The first woman to officially complete the Boston Marathon returned to the starting line this year once again to compete, 50 years later. When Kathrine Switzer competed in 1967, she was an unwelcome presence in what was by precedent a male-only race. She had registered under the name KV Switzer to make her gender unnoticed by officials, but a few miles into the race she was angrily attacked by an official who attempted (unsuccessfully) to remove her forcibly from the course. If the story of her defiance and perseverance was an inspiration to the women’s movement at the time, her return to the marathon after 50 years is even more so an inspiration to anyone who feels they’re fighting a long uphill battle for inclusion, acceptance, and opportunity.
Speaking to The Guardian, Switzer said that her determination to fight off the official and finish the race came from a place far deeper than a personal desire to compete in the marathon: “I knew if I dropped out no one would believe women could run distances and deserved to be in the Boston Marathon. They would just think that I was a clown, and that women were barging into events where they had no ability.” Switzer’s choice to compete officially, and her determination to complete the race reflected a truth that often to change minds, especially when it comes to challenging ingrained social mores and expectations, seeing it is believing it.
We at WAHVE feel that, in the same way Switzer felt her conviction that women deserved their seat at the table – we have a vision of reshaping the retirement paradigm. And like Switzer, WAHVE didn’t originate in a climate that was overwhelmingly in support of remote work environments or flexible working hours, let alone embracing of the notion of enabling retirement-age professionals to find avenues to continue in their industry. Today, alternative work set ups are becoming increasingly de rigueur – is this because they’re suddenly more effective than they could have been when they were less accepted? Obviously not – no more so than you could say women like Switzer in the 60s were actually incapable of running a marathon simply because a rule book excluded them based on their gender. It’s been a matter of convincing companies, employers, and society at large, that work beyond the 40-hour, in-office work week, culminating in full retirement, isn’t the only or best vision for professional life or industry success.
WAHVE has existed for nearly a decade as a visionary, effective company because we like Switzer, believe in acting on our convictions. Our belief that retirement-age professionals (what we’ve termed pretirees) have longevity, deep knowledge, and so much still to contribute to the insurance industry, is what drives us to innovate beyond the in-office, retirement-approaching paradigm. Defying norms takes a uniquely strong commitment to demonstrating what you believe is right and effective, even when it may not be popular or widely accepted. We’re proud to give our clients the opportunity as companies to hire experienced and accomplished pretirees, and to definitively put our money where our mouth is when it comes to all we say we believe vintage professionals have to offer. In 1967, Kathrine Switzer ran in a race where she was unwelcome and deemed unfit to participate. This spring, 50 years later, she ran to celebration, and was honored for her vision, conviction, and perseverance. Here at WAHVE, we’re on a journey that began and continues based on our belief in all pretirees still have to give in their industry, and all they have to gain in doing so. We’re excited to see just where wahves and WAHVE itself will be 50 years from the start of our own visionary and determined jump into the race.