A 55-year-old Melbourne business owner has responded to the government’s support for employing young people with a tweet advertising a part-time role for “a woman just like me”.
And, amid a budget that has done little for women, let alone women over the age of 35, the callout has struck a chord.
Speaking to SmartCompany, Kaye Stirland says her business was “born out of necessity”.
“I had had a really rough five years,” she says.
Get daily business news.
The latest stories, funding information, and expert advice. Free to sign up.
The entrepreneur had faced bullying in the workplace, her marriage broke down, and health issues left her needing surgery.
“I was absolutely broke,” she says, living off food parcels and the kindness of friends.
After a stint driving for Uber and taking other odd casual roles, she did finally find full-time work.
But, while dealing with a family member’s health issues, and her own mental health concerns, she found that role wasn’t able to accommodate her needs.
She felt like she had tried everything, she says.
“I thought ‘why don’t I just try something that I love?’”
In December last year, she launched OKaye Services, offering ‘spring cleaning’ services to others.
The garden has always been Stirland’s ‘happy place’ she says. Now, she’s hoping to share that happiness with her clients.
“A lot of the work that I do is all about creating a beautiful space for people who are also overwhelmed, or who have a disability or are feeling really depressed,” she says.
“Just creating something beautiful, where they walk out of their front door and they’re no longer thinking ‘that’s another thing I have to do and I can’t’.”
“I just don’t agree”
Given her own experiences trying to find work at 55 years old, Stirland was somewhat disappointed by the government’s JobMaker scheme, laid out in Tuesday night’s budget.
The scheme offers businesses incentives for hiring young people, under the age of 35, who have previously been receiving either JobSeeker, Youth Allowance or Parenting Payment.
In a tweet yesterday, she said she was looking for an extra pair of hands at OKaye, adding she would “love to employ a woman just like me”.
“No worries if you get anxious/depressed,” she added.
“Melbourne, own vehicle needed. Older women rock.”
Hey Twitter. I’m a 55 yo woman who had to start a gardening business because nobody would give her a job. I would love to employ a woman just like me. 20 hours a week, no worries if you get anxious/depressed. Melbourne, own vehicle needed. Older women rock. #Budget2020
— Kaye Roe (@kaye_roe) October 7, 2020
And she seems to have struck a chord — the tweet has since been retweeted more than 1,500 times.
It’s not that Stirland begrudges younger job-seekers.
“Who am I to judge? People have got needs, and we’re all in our own position,” she says.
“I just feel like the government is missing out on some fantastic resources, which are going to contribute to the economy, it’s going to probably support and inspire other women,” she adds.
Having women of any age in employment boosts national productivity, she says, as well as generally supporting the community and society.
“I don’t understand the short-term thinking, and I don’t understand why we can’t see this age group as just as valuable as any other,” Stirland.
Equally, the cut off of 35 years old seems kind of arbitrary.
“There’s always this presumption that when you’re young, that’s when you’re a go-getter, that’s when you really need the work,” she notes.
“It’s almost like once we get over that age that we don’t have any needs, and a good thriving career is no longer necessary.
“I just don’t agree with that at all.”
Her tweet has blown up, suggesting other people “absolutely” feel the same way she does about this, Stirland says.
And, she’s had a handful of job applications, too.
“I’ve asked people who want to apply not to worry about a resume, not to worry about a cover letter.”
Rather, she’s asked applicants for an informal email explaining why they would like to work with her, plain and simple.
“I’ve had the most beautiful, heartfelt responses that I can really identify with,” she says.
“It makes me so happy — it actually makes me quite emotional.”
Having gone through the employment rollercoaster she has, Stirland wants to give someone the opportunity she didn’t get.
If someone had offered her flexible employment that catered to her situation and mental and physical health needs, while acknowledging the value she could bring to a business, “it would have meant the world to me”, she says.
“If I could do that for someone else, it would mean so much.”