Team Member Spotlight
Female Leadership and Ageism in the Workplace
A conversation with Laurie Bell Bishop
According to an AARP survey conducted this past June, research found that 63% of women aged 50+ felt discriminated against in the workplace because of their age. 81% of these women also shared that they felt pressured to act and look a certain way when in the office. The finding undoubtedly creates a connection between overt gender and age bias to the general well-being and mental health of those impacted. Age bias is certainly nothing new in the workplace, but as women continue to increase their presence as leaders in an organization, the success of their career growth is directly impacted by a younger generation of female leaders looking to climb that same ladder.
Women 50+ moving to become entrepreneurs and CEOs of their own businesses face similar hurdles. Far too often they find themselves navigating stereotypes around being “out of touch”, whether it be with technology or the latest marketing trends, while trying to build, manage and run a business. Unlike their male counterparts that are perceived as wise and distinguished with age, women more often need to prove their commitment and expertise to the work they are doing.
So, how are businesses stepping up to change this narrative?
We sat down with our very own Laurie Bell Bishop to get a better understanding of female entrepreneurship and the role that allyship plays in today’s modern workplace. Laurie is the brand manager here at TVMC and she’s also the founder and creative director of Become Studios — a brand-building photography service focused on being an ally for women entrepreneurs aged 50 and over. Laurie puts a tremendous amount of thought and effort into embracing, supporting, and uplifting each of her clients while on their “women-preneur journey.” With its mission: “Founded for women, just like me, to be seen as ourselves, in our power, in all of our dimensions,” Become Studios has already lifted 100s of female entrepreneurs in finding their true voice, beauty, and impact on the world.
TVMC: Laurie, you are relentlessly focused on being a champion for women 50 and older, helping them to feel comfortable and confident as their true selves behind the camera. What brought you to this mission and how has it evolved since you first launched Become Studios?
LBB: Thinking back to when I was considering only focusing on women. I noticed my desire was to just hang out with women my own age. It was really fun. I love working with other women. I love collaborating. I love being in the same room. I love sharing humor and support. It feeds me on a very personal level. So, I thought about giving myself permission to pursue this idea of supporting other women as a business even though the concept of that seemed too exclusive. It took me a couple of years to understand what it could look like. And it took working with Vernā to realize that being an advocate and an ally for those same women I want to hang out with would make their lives and my own life so much richer. So it was a process to even get to the point where I was willing to put my stake in the ground. And now, 7-ish years later, it is clear to me that this work is needed.
I want to help women step into their power and stepping in front of a camera can be nerve-wracking at the least and disempowering at the worst. As I became more comfortable with my craft and more clear on my message, I became a source of calm and humor – a guide – for anyone coming into a session with me. I help them prepare for their shoot with wardrobe consulting, mood boards, and brand color discussions so they feel excited when they walk in the door. And once they are in my studio, they get all of my attention. I stay present with my clients, which generates trust, so they can relax and become more confident. It’s a feeling of empowerment. My clients get to express themselves and as a result, we all come away stronger.
I’ve really evolved! I think if you were to look at my brand’s mission as a written document, you’d see that it has stayed the same, but I’ve evolved which changes the way my business feels. I’m self-reflective and always interested in my own growth, and that drives me in a big way. I grow a little bit with every encounter. I feel like I could be practicing photography for the next 20 years and still keep growing. I continue to get stronger and better at what I do artistically, which keeps me present for the people in front of my camera.
TVMC: Can you share with us a recent success story? Perhaps a situation where you were really able to make a positive impact on a client’s life and career?
LBB: I just had this awesome photoshoot with a 50+, friendly, intuitive, experienced, woman working in a new corporate environment. She’s in a start-up that’s not using her abilities as best they could. She feels stagnant. She wasn’t being seen as she felt like she should. She came into the studio session for an updated headshot. We started photographing her in a style of business casual, then moved to a look and feel that was even more casual – she was searching for something that felt more like her. We shifted to putting on a fabulous purple tulle skirt that I designed. And as a result, I got these gorgeous, playful shots that we never expected. So we went from shooting for a LinkedIn photo to exploratory, personal, theatrical shots. When she finally saw her images she said, “I am hanging that purple skirt photo in my office because that’s a reminder of who I really am.” She’s become her own source of inspiration. To me, that is a huge success: To come out with an aspirational photo of oneself that reveals who you are to yourself in your heart. It’s life-changing!
TVMC: Why is the work you do so important? For both the female leaders of today and the future.
LBB: When I share my photos, specifically on social media, that is my advocacy for women thought leaders that are over 50. I’m saying, “This is what a successful, relevant woman over 50 in business looks like.” My hope is that by taking and sharing photos of these women I meet and telling a little bit of their story, it strikes a chord, even in one person; someone may gain a new perspective that women are not done at 50. They’re just getting started. I want people to see that these women, who might be starting a second career that‘s equally exciting to their first, have even more to offer; they’re going to do even better and share more of themselves. I want to show that women over 50 are strong women who stretch themselves, and are stepping into their power and trying new things. I believe that exploring this new narrative around women 50+ is vital to the women I work with, future female leaders, and society as a whole.
Thank you Laurie. We are so inspired by the incredible work you are doing for women in leadership and women-preneurs.
Want to learn more about how to recognize and address bias like ageism in the workplace? Head over to our learning platform, TVMCU.com and register for the course Exploring Unconscious Bias with Vernā Myers.