The New Rules

Amid the horrifying accounts of workplace misogyny making the headlines, comes a bit of welcome news for women, particularly those of a certain age. Fifty-plus — even 60-plus — women are suddenly hot: A recent Wall Street Journal article, The New Rules of Middle-Age Written by Women, notes that a number of middle-aged women have made the best-seller lists. Among them are 54-year-old Melinda Gates and 55-year-old Michelle Obama. Gates’ book “The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World” chronicles her experiences as a philanthropist in the developing world where women have become central to family survival. Meanwhile, Obama’s speaking tour for her memoir “Becoming” is filling arenas

“I definitely think the cultural dialogue has opened up,” Lauren Wein, an executive editor at the publishing giant, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, told the WSJ. “A lot of people really need a template for this time period.” While Gates and Obama are seeing copies of their book fly off shelves, CBS Anchor Gayle King, 64, and the network’s News president Susan Zirinsky, 67, are flexing their muscles in morning TV, and Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn A. Hewson, at 65, is a regular on lists of the most powerful women in business.

A former colleague of mine, Forbes magazine publisher Rich Karlgaard, identifies a concurrent trend in his new book, “Late Bloomers: The Power of Patience in a World Obsessed with Early Achievement.” Women, who often defer careers in favor of raising families, are often late bloomers. Karlgaard’s book lauds the accomplishments of Diane Greene, a member of Alphabet’s board of directors (Alphabet is the parent company of Google, and until recently, Greene oversaw the internet giant’s cloud-computing business). Greene, who studied engineering as an undergraduate, went back to school at 33 for a master’s degree in computer science. It took her another 10 years to start VMware, a pioneer in cloud computing. Now in her mid-60s, she is ancient by Silicon Valley standards.

In a Wall Street Journal review, writer Philip Delves Broughton, called Karlgaard’s belief that success can come at any age “a nice idea.” The obstacle are employers who place a greater value on youth than wisdom.  Broughton maintained that “individuals can only do so much. The institutions and organizations that dominate so much of our lives should also pay heed.” Promoting “late bloomers” into positions of power will serve as a corrective to this long-standing bias against the middle-aged. Celebrating their successes, as Karlgaard has, should remind employers that the middle-aged have plenty to contribute.