Baby boomer women changed the world. Their lives were vastly different from those of their mothers both at work and at home—motherhood became a choice, and for many climbing the corporate ladder became a reality. The generation that said “don’t trust anyone over thirty” soon found themselves forty, and every decade seemed to redefine what it meant to be thirty, forty, fifty. And in this twenty-something’s opinion, they’re making fifty look good.
So it was no surprise when, looking at this year’s list of the Most Powerful Women in the World, I found myself inspired by the women of my mother’s generation. Like the most of the women her age, she grew up with a stay at home mother but became a working mom. Now 57, she’s more devoted to--and excited by--her career than ever. My father’s ready to retire, but she’s happy to keep working, thank-you-very-much. She exudes a comfort with herself, physically, mentally, emotionally, that a younger woman (read: me) can only admire and aspire to.
Ten women on this year’s Power Women list who were born in 1954: Angela Merkel (No. 1), Jill Abramson (No. 12), Oprah Winfrey (No. 14), Georgina Rinehart (No. 19), Josette Sheeran (No. 30), Carol Meyrowitz (No. 73), Greta Van Susteren (No. 75), Denise Morrison (No. 80), Tina Brown (No. 81) and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (No. 87). They come from vastly different backgrounds—Africa to Germany to America’s Deep South—and their careers have taken them into politics, television, finance and journalism. But looking at them together, as I did, there was a common thread that ran through the photographs of these Power Women: like my mother, they are 57 and stunning.
“By the time a woman hits her mid-fifties, she’s through with experimenting,” says Charla Krupp, beauty, style and aging expert and author of two best-selling books, How Not to Look Old and How to Never Look Fat Again who says that this Baby Booming generation is redefining youth as something more than the number of years. It takes the wisdom of fifty-some years in the same skin to know how to dress it, she says, how to take care of it, but most of all, how to be comfortable in it.
After complementing several of the women in the Power Women Lucky 57 Club, (“Oprah looks amazing every time she’s on the air.” “Josette Sheeran is gorgeous.”), she answered my question: Why do these women all look so pulled-together, so glowingly self-assured, so lovely? Besides the obvious answer (“Because they’re all fabulously wealthy!”) there’s little this bunch has in common besides 57 years on the planet.
“You know what your color is, you know what your cut is,” Krupp reminds me. You know what looks good on you, you know your face. You know what clothes are cut correctly for your figure. You know the products, treatments and tricks that are right for your skin. You know that you need plenty of sleep and that you can’t stay out drinking all night.” What this time-tested self-awareness brings, she says, is confidence. You know what works for you, you do it, you feel good—simple as that. Beauty, Krupp says, is a natural byproduct of confidence.
But as the average age of all 100 Power Women on our list was 54, there’s more than just honed fashion sense and beauty secrets to create confidence in these women. From the looks of it, the power number of career success is a woman’s mid-fifties. The average age appointment for S&P 500 CEOs is 55. The average age of the seven elected heads of state on our list is 56. If women are making it, this is when it’s happening. Just another reason to keep your head held high (and to fuel that inner glow).
(xoxo to my favorite57-year-old Power Woman, Pam Casserly, 6th grade teacher, Brass Castle School, Washington, NJ)