"THERE ARE YEARS THAT ASK QUESTIONS AND YEARS THAT ANSWER."
Zora Neale Hurston
ONEWhat sort of life transitions can multiply for women approaching and over 50?
- Skills gaps and career competition
- Prolonged unemployment w/o compensation
- Age/wage/gender discrimination
- Financial distress and bankruptcy
- Menopause and mental anguish
- Failing health/lack of insurance
- Relocation and liquidation
- Divorce or separation
- Sandwich generation/empty nest
- Caretaking or care taken
- Death of a family member or friend
- Generalized stress and anxiety
TWOWhat makes this conversation unique?
Few people openly discuss the impact of multiple life transitions and the devastation they cause when solutions are out of reach. This is an overlooked, all-too-common situation that needs a conversation of its own. You can easily imagine by reading through the list of common life transitions how any combination left unresolved could destroy lives. The go-to "women over 50" conversation, menopause, does nothing to address the crushing, unpredictable situations that multiple life transitions create. Menopause is offered up as if this is the only little thing that happens to women in their 40's, 50's and beyond. It's not. This conversation, multiple tough life transitions, is a messy, painful and necessary subject.
THREEWhat makes this conversation timely?
With Baby Boomers, a behemoth generation, well into their 50's and beyond and nearly all Gen Xers in their 40's and early 50's, now is the time to create solutions. The financial distress alone from multiple life transitions can last the remainder of a woman's life and be ruinous! If we don't address this now and develop solutions to curb the devastation, the next enormous generation, Millennials, who are well into their 30's already, will suffer the same extreme issues that Boomers are going through now. We have to talk about it. Waiting is no longer an option. Solutions for current and future generations are past due.
FOURWhich of these multiple life transitions do you feel most strongly about?
That's a toss-up between age-related job loss and age-related job denial. Being aged out of a job is equally as devastating as being aged out of the interview/offer process. Both lead to financial difficulty, feelings of defeat and a demeaning of the skill and experience that women spend decades building. Commitments from employers to create a healthy mix of generations and experience levels would go a long way to lowering the long-term unemployment percentage among women of an assured age.
FIVEAre you concerned that you will alienate people by being so candid on this subject?
Yes, of course. Some people will be put off by this conversation, but it still needs to happen. As long as women are suffering, awareness must be raised. We're not doing this to point fingers or lay blame. We're doing this to bring people together in an important conversation and to connect women to helpful solutions. That's all. It's hard, but it's necessary.
SIXIs Leaping the Chasm for retirees?
Not specifically retired persons, no. Leaping the Chasm's umbrella demographic is women in their 40's, 50's and beyond. Our target demographic is women ages 45-65. By targeting women in this group, we are able to focus on one of the fundamental triggers for multiple life transitions, age-related job loss. Retired women can and do struggle with tough life transitions. Menopause, divorce, financial distress, caretaking or care taken, health-related issues... LTC is here for women, retired or otherwise, going through these issues and more. Raising the conversation for our umbrella demographic will bring us closer to solutions for women of all ages.
SEVENWhy do you describe women of an assured age as both vulnerable and strong?
Women of an assured age are women who know the value of the decades of life and work experience they've collected even if others do not recognize it. The tough life transitions that occur are often the result of outside influences and/or the physical challenges that can come with age. Both of these situations can happen quickly, thrusting women into tough life transitions that they were not prepared for. These transitions can make women susceptible to illness, loneliness, poverty, and even death or suicide. The paradox is that women in this demographic have incredible capacity for strength in the face of vulnerability -- even when they do not feel strong. This is why vulnerability and strength both exist for women of an assured age. This inherent strength combined with access to appropriate solutions has the power to overcome vulnerability and return women respectfully to their careers and their lives.
EIGHTWhat motivated you to start Leaping the Chasm?
When I lost my job during a global youthanization RIF, it never occurred to me that I would be unable to secure another. Nor did it occur to me that I'd start menopause, be dealing with a toxic relationship, battling financial distress and struggling with grief all at the same time. Moreover, the few modest solutions I found -- bandaids really -- were unavailable to me because I had no income. It was overwhelming. I started talking to people and learned, as I suspected, that I wasn't the only woman going through tough life transitions without resolution. In fact, it was more common than I realized. So, I put my naturally strong, unfiltered opinions to work and decided, "Why not make some noise?"
NINEHow will you define success?
Success happens when enough awareness is raised to prompt creation of real solutions. When women in their 40's, 50's and beyond have someplace to turn for help, for community and for peace of mind. Women shouldn't have to go into their 70's and beyond afraid of what's going to happen to them as a result of some devastation from tough life transitions that occured when they were approaching and over 50. It's our goal to raise that awareness and facilitate those solutions by any means possible. Solutions that solve or ease life transitions when they occur so that illness, loneliness, poverty or other consequences don't follow women into their golden years.
TENHow can women help LTC achieve its goals?
Folks (men or women of any age) can help in any of the following ways:
- Leave constructive, positive comments on our editorials to discuss, learn from and be inspired by.
- Use our contact page to email us and share your own life transition experiences -- past or present. It's important to know that what you bravely share today may help someone else tomorrow.
- Join us on social media @leapingthechasm -- Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr and Mogul. Like, follow, share everything you can to spread the word. The very best help will be to use your voices.
- If you are a solution provider, contact us to become a partner or invite us to review your solutions. We want to discuss ways that solutions can become affordable for women who are struggling and how we can be a vehicle for bringing those solutions to our audience.
- If you have skill or experience that you think will benefit this endeavor, we may have a volunteer opportunity for you. Contact us to discuss the possibilities.
ELEVENPersonally, what drives you to work so hard for this cause?
Frankly, because I'm astonished that no one has taken up this mantle. Woman of an assured age are our Grandmothers, Mothers, Wives, Daughters, Sisters, Aunts, Friends, Caretakers, Colleagues and a whole lot more. We hold all of these positions. We've earned the right to secure lives and dependable work that respect our level of skill and experience. We deserve life-easing solutions for transitions beyond our control. We need a community, understanding and a chance to live our best life for ourselves and our loved ones. It's worth a little hard work to positively impact the lives of generations of women to come.
TWELVEWhat's surprised you since founding Leaping the Chasm?
Two things really.
- There is this huge lack of concern for women going through these tough life transitions. When things get rough, support systems disappear, solutions are scarce, and opinions tend to run toward, "She'll be fine. It'll pass." Until it doesn't which happens too often. People outside of this issue either don't understand it and/or don't want to acknowledge it. This creates isolation and that is particularly problematic for women suffering tough life transitions. Putting this in a box won't tidy up the issue. It will only continue to grow and be more difficult to overcome.
- When I brainstormed LTC, I fully expected to have the encouragement of all of my friends and family to help raise some local awareness. With the exception of just a few close friends, LTC is mainly furthered by the generosity and global fellowship of women on social media. They are fierce and they are wonderful. I'm astonished by their willingness to like, share and discuss the topics we're posting. Moreover, these women worldwide have raised the conversation to the commonality of these issues from one country to the next. There is no cultural divide within the tough life transitions that women of an assured age face. A few thousand more women spreading LTC across social platforms and we will have a conversation that simply can't be ignored!
THIRTEENWhat's been challenging about raising awareness?
Encouraging women to talk. As a gender we are labeled chatty, but we can be uncharacteristically stoic when chatty really matters. Most often I run into women who are afraid to share their stories because they don't want to air their struggles in public. As long as this is a hurdle to get over, solutions will be difficult to foster. We need to be talking. Those of you reading this can begin by simply filling out our questionnaire. No talking involved and no collection of personal data. Simple and easy, it's only ten questions and it will positively impact our ability to drive solutions.
FOURTEENYour branding is unique and memorable. Can people purchase Leaping the Chasm branded merchandise or materials?
Not yet. We've talked about this and may begin making merchandise available in the future to help support administration of this cause, however our main goal here is to raise awareness. We want solution providers to step up, work with us and create programs for women who are suffering. This has never been about dollars and cents for LTC, it's about rapidly and respectfully returning women who are suffering to the security of their careers and their lives.
FIFTEENHow do you respond when women ask, “What's the point of doing this?”
The question we should be asking is, "What's the point of NOT doing this?"
SIXTEENWhere can women find resources to help with transitions?
Building resources is an ongoing process requiring tons of research, so there's a lot going on behind the scenes to make this happen. We do have a number of resources already collected and developed. You can find them by topic in the following places. Expect additions and edits to these resources over time.