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Women Still at Work

Professionals Over Sixty and On the Job

Elizabeth F. Fideler

From Betty White to Toni Morrison, we’re surrounded by examples of women working well past the traditional retirement age. In fact, the fastest growing segment of the workforce is women age sixty-five and older. Women Still at Work tells the everyday stories of hard-working women and the reasons they’re still on the job, with a focus on women in the professional workforce. The book is filled with profiles of real women, working in settings from academia to drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers, from business to the arts, talking about the many reasons why they still work and the impact work has on their lives.

Women Still at Work draws on national survey data and in-depth interviews, showing not only the big picture of older women advancing their careers despite tough economic conditions, but also providing the personal insights of everyday working women from all parts of the country. Their stories showcase some of the key themes women choose to stay at work—including job satisfaction, diminishing retirement savings, the need to support children or parents longer in life, exercising the hard-won right to work, and more. Women Still at Work shows employment to be a positive and rewarding part of life for many women well beyond the expected retirement age.
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Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Pages: 220Size: 6 1/4 x 9 1/4
978-1-4422-1550-4 • Hardback • June 2012 • $43.00 • (£29.95)
978-1-4422-1552-8 • eBook • June 2012 • $40.00 • (£24.95)
Elizabeth F. Fideler is research fellow at the Sloan Center on Aging & Work at Boston College. She lives in Framingham, MA.
Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: The Realities of Work and Aging in America
Chapter 3: Beyond Age Discrimination
Chapter 4: The Employment Situation for Adult Workers in the United States
Chapter 5: Over Sixty and On the Job
Chapter 6: Where Older Women Work
Chapter 7: Why Older Women Work
Chapter 8: Personal Challenges and Concerns
Chapter 9: And If There Is Time to Spare…
Chapter 10: Women Still at Work

Discussion Questions
This is a compassionate yet realistic portrayal of women professionals “of a certain age.” More than typical research studies of such organizations as AARP, MetLife, and Pew, this investigation in truly distinctive by providing all readers at least one role model with whom to relate. The book’s quality rests on, one, the credentials of author Fideler, a well-experienced professional who recently started as a research fellow for Boston College’s Sloan Center on Aging and Work. And, two, the range of survey participants. Chapters are segmented into sociological and demographic components: where they work, why they work, personal challenges and concerns, and volunteerism. The results manage to spill out of the rigid confines of facts and figures, and numbers and trends, to capture the reader’s attention and empathy. Meet Amy Kaiser, the director of the St. Louis Symphony Chorus, who’s been at her job for more than a decade; or Dollye M.E. Robinson, dean of the College of Liberal Arts at Jackson (Miss.) State University, who, although refusing to state her age, is as vibrant as much younger contemporaries. Inspiration is best summarized by interviewee Susan Damour, who says 'If you are passionate about something, go make it happen. Meet a need. Ability is ageless.'
Booklist, Starred Review

This is a paean to the achievements and tenacity of women who remain gainfully employed in their sixties and beyond. Fideler (research fellow, Sloan Ctr. on Aging & Work, Boston Coll.) focuses on women who thrive in long-held jobs or in work they’ve refashioned for themselves. It dovetails nicely with Ari Seth Cohen’s Advanced Style, which observes older women who redefine what old age looks like. Brava to all these women. . . . Fideler rightly admires her subjects. . . . Verdict For those interested in women’s history and the evolution of the workplace.
Library Journal

Fideler’s narrative is not the dry, rigid prose of a scientific article. It is, instead, lively, hopeful, and even emotional—she is speaking directly to women, particularly to us older women, sparking our confidence and encouraging us through the eyes of others. . . . Her in-depth portrayals of the 34 women are thorough and enlightening. Each woman’s character is an open book, revealed through her thoughts, ambitions, challenges, and love of life. As a woman nearing the “older” generation and of a moderate socioeconomic status, because of reading this book, I feel quite inspired to rethink what 'retirement' means to me and I would heartily recommend it to others in a similar situation.
Monthly Labor Review

Fideler tells the stories of older working women, backing them up with comparisons to national data and the latest research. Her stories are particularly compelling as they document the lives of a group of women who have been rejecting social norms all along the way, with working in retirement being the latest iteration. Hers is just the kind of groundbreaking work that spawns more theory and research for a new stage of life that is yet to be fully delineated.
Jacquelyn B. James, director of research, Sloan Center on Aging & Work; research professor, Boston College

In exploring the phenomenon of older working women, Elizabeth Fideler weaves together substantive interviews and contemporary statistical data to create a very optimistic work. The strong, vibrant older women who shared their stories with Fideler are compelling examples of the benefits of staying on the job and 'off the shelf' in later life. Fideler’s evident empathy with her subjects allows her to unveil the 'personal truths' of their lives in an even-handed and comprehensive manner. While the high-powered women interviewed here are by no means typical, they provide wonderful examples of the importance of mentoring, persistence and positivity for women who have the opportunities to stay active and engaged in the workplace well beyond modern thresholds of old age.
Susannah Ottaway, Carleton College

Elizabeth F. Fideler has provided an extraordinary study on older women who continue to work in the labor force of this nation. The case studies of these women are beautifully written and presented, as if the author is having a conversation with the subjects and the readers.
Charles V. Willie, Charles William Eliot Professor Emeritus, Harvard Graduate School of Education

Thanks to Liz Fideler for profiling ‘our’ cohort—middle class women over 65 still at work. It’s good to know that the graying of female professionals is no barrier to continued employment. I enjoyed reading about the interesting women Fideler introduces and learning how they manage their lives in and out of work.
Sharon Feiman-Nemser

This book challenges assumptions about why women work after the age of sixty, and thoughtfully explores how such women manage the boundaries between their professional and personal lives. Most importantly, the author’s research shows that women can have real agency in structuring long and productive careers, and can help institutions shape more responsive policies and environments for all older workers.
Mary Deane Sorcinelli, University of Massachusetts Amherst

A book for every woman for whom traditional paradigms of work are falling away. Match the map in your head with those of different women depicted in the book and consider what's next for you.
Mary Kay Thompson Tetreault, provost emerita, Portland State University

Engagingly written, Fideler's book illustrates a relatively new and largely positive trend among older women in the workforce. The women Fideler profiles—many of whom have seen doors open to them in the second half of their lives that were closed when they came of age—offer examples for all of the necessary qualities to remain productive, vital, creative and fulfilled in their work lives at later and later ages.
Tatjana Meschede, Brandeis University

Four years ago, Elizabeth Fideler of Framingham was conducting education research when her grant ran out and the job ended. Finding something else was difficult, but she wasn’t ready to retire.

'I thought, I’m only 65 and I feel as though I’ve been put on a shelf,' recalled Fideler, now a research fellow at the Sloan Center on Aging & Work at Boston College. “I wondered what other women my age were doing.”

The experience led to her new book,
Women Still at Work: Professionals Over Sixty and On the Job.

While every woman’s story is unique, Fideler said, a common theme is the satisfaction and fulfillment they receive from their professions, even while juggling family, volunteer and other responsibilities.

'The vast majority are delighted to be working, and as long as they have the energy and good health, they plan to continue,' said Fideler, who also is chairwoman of the Framingham Public Library’s board of trustees, and the Framingham Reads Together program for next year. “They’ve worked very hard to get where they are, maybe in a second or third career. They love what they do, and they’re good at it. They’re at the top of their game.”

For her part, Fideler has no plans to slow down, either. Her next project: a study of older men in the workforce.

The Boston Globe

• Commended, A Booklist Top 10 Business Book (Booklist, 2013)