, psychiatrist, then poet, writer, now feminist and activist, with a direct line to the young through the Narwel El Saadawi Forum. She has no plans to stop travelling, or speaking out at age 84 and was in fact in London this month speaking at the British Library.
Recently on TV, physicist Brian Cox showed free-diving grandmothers in their 70s in South Korea and they’re not planning on stopping any time soon.
At a more local level, Judi Dench has just had her first tattoo at age 81. Glenda Jackson, one of the outstanding actresses of her generation, recently gave up her seat in Parliament at the age of 79. However, she soon became bored and decided to return to the stage, aged 80, to play King Lear at the Old Vic.
On a more serious note, a current urban myth is that society will be burdened with older people needing care, which will be a drain on the NHS. Not only are many of the older demographic women, but many carers are also women. Far from being a burden, carers of a family member who work unpaid, save the state £132 billion a year, close to the cost of a second NHS. It suits politicians to turn the younger generation against the older, the burden on society for which they will have to pay.
Writer Ashton Applewhite has some interesting statistics from America. She states that the actual percentage of women in care homes is two per cent and of those with dementia is four per cent. Although these figures are for the US, it is not too difficult to expect that they are similar here.
Yes, we get old and yes, we may get dementia, but living life with a purpose may be a corrective. The ageing myth and ageism is not just debilitating, it deprives us of the best of our maturity, our creativity.
Had I been writing about men, I’d have referenced great musicians such as Solti, Haitink, and others, but others will write about the men. Age is not a disease, it is part of living. Lets hear it for the mature, experienced, wise women.