Older women bring valued experience to workplace

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 April, 2013, 3:29am

Louisa Mitchell ("Stuck in the middle", March 15) pointed out that fewer mature women are sustaining places in the workforce.

Assuming the research findings to which she referred are valid, further questions need to be asked. Precisely because of their personal life experience, women in the 40 to 60 age range might actively be sought for jobs that have a high level of social responsibility. However, until there are changes to traditional family life in Hong Kong, some women in this age group may choose not to take such employment, at least for a while.

In addition to Hong Kong's longer life expectancy, and the limited number of children being born to increasingly older first-time mothers, mature women can now have a more varied lifestyle. At age 40 some women are grandmothers looking after toddler-age grandchildren, while others could be tending to toddlers who are their own children.

While some women in this demographic strive to live independently, many find themselves sharing space with parents, their own grown-up children or other relatives. In a complex family setting, how is total household income divided? Who decides?

The days of three generations under one roof are long gone, yet today, it is not uncommon for family members to live only short distances from one another - often gathering for evening meals and dividing up care for children or the elderly. Hong Kong's limited housing market also limits employment options for mature women.

What percentage of 40- to 60-year-olds work only for the benefit of themselves and their spouse? Seeking family harmony, many mature women bring their considerable energies into the family business - from hawker stalls to corporate boardrooms. Knowing Hong Kong ways, the social networking expertise of mature women is highly valued even if these skills are not formally recognised nor regularly compensated.

Business and government leaders might choose to look again at the valuable resources offered by mature women who want to remain employed and who are serious about managing their own time and energy. Some employers might need to invest in training for these employees so they can update their computer skills and learn about current management theory.

The cost of this is offset by the benefit of continued social harmony added to measured human productivity. Hong Kong's workplaces have much to gain from the increased employment of mature women.

Rosann Santora Kao, Tsim Sha Tsui