Great article on Linkedin from Lisa Unwin, Co-founder & CEO of Reignite Academy, Careers Expert for Noon, LinkedIn Top Voice, Author, Expert on women’s careers

You can’t possibly have missed the headlines about the “over 50s” dropping out of the workforce. Just this morning I bumped into our local estate agent who, with a look of relief, told me he’s retiring at the end of the week, aged 55. I know lots of partners in professional service firms who, similarly, are looking forward to retirement in their fifties.

My estate agent friend is tired. Those partners have achieved their ambitions. They have worked long hours for many years, sacrificed holidays, missed some sports days and parents’ evenings (which they may regret), avoided the school run (which they probably do not regret) and are now looking forward to spending their time in other pursuits.

It’s another world

Can I let you into a secret? For many women – and presumably some men too, though my experience is mainly limited to women – it’s a totally different world.

We’re just getting going

The photo above was taken in January 2017. I was 50 and a bit. I’d just launched my first business, She’s Back, (which turned out to be more of a campaign than a business, since we had no business model and made very little money). I was excited about shining a light on the untapped potential in women, like me, who had spent their late thirties and early forties focusing primarily on something else (in my case raising my children) and were now ready to return to the workplace.


The women I work with do not step back from their careers because they lack ambition. Far from it, it’s just that their ambitions lay in another direction: for a time.

One thing I have learnt is that lives are long and messy. No-one can see very far into the future and there comes a time when they suddenly look ahead and recognise that things have changed. They realise they haven’t taken their professional careers as far as they could, and want to go back.

At the Reignite Academy we’ve seen female lawyers return to private practice in their late forties, early fifties and resume their careers, going on to secure promotions (including partnership) and more responsibility. They are flying in a world they once thought they’d left forever.

Other women I know have spotted a gap in the market for a product or service and are determined to exploit it. I recently had the pleasure of speaking at an event with Maxine Laceby, the founder of Absolute Collagen, a business she started from her kitchen table at 49, following 20+ years of being what she describes as a “happy stay at home mum.”

Others have left the commercial world for while, gained a different perspective and develop a passion for making a difference. They spot a problem and decide to do something about it. Camilla Rigby and Rachel Mostyn, for example, established The Women’s Work Lab in 2019, with a clear mission to support unemployed mums back into the workforce, providing them with financial security and meaningful employment. They have gone from strength to strength, winning awards and doing what it says on the tin.

Eleanor Mills, on the other hand, lost a job she loved as editor with the Sunday Times and refused to go gently. Rather than take early retirement, she channeled her energy into a new venture, Noon, to support and celebrate women in “mid-life”.

Latent energy

Unlike my estate agent friend, these women, often late forties and fifties, are the opposite of tired. They are energetic, keen to get moving, do not suffer fools and, to coin a technical phrase, “get sh%t done.” They do not faff and don’t have time to waste.

They are a force to be reckoned with and shouldn’t be written off.

My advice

If you’re an employer and you don’t have many of them, ask yourself why.

If you’re one of them and you think the world has written you off, never fear. There IS a way back. This book: She’s Back: Your Guide to Returning to Work , which I wrote with Deb Khan in my She’s Back days, will tell do what it says on the tin. (Full disclosure, we will earn 50p for every book sold).

If you happen to be a lawyer we’re running an online workshop to provide practical advice on 27th Jan. (Full disclosure, this is with my business the Reignite Academy, which thankfully does have a business model).

In Other News

  • One brother once hit the other brother
  • Grant Shapps airbrushed Boris Johnson out of a publicity photo to promote his links to the first ever British based satellite launch. The launch failed. We can only wish we could airbrush Boris out of the last ten years, but this time for real.
  • There are a lot of strikes. Still. No one seems to know what to do about it.
  • Everyone has a cough. Everyone has forgotten they should be wearing face masks when they have a cough. The cough is spreading.

As you can see, I haven’t really been paying much attention to the news. Hence, the focus on the one piece that struck me this week. Your regular newsletter will be back shortly.

I’m listening to: The Light We Carry by Michelle Obama. In her own words.

I’m reading: Shrines of Gaiety by Kate Atkinson. I do like a bit of Kate Atkinson.

I’m watching. Need you ask. Happy Valley of course. The BEST telly of Christmas, the New Year, the Autumn.