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Will Biden Presidency Change Age, Gender Stereotypes?

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Wednesday, December 30, 2020   

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - President-elect Joe Biden is 78-years old, and advocates for redefining retirement are encouraged by early signs that he could help overturn stereotypes faced by older people - including career women.

Biden already has nominated Janet Yellen, 74, for U.S. Treasury secretary and Linda Thomas-Greenfield, 68, as ambassador to the United Nations.

Karen Wagner, part of a duo that founded an online community called Lustre, said that when they left their careers as successful New York attorneys, they weren't prepared for changed perceptions.

"We loved our jobs, we loved what we were doing," she said. "Careers came to an end, and we were extremely startled to find that we fell off a cliff and became more or less invisible."

Wagner said women of all ages face challenges in the workplace - including equal pay, sexism and opportunity - but it's often far more difficult for older women. At age 60, U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., has been nominated by Biden to lead the Interior Department. If confirmed, the congresswoman also will become the first Native American cabinet secretary in U.S. history.

Wagner noted Biden's groundbreaking decision to choose a woman - and a woman of color - as vice president, and said she's hopeful the team of Biden and Kamala Harris can help Americans understand that diversity brings strength and age represents decades of experience. She said "retirement" as a government policy was largely adopted by countries in the 20th century, when people lived far shorter lives.

"This is the first time that women will be both experienced and sentient at the same time," she said. "That combination is unprecedented, and should be of great value to employers of all kinds - both private sector and governmental, and nonprofit."

Wagner said women at 60 or 65 can live another three decades or more, and added that she believes retirement can leave many without a sense of purpose and sidelined by society.


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