Shut your mouth

What do you want from your working life? For me, it’s boiling down to simple things: nice people, writing interesting things and being my true self.

When the diversity & inclusion experts started talking about the importance of being your true self, I thought they were referring to things like sexuality and mental health.

I’ve realised it’s also about feeling safe to express yourself and have a different opinion.

It’s been a long time since I’ve felt that freedom, which is hard as a creative, experienced person.

I constantly worry that I should be less in meetings, but I’m not very good at keeping my mouth shut. After being a journalist for 35 years, I know things and I can’t pretend to unknow them.

I became a cadet journalist in 1987. You didn’t need a degree back then. In fact, they preferred you didn’t have one.

Newspaper journalism wasn’t regarded as a fancy career, it was just a trade. And editors thought the best way to teach it was on the job.

Little did I know that not getting a degree would be problematic later in life. The number of times I see “must have a degree” on job ads is ridiculous. How does three decades in a profession count for nothing? Requiring a degree when someone has been a journalist for so long is a bit crazy. Surgeon maybe, communicator not so much.

Anyways, I find myself having opinions and views about things in meetings and a little voice inside my head tells me to SHUT UP. Because while people say they value diversity of thought, some find it threatening.

It’s hard to gauge whether someone genuinely wants progressive ideas or is just pretending to want progressive ideas. The second guessing is a bit exhausting.

When meetings end I don’t feel excited about the interaction, I feel AWFUL about having spoken up when maybe I should have been quiet.

It’s confusing at this stage in my career, because I’m not blowing hot air. I’ve picked up so much knowledge from all the newspapers and magazines and websites I’ve worked on (although I’ve had to cut out half of them from my resume to hide how old I am).

I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t. I understand mass markets. I love organic growth and creating newsletters that make people click. I’m obsessed with tracking Google Analytics and cracking audience codes.

I’m oddly enamoured with LinkedIn, disappointed in Facebook, hopeful about Instagram and curious about the potential of Tik Tok. I have no idea how social media managers are supposed to manage them all effectively and still sleep at night, but the immediacy entrances me.

At the same time, I have business ideas exploding in my head again. There’s one I’m desperate – yet fearful – to launch. The desire to be my own boss – and my own cheerleading squad – rather than worrying about being too much, is pretty appealing.

I suppose where I’m going with this ramble is that I wish that being an ideas person was more valued in a 50-something woman.

I never really noticed sexism in my youth. refused to believe anyone could think I was less capable because of my gender.

I now see that gender – and age – most definitely colour how I am regarded by others. It’s disappointing and such a waste of all the knowledge, experience and talent women in their 50s possess.

When will marketers, for example, understand what they are missing by ignoring Gen X women?

Demographics expert Bernard Salt wrote about Gen X in The Australian over the weekend. Gen X, refers to the generation of Australians born between the mid-1960s and the early-1980s.

Salt said: “The Xer population was smaller than it could have been because of the impact of the contraceptive pill from the late 1960s, and also because economic turbulence in the 1970s reduced our immigration levels. This generation didn’t have the numbers to presume, let alone assert, cultural dominance. In any case, that kind of thing didn’t appeal to this “just get on with it” generation.

“Older Australian Xers will remember the introduction of colour television in the ’70s, the introduction of Bankcard and Medibank and the arrival of US fast-food outlets. And their mothers were among the first women to go back to work after marriage and/or children; this factor alone did much to improve the quality of life at the household level. It also enabled young Xers to see the connection between shared parental work and family lifestyle rewards.”

“A modern Australia was taking shape and Generation X was adapting without fuss or fanfare. What strikes me is that all this was developed largely with a culture of good humour. I’m sure there was anxiety and frustration, but it was never sufficient to dominate popular culture. Maybe Xers were too pragmatic to be dropouts. Maybe they never saw the need to overturn Boomer-inspired lifestyles – the yuppies and DINKs, the pursuit of a seachange or a treechange.”

He concluded: “Gen X exemplifies the kind of Just Do It culture we all need to give Australia the best chance of recovering in the 2020s.”

But will Gen X women be given the chance?

Song of the day: The Knack “My Sharona” (on every Gen X 80s sountrack)

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