A highly successful national not-for-profit, that originated in Canberra, is now helping a new wave of women facing barriers to employment to find purpose and a sustainable income.
Multiple studies and social welfare groups such as The Salvation Army now point firmly to older women as being the new face of poverty and at an increasingly heightened risk of financial crisis and homelessness.
As women grow older, they’re facing challenges such as reduced superannuation as a result of the gender pay gap and time out of the workforce to raise children; plus, they’re often the primary carer for elderly parents and their partners.
And that means holding on to even part-time work can be a struggle.
An unexpected life event – such as separation or divorce, illness or death of a partner, or job loss – can then quickly turn this risk into an emergency.
Suzanne Fletcher, who now runs Tidy Canberra Gardens, says her experience shows just how easily this can happen.
“Middle age hasn’t always been kind to me,” says Suzie.
“I never thought that society would deem a middle-aged woman with 50 years’ of knowledge and experience as unemployable. Yet, suddenly, there I was.”
After caring for her terminally ill husband for many years, Suzie found herself on the cusp of 50, now a single parent starting over, and unable to find a secure job despite her extensive training and experience in horticulture.
Self-employment seemed to be the best option, and Suzie was fortunate enough to receive a small grant from the ACT Women’s Return to Work Grants Program to help her set up her own business.
Founder and CEO of Global Sisters Mandy Richards said the organisation exists to help women achieve financial independence by providing a genuine alternative for women who are unable to participate in mainstream employment.
“Homeless women in Australia over the age of 50 has increased by 31 per cent since 2011 (ABS,2018) and by the time they reach 60, 34 per cent of single women in Australia live in poverty.”
“By removing the barriers they commonly face, we make self-employment a viable option.”
Global Sisters helps women overcome these barriers – from refining their product or business concept through to finance, registration and insurances, building skills and confidence along the way – and provides support over a minimum of three years.
A registered charity, it’s currently working with individuals and groups in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and regional Victoria as well as Canberra. These include single mums, older women, women who have a disability, women that have experienced trauma and violence, and women who are returning to work after a period of time caring for young children.
Over the next five years, 43,000 single women over 50 will be supported through the organisation.
Suzie participated in the Global Sisters’ Business Education program attending the ‘My Big Idea’ workshop and graduating from ‘Sister School’, funded by the not-for-profit organisation.
After this, Suzie was able to kick off her own enterprise, Tidy Canberra Gardens.
The business provides a professional and qualified gardening and landscaping service for business and residential properties in the northern parts of Canberra, from consultations, garden design and construction, small space designs for terraces and balconies, and ongoing maintenance programs.
Suzie is an avid supporter of the Global Sisters approach and says, “My ambition is to grow the business to help create employment for other middle-aged women who are in that 50+ age group, and who – like me – have found difficulty attaining work due to that age stigma that society places upon us.”
To find out more or talk to Suzie about your garden design and maintenance needs, visit the Facebook page here.