In a corporate environment that prioritizes youth over experience, women over 50 have increasingly found themselves being aged out of their careers. It’s an issue that best-selling author Bonnie Marcus refers to as “gendered ageism” in her new book Not Done Yet! How Women over 50 Regain Their Confidence and Claim Workplace Power, which provides both sage advice and practical strategies to help women combat its effect.
We caught up via email with Marcus, a fellow Santa Barbaran, to discuss Not Done Yet!, the inspiration behind her career, and what to expect from her upcoming Virtual Author Discussion hosted by Chaucer’s Books on March 9. Click here to reserve your spot.
What drew you to create a platform for professional women? After working for over 20 years in corporate, I started my own coaching business, Women’s Success Coaching, now Bonnie Marcus Leadership LLC, in 2007 to help professional women gain the visibility and credibility they need to get ahead. During my career, I realized that so many talented women were being passed up for promotions because they did not know how to authentically advocate and position themselves for advancement. I made it my mission to help women overcome whatever self-imposed barriers prevented them from owning their ambition and talent, as well as help them successfully navigate the complexities of the workplace.
Is there an experience in your career that stands out to you? At the beginning of my career, I was working for a national health-care company. Over the course of eight years, I advanced from an entry-level position to assistant vice president. When the company went through a merger, a new vice president position opened. Since I was a top performer, I threw my hat in the ring for the job. But I had a new boss who I avoided because he intimidated and bullied me, so I kept my head down, unaware of how the decision to fill the position would be made. In the end, [my boss] hired a man from another region, and I was devastated. But I learned a great lesson. One that I address in my first book, The Politics of Promotion: How High-Achieving Women Get Ahead and Stay Ahead. And that lesson is that it takes more than great performance and hard work to get ahead. You need to advocate for yourself and build a solid supportive network. In my coaching, I help professional women learn how to effectively do this so they can reach their career goals.
Your upcoming book focuses on workplace challenges faced by women over 50. Why this topic and why now? Before I had the idea to write this book, I had a 58-year-old female client who was an attorney for a large tech firm in Silicon Valley. After eight years on the legal team, she noticed she was being pushed aside, her workload re-distributed, and her opinion ignored. As I coached her through this painful experience, I questioned whether this was an isolated situation. I reached out and interviewed other professional women over 50 as well as researched gendered ageism. I discovered that there is very little awareness of this [issue] in our society and the workplace. Women need to have the tools to overcome this bias and learn how to stay marketable to keep their jobs.
What has your main learning experience been throughout your career? It is important to own your talent and ambition and take control of your career. If we let ourselves get overwhelmed by the obstacles we face in the workplace, we can sideline ourselves and sabotage our success. I believe it is important to understand what holds you back and be strategic about overcoming those barriers and internal limiting beliefs you have.
How does the message of Not Done Yet! translate to the current context of the pandemic, when many jobs are remote? Working remotely places immense pressure on professional women. Many women have either lost their jobs or turned down opportunities because of the challenges posed by balancing work and family responsibilities. The danger for women over 50 is that if they lose their jobs, it is much more difficult to find another comparable position. Older women need to realize that this is no time to play small. They need to be strategic about creating visibility for themselves, especially with decision-makers and influencers. They need to create and nurture a solid network of allies and champions. They need to follow the steps in the book to stay marketable.
What are you going to cover at your launch event at Chaucer’s? Dr. Lois Frankel, author of the New York Times best seller Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office, will be interviewing me on what I have learned from my research on gendered ageism, why I wrote Not Done Yet!, and some of the themes in the book. Since the launch is virtual, my hope is that it will attract women from all over the U.S.
How do you feel about being a role model for professional women? It is an honor to be considered a role model, and a responsibility. My goal is to make sure I walk the walk and talk the talk. Coaching professional women keeps me on my toes, and I learn from my clients every day.
What is your favorite aspect of your work? I really love all of it. I find coaching very fulfilling, and I love to write. In addition to my two books, I have been a contributing writer for Forbes since 2011. I also enjoy doing my weekly podcast, Badass Women at Any Age, which has allowed me to meet and be inspired by many amazing women. And I’m a passionate speaker and workshop facilitator — I love interacting with audiences.
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