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Daily Life

"We're not invisible": Why women over 50 are absolutely killing it right now

The future

By Rebecca Sullivan
Ask any woman if she can recall a time when a man less qualified than herself tried to school her on a topic she is an expert in, and you'll be stuck chatting for a bloody long time.
For many women over 50, who have climbed to the top of their fields and have decades of experience under their belts, there's often a familiar rage that starts to bubble up whenever this happens.
Just ask Nikki Gemmell.
The Australian author and journalist was on a conference call last week when a man she'd never met before "tried to mansplain" to the 52-year-old, who has published 18 books and worked as a reporter for decades, what journalism was.
"He was talking about the media and was talking over the top of me," Gemmell told The Australian Women's Weekly.
"Women have had years of training to be nice and neat and just suck it up when this sort of stuff happens, and if this had been back when I was a 20-something, I might have," she said.
"But instead, I stood my ground and just told him I wasn't really interested in what he had to say."
Lisa Wilkinson, JLo and Kerri-Anne Kennerley are all over 50 and are at the top of their game. (Images: Getty)
Often it's the loudest (or most male) voice in the room, not the most experienced one, that is given the biggest microphone, with women suddenly finding themselves rendered invisible.
That's exactly the position that former foreign minister Julie Bishop found herself in during part of her time in politics.
In 2013, Bishop was the only woman in cabinet alongside 18 men and struggled to have her views heard in meetings.
WATCH: Julie Bishop's speech at the 2018 Women of the Future Awards. Post continues after video...
"People would be talking and then I would intervene to say something and there would be silence, and then they'd just keep on talking," Bishop revealed at the All About Women festival in Sydney earlier this year.
"(Then) somebody would say precisely what I'd said and all the guys would say 'gee that's a great idea, why don't we do that?'. And I'd think, didn't I say that? It was as if they hadn't heard me."
Bishop said it wasn't until other women joined the cabinet that the men started to listen. Plus, her colleague Industrial Relations Minister Kelly O'Dwyer came up with the idea for the women to publicly back each other up in male-dominated meeting.
"She would deliberately say 'no, Julie just said that'," Bishop said.
"That's why it is so important to have a diversity of views around the decision making forums. This is a global issue and Australia could lead the way."
Australian author Nikki Gemmell. Getty
It's this idea of "invisibility" that Gemmell explores in her new audio drama [The Invisible Women's Society], which is now available on Audible.
The comedy brings to life the unspoken epidemic of 50-something women approaching the "age of invisibility", plagued by ungrateful kids, being ignored at bars and sexual discrimination.
The story follows four friends as they embark on an adventure and seek to fight back against a world that has rendered them invisible.
WATCH BELOW: Ita Buttrose reveals the mistake that turned out to be a blessing. Story continues after video.
Nikki says it was inspired by her own experiences and her desire to "call out" behaviour that silences women.
"We are conditioned to be nice and neat and quiet and acceptable, but once you reach my age and we realise we aren't going to be quiet. We're not invisible," she said.
"We all need to know that the world is changing. Women have a legitimate right to be heard."

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