Real women tell Moneyish how they renewed their careers over age 40 — and they’re joined by celebs like Sharon Stone and Winona Ryder
Women over 40 are having major career moments.
Actress Nicole Kidman gave an empowering speech on ageism and sexism Sunday at the Screen Actors Guild Awards that drew a standing ovation — and praise from women watching at home.
In it, the 50-year-old star applauded Hollywood for finally accepting and embracing women her age and older, and celebrating their stories on screen.
“To receive this at this stage in my life is extraordinary, and at this time in the industry when these things are going on and for this role,” Kidman said tearfully as she accepted the award for best female actor in a TV movie or limited series for her role in “Big Little Lies.”
The actress, who won the award for her portrayal of “Celeste,” a mother trying to escape an abusive marriage on the hit HBO series, gave a shout out to seasoned stars like Meryl Streep, Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange whom she credits with being mentors to her over the years. Kidman gave a similar rousing speech at the Golden Globes earlier this month, thanking her mother who was an advocate for the women’s movement.
“I want to thank you all for your trailblazing performances you’ve given over your career and how wonderful it is that our careers today can go beyond 40-years-old,” she said. “Twenty years ago, we were pretty washed up by this stage in our lives, so that’s not the case now. We’ve proven, and these actresses and so many more, are proving that we are potent and powerful and viable,” she added.
And other women are getting re-energized in their own career paths by becoming more entrepreneurial, carving out meaningful careers they’ve always dreamed of.
Just ask Gwen Wunderlich, 42, a powerhouse New York City PR maven who was inspired to help women her age restart their careers after losing jobs or just feeling plain lost. She founded The Enternship program in 2015 with her business partner Dara Kaplan, a paid, six-week internship-like program that helped women over 40 get back to work, rebrand themselves using social media, and become entrepreneurial.
“I noticed a lot of my peers were feeling this sense of ‘now what?’ after losing jobs or being stay-at-home moms. Unless they started to advance themselves, their jobs were going to be eliminated or transformed,” Wunderlich, who was inspired by the 2015 movie “The Intern” starring Robert De Niro as a 70-year-old widower trying to get a job, tells Moneyish of ageism she noticed in the workplace.
After running the program for two years, she’s now launching a brand new business, Pretty Electric, a platform for women featuring podcasts, a book series and educational workshops inspired by the recent wave of female empowerment.
“I was so moved by Oprah’s [Golden Globes] speech. Women are being united and invigorated, and changing the game. It’s a great time to be a woman,” she says.
Others, like Miami-based Kelley Kosow, 57, a former lawyer and stay-at-home mom turned self-help guru discovered her true passion was giving other people advice, so she became a certified life coach in her 40s. She started up her own business in 2005, and recently launched her first book, “The Integrity Advantage.”
“I have a career that I never would have dreamed of,” says Kosow. “I see women going back to work all the time. It’s so great that we can reinvent ourselves in ways that are lifestyle friendly — we can still be grandmothers or go vacation, and there are so many different careers that women are finding their passions later on in life,” she says.
The national conversation about defying ageism at work has been championed by a number of stars over 40. Oscar-nominated actress Sharon Stone, who turns 60 in March, refuses to let her age or her body stop her from doing what she loves. After suffering a stroke in 2001 that nearly killed her and left temporarily visual impairment, among other challenges, Stone started to care less about judgement.
“I’m aware that my a— looks like a bag of flapjacks but I’m not trying to be the best-looking broad in the world,” the actress told Harper’s Bazaar in 2015 also posing nude for the magazine.
“At a certain point you start asking yourself, ‘What really is sexy?’ It’s not just the elevation of your boobs. It’s being present and having fun and liking yourself enough to like the person that’s with you.”
She has three big projects coming up, including the HBO series “Mosaic,” a murder mystery in which she stars as a children’s book author who has a run in with a con man, the film “Sunny,” where she’ll portray a heroin dealer, and an upcoming comedy alongside Bette Midler.
Actress Winona Ryder, 46, who made her acting debut in the 1986 film “Lucas,” and went on to star in hits like “Beetlejuice” and “Edward Scissorhands,” went on a hiatus in 2002 after she was convicted of shoplifting. She returned with a lead role on the Netflix megahit “Stranger Things” nearly a decade later, and bluntly referred to her career comeback in a L’oreal commercial.
And Viola Davis’ breakout film role didn’t come until she was 43 when she starred in “Doubt” alongside Meryl Streep. Now, at 52 her star has never been brighter. Davis made history as the only black woman to be nominated for three Academy Awards, winning one of them last year for her role as best supporting actress in “Fences.” On the small screen she has a starring role on Shonda Rhimes’s hit series “How to Get Away with Murder,” and later this year, she’ll star in the crime drama “Widows.”
When it comes to having a lasting career later in life, Kosow says its important to have a vision, and find a support system that will give you structure to take action.
“You have to really clear yourself of excuses like ‘I’m too old,’ or ‘I’ll start Monday,’” she says.
“When you own your greatness that’s when the universe aligns. If you don’t claim it, it will never happen.”
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