Age is just a number

LIDA’s Janet Evans gives us the scoop on what it’s like being a creative female over 40

There are several expressions I tend to avoid.

LOL, awesome and epic spring to mind. That’s because, as a female creative over 40, it just feels wrong – unless I’m talking to a highly specific audience.

It’s estimated that by 2050 the average life expectancy of women will be 92, so we’ll be in the workforce longer than ever before. And I think it’s time we started to review our value to creative departments, because – let’s face it – we’re not going anywhere soon!

Every agency group needs diversity to push creative boundaries. But is it helpful to define that group by their age, or rather, by how much they can contribute?

Tech entrepreneur Gina Pell refers to people of a certain ethos as perennials – “a mindset of ever-blooming relevant people of all ages, who know what’s happening in the world, stay current with technology and have friends of all ages. People who get involved, stay curious, mentor others and who continue to push up against their growing edge.”

As a perennial, I wholeheartedly agree.

Having worked in creative departments for my entire career and lately with people who are young enough to be my kids, I’d like to make three points for those either employing or working with mature female creatives.

  1. Life begins at …60?

The old expression, you’re only as old as you feel is an absolute truth. Age is merely a number. We all know people who at 25 seem to have the weight of the world on their shoulders. We also know people who at 65 are constantly exercising their curious minds, reaching out to the new, reinventing themselves and pushing boundaries.

They have learned to evolve and are highly productive. You could even say that, without the constraints of a young family or youthful insecurities, they are living the best years of their lives.

I hope to fall into that category, for the rest of my career.

  1. Adding the value of maturity

Wisdom, mentorship, emotional intelligence are things that can only come with age and life experience. Understanding the joys and hardships that come with simply living on this planet all contribute to a bank of knowledge, to be freely given away.

It’s been proven that the older we get, the better we are at synthetic thinking – able to use both our right and left brains to solve problems. So, whether it’s cracking a creative challenge, understanding audiences with spending power – i.e. the over 40s – or having input into the dynamics of a creative department, mature creatives add significant value to an agency.

Chip Conley, author and hospitality CEO, who until recently mentored Airbnb’s three millennial founders, said that he was there to learn as much as to teach. He refers to ‘mentoring privately’ and ‘interning publicly’ which to me seem like perfect ways to both teach and learn. I thoroughly enjoy the mutual exchange of ideas and knowledge with creatives much younger than me who I’ve also been able to nurture and support one-on-one – whether it’s talking demographics or dating advice.

And every younger creative I’ve ever worked with has only been too happy to show me how a piece of tech works or what makes their brains tick.

It’s also true that many senior clients in our industry are just that and appreciate the input of senior creatives, as well as millennials.

3. Keep thinking young

In a study conducted in the 80s called ‘Counter Clockwise’, a group of 70-year-old men was put in a closed environment and told to think, talk and interact like 22-year-olds. After just a week, their memories had improved, they were healthier physically and looked younger.

It was a young mindset that kept them ‘young’ and this is my experience also.

It’s about having a beginner’s mind at any age. And this means constantly reinventing the way I think, both in my working life and the rest of life of as well.

So, in conclusion, when it comes to employing creatives we need to look beyond the stereotypes and expand our minds, just as women are doing once they hit 40 and beyond.

My last three pieces of advice for women creatives at any age – be confident, be yourself and kick ass.

You’ll be awesome.