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Enough of wasted potential! Women 50+ and more

Elżbieta Ćwiklińska-Kożuchowska
a woman after fifty, with an MA in engineering. As an engineer, she has earned an early retirement and only then came o feel free again, with no duties and obligations. Subsequently she has been volunteering is such organizations as the Lions Club International, Stowarzyszenie Społeczeństwa Wiedzy, Konkordia and Women’s Congress Association where she has recently become Deputy President. Founder of the Fundacja Klasa Kobiet and of the first university for mature students in Poland, Uniwersytet Drugiego
Wieku, which provides education for people over 50 in order to increase their chances on the demanding job market. Privately married to Wojciech Kożuchowski, mother of Honorata
and Kacper, grandmother of Oskar, Aleksander, and little Aksel; additionally: fan of books, honest discussions, sunsets, autumns, ripe fruit, old wine, and mature people. Always on the move.

Although there are many issues to be addressed, panel discussions at the 1st and 2nd meetings of the Congress of Women brought to light one common problem that unfortunately affects women all over Poland, namely, the problem of finding and keeping a job. There is much talk today that there are no glass ceilings, that we have equal rights—we only need to use them—but in fact one hears even more about the harassment of women who are close to retirement age, about making their work difficult and unpleasant. For how else can we describe the nagging questions, such as “ready to retire?” or comments: “you have obviously earned your rest by now” and “there are no jobs for the young, because the old want to keep their positions forever.” Such comments are sometimes released into the general office space but occasionally thrown directly in someone’s face! Another method of making mature women’s lives difficult is to overwhelm a person with work (e.g. the duties of two employees are given to one) and to constantly express dissatisfaction with her performance, which leads to cutting her bonuses.

Today, such comments and actions are the norm in the guerilla warfare against the retirement protection act. How can one work well and effectively in such an environment? One cannot, for one loses respect for one’s superiors and with it any desire and strength to work. Yet another dangerous aspect of the problem should be pointed out here. People (not only women!) placed under continual pressure, are consistently told that they are good
for nothing, that they get in the way, take up somebody else’s space and are generally useless, sooner or later do become useless.

There is no way around it. One person will fight it longer than another, one will become depressed, another bitter, but there is no turning back from this slippery slope without somebody else’s help. Irrespective of our financial situation (which will always suffer when we are out of work), we loose touch with our profession, lose the sense of self-worth and self-assurance, and our skills and experience become useless indeed. We thus become the inert mass standing in line to receive social services.

There are many of us in Poland—mature women over fifty, who’ve entered the so-called second age—as many as five million! We are well-educated, we have a lot of experience, a lot of time on our hands, and a great desire to work. To ignore these facts is to waste a huge potential of a mass of women, an enormous, multidimensional loss for the economy.

We are entirely unprotected. There are no systemic solutions, the preparation of which is taking forever, while time passes, and in this case, time is not our ally.

 

Added: 27 października 2011 Category: General
 
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