Four years into my 50s, I wish my younger self could have conjured what I see now. Women over 50 are achieving their best success after 50. Rather than just hanging on, experience and wisdom now mean our most productive days are in front of us.
As a kid, I knew I wanted to be a reporter.Closing my eyes, I had an image of what that future looked like for me after college, when I was 30, then 40. All with a family mixed in some way, somehow. Anything at 50 and beyond, though, proved mental white space. Did women even have careers at those ages? Looking around back then for role models in my aspiring field, or pretty much any position of authority, it sure didn’t seem so.
Now four years into my 50s, I wish my teenage self could have conjured what I see now. Women over 50 are having a moment. A 56-year-old woman is vice president of the United States. A 64 year-old woman runs UPS. At 74, Janet Yellen runs the U.S. Treasury; 81-year-old Nancy Pelosi serves as Speaker of the House. Far better, though: all these women, like millions of us, achieved their best successes after 50. Rather than just hanging on, experience and wisdom translate into our most productive days lying in front of us.
That’s why Forbes, in partnership with my Know Your Value campaign, believes the time for this inaugural 50 Over 50 list couldn’t be better. Our criteria highlight why: First, yes, it’s just for women. (Men already have their own 50 Over 50 lists. The Business Roundtable. The NFL Owners Meeting. The U.S. Senate. And so on.) Second, we’re not necessarily looking for the most powerful women, but rather those who leveraged their life experience to achieve their greatest successes over 50, with extra points for adversity. Finally, we’re looking for scale—and purpose. Women, of course, recognize that the former is useless without the latter. To help focus, we sorted candidates into three major buckets: rainmakers (from CEOs to private equity titans), visionaries (whether tech entrepreneurs or artists) and changemakers (from politics to social entrepreneurship). Most of these incredible women touch all three.
“We need these women to tell their stories, share their paths to success.”
We received more than 10,000 nominations for the 50 Over 50, and reviewed every single one, amazing story after amazing story. A large team of screeners winnowed that initial list, using the criteria above, to a few hundred. And from there, we convened an incredible panel of outside judges: Diane von Furstenberg, Andrea Jung, and Janice Bryant Howroyd. These iconic women over 50 helped us develop this final list.
The results are inspiring. “We need these women to tell their stories, share their paths to success,” the First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden recently told me when I relayed some of the names we had discovered, or re-discovered. And that path has never extended longer, or looked more beautiful. Just as modern technology has chipped away at the biological clock, relieving many women of the need to pack everything into their 30s (freeze your eggs if you need to!), this list hopefully removes some of the professional tick-tock pressure traditionally lurking for younger women. It chronicles what’s possible for older women. And it’s a reminder to all of us that there’s no rush—that we can stop and smell the flowers and enjoy every experience, twist and turn, all of which provide yet another building block.
How do I know this is taking hold? Because in a world that has valued female youth for millennia, where shaving a few years down felt expected, our fact-checkers found several prospective listees who had lied up, to get themselves over our threshold. Now that’s change we can believe in.
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