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Retaining and Maximizing the Use of the Mature Workforce. Joint Conference of the National Council on the Aging and the American Society on Aging Presented By: Jenny Erwin, Regional Administrator U.S. Department of Labor Women’s Bureau, Region 9 Wednesday, March 12, 2003.

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retaining and maximizing the use of the mature workforce

Retaining and Maximizing the Use of the Mature Workforce

Joint Conference

of the National Council on the Aging

and the American Society on Aging

Presented By:

Jenny Erwin, Regional Administrator

U.S. Department of Labor

Women’s Bureau, Region 9

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

older americans emerging demographic trends with implications
Older Americans: Emerging Demographic Trends With Implications
  • Demographic data
  • Workforce Implications
  • Women’s Bureau Initiatives
  • Employer Perspectives
demographics and a shrinking labor pool
Demographics and a Shrinking Labor Pool
  • By 2010 workers between ages 35 and 44 will shrink by 10.2%
  • By 2007 the growth of labor force will be under 1% (down from 1.7% in the 80’s and 1.3% in the 90’s)
  • Former rapid entry of young women into the work force has flattened
  • For the first time in history, the number of younger workers entering labor market will not replace those leaving. (Due to declining fertility rates.)
  • For the first time in history, new entrants to the labor pool will not have more education than those leaving

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, General Accounting Office (GAO)

older workers will be needed to fill the gap
Older Workers Will Be Needed to Fill the Gap
  • Highest growth rate in the U.S. workforce will be between ages 55-64
  • By 2006 workers between ages 45-54 will grow more than 50%
  • By 2008, 1 in 6 workers will be over 55
  • In 2000, 13% of the workforce was 55+; by 2015 20% of the workforce will be 55+
  • By 2019, 29% of the U.S. population will be 55+

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, General Accounting Office (GAO)

why older women
Why Older Women?
  • Availability increasing
  • Employed in all occupations
  • Valuable source of labor talent
  • Mirror changing face of the customer
older women s labor force participation is increasing nationwide
Older women’s labor force participation is increasing nationwide…

Women’s labor force participation rates, ages 55 and above: 1980, 1990, 2000 and projected 2010.

Source: Monthly Labor Review, 11/2001

older women work in a variety of occupations but primarily in services
Older women work in a variety of occupations, but primarily in services.

Occupational distribution of women workers over age 55.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

they mirror the changing face of the customer
They Mirror the Changing Face of the Customer
  • The Customer Base is Aging Along With the Labor Force
  • Older Women Workers are an Asset to Help Businesses Reach Aging Customers
  • With the Aging of America, the Buying Power is Shifting to Older Customers
  • Woman Often Live Longer Than Men so Often have the Buying Power

Source: “Packed Facts” on the Senior Market

they are a valuable source of labor talent
They Are a Valuable Source of Labor Talent

Human Resource Managers Report the Following Attributes:

  • Loyalty and dedication to the company
  • Commitment to doing quality work
  • Someone you can count on in a crisis
  • Solid performance record
  • Basic skills in reading, writing, and math
  • Solid experience in job or industry
  • Get along well with co-workers
role of women s bureau
Role of Women’s Bureau
  • Raise the issue
  • Research
  • Local Programs
  • Convene groups
  • Catalyst for change
women s bureau efforts across the u s
Women’s Bureau efforts across the U.S.
  • Region 3 Philadelphia, partnership with HUD's Neighborhood Network Centers, One Stop Centers, and other city, state and federal agencies has created the "The Money Smart Plus" program.
  • Region 8 Denver, working to streamline services and resources for seniors with local agencies.
  • Region 9 San Francisco, held an employer listening session in Los Angeles about challenges that impede hiring and retaining older women workers, and generated discussion on how these issues can be overcome.
  • Region 10 Seattle, "Hire Experience: Age 50+" job fair.
la employers told us
LA Employers told us…

Myths & false assumptions need to be addressed:

  • One false assumption is that older workers do not provide “longevity” on the job. The facts show otherwise. One participating company, DaVita, tracks 2/3rds lower turnover in older employees vs. the 68% turnover they face in younger employees.
  • The assumption that customers want to deal with a younger person will soon be challenged by the reality that customers increasingly share the face of the “older” worker. As the population ages, it will be a strong advantage to have older employees to relate to older customers. This is already the case.

The cross-cultural, or “cross-age” work interaction needs to be addressed, especially in younger managers to ensure they are not operating with stereotypes. Solutions include training, mentoring, educating younger supervising and hiring managers.

Overcome the stereotype that older women workers are not “competitive” or the best. Distribute the facts that show older workers offer experience, consistency, and greater pay-back due to better longevity.

Older workers may need special pre-interview or pre-hiring training, re: resume writing, interviewing and how to present themselves.

The stereotype that older women workers can’t deal with pressure needs to be overcome by recognizing that ability to cope with stress is related more to personality than to age. Also experience helps to deal with pressure and stress.



Fresh ideas do not only reside in younger employees. They come from older employees but they need to be asked for ideas since they may be less vocal in sharing them.

Flexible work options provide important solutions to attract older women workers. Companies should address their policies. Companies need to reassure themselves that “equitable” treatment of employees does not mean treating them exactly the same. Different employees want equity, but not exactly the same work situation. For example, many employees do not want part time work, even if it is offered.

The perception that older workers are more “expensive” must be overcome. One fact to help, is that health and benefits average out to be the same, and the only group with higher benefit costs are those with families.

Some older workers do need training in computer areas. There are resources and organizations that can provide this at no or little cost to an employer.


employer s commitment
Employer’s Commitment

CATEGORY 1:Review and modify company job posting,

interviewing, and hiring practices to assess how they

support/prevent hiring older women.

  • Assess all pre-screening tools that may unfairly bias against older women workers, including testing with assumed knowledge of tools such as MS word, MS excel, typing, etc. Evaluate training possibilities in these areas, rather than automatically eliminating applicant.
  • Review all job posting practices, interviewing, training, and hiring procedures. Modify to include postings at appropriate Placement Agencies, to ensure prescreening tools don’t eliminate older women without factoring in other capabilities and alternative prescreening tools. Overall, ensure company processes support hiring older women workers.
CATEGORY 2: Review the impact of contract employee regulations, health insurance, social security and DCAP guidelines and work to modify or adapt processes.
  • Check with agencies we currently use to hire contract workers to determine if there are restraints to hiring older women workers in contracts. If so, identify and modify where possible. Any legal restraints will be passed on to FamilyCare Inc. and Dept of Labor, Women’s Bureau.
  • Review company policy on flexible spending accounts, and add eldercare as an option for the pretax spending account.


CATEGORY 3:Provide information and communicate

internally and externally to educate and raise awareness

among staff and other companies about issues and

opportunities pertaining to hiring older women workers.

  • Talk with hiring managers when a job opening exists so they will check to see if there is an older woman worker available, internally or through external resources.
  • Speak with CEO and other top management about this critical issue to develop buy-in and support from top levels of management.
  • At regular meetings with other companies and organizations, raise awareness about the benefits and barriers related to hiring older women workers, and provide the “Older Worker-Friendly” assessment tool for company self-assessment.
  • Discuss the older women worker issue at Corporate Advisory Meeting.


CATEGORY 4: Partner with resources on how to locate, interview, hire and train older women.
  • Identify and use recruitment channels or organizations specific to older women to locate applicants for positions.
  • Also use these recruitment organizations to refer potentially hirable older women applicants who need some assistance in resume writing, interviewing skills, etc. to help them proceed successfully through the hiring process.
  • Present workshops on resume writing and interviewing specifically geared to older workers so that job seekers using our placement agency (Work Source) will be prepared.
  • Communicate more widely to Chambers of Commerce about the issues and that placement agencies and organizations are available to companies seeking to hire older workers.
  • Review what agencies our company uses to hire contract employees and begin to use agencies familiar with the issues and supportive of referring older women workers.


CATEGORY 5: Identify and request training, workshops,

tools, guidelines and informational material from

appropriate resources on how to avoid barriers and

stereotypes in interviewing, hiring and training older


  • Provide training to supervising managers on how to hire, and to effectively supervise older women.
  • Provide materials and workshops/training on cross-generational interaction and communication.
  • Use and distribute internally and externally the increasing wealth of tools and tips on the topic of hiring older women workers.


CATEGORY 6: Review and modify employment

policies and practices such as flex-work options,

scheduling flexibility, part-time schedules, seasonal hiring cycles, etc., to ensure they benefit from and allow for older women worker needs.

  • Address company practices to allow for scheduling flexibility.


steps you can take
Steps You Can Take
  • Take the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development’s “Older Worker Friendly Employer Assessment Tool” to determine how attractive your business is to older workers (
  • Look at the demographics of your employees and at any practices that might unintentionally discriminate against older women at your place of business.
  • Complete Women’s Bureau Older Worker Action Plan
employers win with strategies to recruit and retain older workers
Employers win with strategies to recruit and retain older workers
  • Create non-traditional recruiting strategies
  • Create flexibility in scheduling (i.e., telecommuting, job sharing) and options in benefits (i.e., phased retirement).
  • Promote opportunities for older workers to update their skills.
  • Combat negative stereotypes in the workplace.
web resources
Web Resources
  • AARP [ 800-424-3410]
  • Administration on Aging [www.aoa.dhhs.gov800-677-1116]
  • American Society on Aging [ 800-537-9728]
  • FirstGov for Seniors []
  • Experience Works [ 800-901-7965]
  • Institute for Women’s Policy Research [ 202-785-5100]
  • The National Council on the Aging [ 202-479-1200]
  • The National Center on Women & Aging [
  • 800-929-1995]
  • Older Women’s League [ 800-825-3695]
  • Senior Community Employment Program []
  • Senior Job Bank []
  • Women Work! [ 800-235-2732]
  • Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW) [ 202-638-3143]