Being Visible & Celebrating A New Chapter: Interview with Eleanor Mills, Founder of Noon
International Women's Day was a big day for celebrating ageing this year. Not only did we launch our Strike Out Ageism campaign, but a new inspirational platform that celebrates midlife and beyond was launched: Noon.
Founded by the award-winning editor, writer and broadcaster Eleanor Mills, Noon is a new media platform and community designed to empower women in midlife in a refreshingly positive and enlightening way. So, naturally, it's right up our street.
So we chatted with Eleanor to find out more about Noon, her experience launching a new business, misrepresentation in the media, and what advice she offers others who are currently or soon to embark on their midlife journey. (You can also watch our IG LIVE chat with Eleanor here).
Hi Eleanor, thank you very much for speaking with us today! So what was your inspiration behind creating Noon?
When I left The Sunday Times after 23 years and was looking for tales of how to start a new chapter as a woman in midlife there was absolutely nothing out there. As a journalist I am good at combing the internet for what I want but I couldn’t find the kind of friendly, supportive, optimistic community which spoke to my issues and would make me feel I wasn’t alone. I decided to follow Barack Obama’s advice and be the change I wanted to see in the world, so I created Noon.
The platform launched on International Women’s Day – what was the significance behind launching on that day?Older women’s voices are still ignored and marginalised in all global cultures, we talk a lot about diversity and inclusion but age, and particularly where age intersects with sexism, is never talked about. I want to reintegrate the wisdom of the older woman which has been erased from our patriarchal society and recast what the later parts of women's lives can look like. This is the bit of women's lives that feminism forgot – we don’t want our mothers’ midlife or menopause we need to rewrite the script. It seemed apposite to launch this new platform to empower women on international women’s day. It was also exactly a year since my last day at The Sunday Times – on international women’s day 2020 I interviewed Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook for the cover of The Sunday Times Magazine which I then edited. It felt good to relaunch myself and launch Noon a year on. I liked the symbolism of that
As well as being a source of expertise on huge range of topics, Noon is a community. Why did you feel it was so important to include this aspect?
It was a community of friends, old colleagues, family and new friends who helped me through my dark night, as I tried to come to terms with losing the job and the status which had defined my life for two and a half decades. I wanted every other woman in that position to have a friend to turn to, so she didn’t feel so alone – that is why I created Noon.
You’ve spoken about how difficult it was during your time at the Sunday Times to get stories or subjects about midlife women into the paper. Why do you think that was the case?
The media is still largely run by older men who are not interested in the dilemmas or issues faced by older women. If I tried to put an older woman on the cover of the magazine I was often asked if I had something ‘more cheerful’ or ‘more glamorous’. Female stories throughout the time I spent in newspapers were often seen as a way of ‘brightening up’ the pages, providing pretty pictures. Stories about older women did not fulfil that function.
What do you feel are the media’s biggest misunderstandings of older women today?
The stock images of older women are sitting playing with their grandchildren, holding the hand of a grey haired chap on a beach, or drinking wine - but nearly half of generation x women with university educations do not have children. And a third have never been married. The media fails to depict women in midlife as the vibrant, thriving, complex people they are and misunderstands that half of these women are the main breadwinners in their families and that this cohort are behind 90 per cent of consumer purchases.
"We are an underserved powerful force and we deserve to be understood and respected"
Do you feel representation and understanding of older women in the media is improving?
There has been a bit of an uptick in stories around menopause in the last year or so, but from a very low base – and many women in midlife don’t want to be defined by their biology. Women are this stage are so much more than the menopause. At Noon we want to give our community the expert advice they need to navigate menopause and other issues successfully, but we also want to look at the whole woman, her life, her purpose, her career, her dreams her relationships.
Noon has a very impressive advisory board – how did you go about bringing so many incredible women together?
Well having worked at the top of the media for over two decades I’ve put together a pretty good little black book and these are all women who have been fellow travellers with me on campaigns, articles, boards and issues I have cared about over the last two decades. I am so honoured and proud that they have come together to help us create Noon
What were the biggest challenges you faced when creating Noon?
Its so strange to have such a big idea and to plan it in notebooks and talk about it and work it all out in your head and then to suddenly see the website launch and everything come to life; when your dream becomes manifested as a reality. It has been so exciting gathering the inspirational stories, speaking to like-minded women and then launching and finding that Noon touched a chord with so many other women. I think they are responding to our mixture of expert advice and optimism about the years ahead – as we say at Noon – so much more to come
What message of support or inspiration would you offer to an older woman who currently feels invisible or irrelevant?
Keep reading Noon – you are just coming into your prime. Midlife is a time when you can revisit the dreams you had as a young woman which maybe got derailed by raising a family or making a living – this is your time, to live life on your terms and fulfil your passion and purpose, whatever that looks like. We’re half way through (at least) we’ve got to make the next decades count. I want all women to work out what that means to them and for noon to help them to achieve it
What advice would you give to a woman just beginning her midlife journey?
We’re here to help. This is your age of opportunity. Carpe diem. And take up walking/meditation/cold swimming – whichever you can manage. They’ve saved my life. And spend more time with the people you love and make you happy.
Photo credit: Rankin