Last week, American writer and editor Doug Murano issued an appeal via Twitter.
"I get tired of 'under 40' lists," he wrote. "Show me someone who got their PhD at 60 after losing everything. Give me the 70-year-old debut novelist who writes from a lifetime of love and grief. Give me calloused hands and tender hearts."
I get tired of “under 40” lists. Show me someone who got their PhD at 60 after losing everything. Give me the 70-year-old debut novelist who writes from a lifetime of love and grief. Give me calloused hands and tender hearts.— Doug Murano (@muranofiction) September 4, 2020
The fact that such stories are anomalies shows that we still tend to walk a career path that's linear and, sadly, becomes increasingly narrow toward the end.
The median age of the Australian workforce is 39, and on the far side of that, opportunities are fewer and far harder to land. Particularly for women.
An Australian Human Rights Commission’s Willing to Work inquiry in 2016 found that, as well as facing the usual barriers to employment (age discrimination, difficulties accessing training and arranging flexible work opportunities), older women are more likely than older men to be perceived as "having outdated skills and as being too slow to learn new ones".
Part of changing those perceptions involves championing the stories of women who disprove them.
Women like psychiatry registrar Dr Louise Randall, interior designer Maria Georgiou and Stella Prize-winning author Vicki Laveau-Harvie (pictured above). These three women each changed careers and achieved success after the age of 40.
They spoke to Mamamia's daily news podcast, The Quicky, to share how they made it happen.
Dr Louise Randall
Dr Louise Randall was nearly 50 when she decided journalism was no longer for her.
"I had always wanted to study medicine; I'd always felt slightly dissatisfied that I hadn't. In 2011, I was working as the ABC New South Wales editor, which means I was in charge of the news operation for all of New South Wales. And we had a helicopter crash, which very unfortunately killed three of my colleagues. And then followed about 18 months of real turmoil where people kept confiding in me and it really struck me how distressed people can be whilst living perfectly functional lives, and I became extremely interested in mental health, in particular.