Time for an end to sexist age discrimination

In Workforce by Judith Wardell

A recent survey of 500 executives from The Career Management Organisation found that age discrimination was the most common form of discrimination likely to be carried out by senior executives. Gender followed close behind whilst other areas of discrimination such as race, disability and sexuality were some way behind. If such behaviours are demonstrated at the top of our organisations no wonder that age discrimination still permeates through many organisation cultures.

In March 2016 an employment tribunal awarded more than £63,000 for age discrimination to a long serving salesperson who was nicknamed “Gramps” by his younger colleagues and later dismissed after customer complaints that he was “old fashioned” and “long in the tooth”. The tribunal found that the employer, a high street jewellery firm, adopted the customers’ discriminatory and stereotypical attitudes without further enquiry and tolerated ageist attitudes in the workplace. Evidence that again supports the view that senior managers are not prepared to challenge age discrimination, even when faced with the consequences of legal action.

age_confident_final_lowFor older women the picture looks even more worrying. The Career Management Organisation survey found that female executives are more likely to exhibit age discrimination towards other women that towards men. Whilst the headlines stir up public outrage about gender pay gaps and the career setbacks experienced by working mums it seems it is OK for older women to feel pushed out and undervalued by their younger counterparts.

The report found that while two-thirds of male executives are confident about getting a new job if they are made redundant when they are over 40, only 36% of women are similarly confident about this. However, once over 50 around 70% of both sexes lack confidence about getting a job and once over 60 this rises to 90%.

Older women already have a tough time in the workplace. Many of them will be struggling with the symptoms of the menopause; are likely to be juggling elder care and teenager care and will be facing pension shortfalls that mean they have to continue working for longer. Age discrimination at work should not be adding to the barriers to older women having the opportunity of a fulfilling and rewarding role in today’s workplace.

It’s now over 5 years since BBC presenter Miriam O’Reilly won her case for age discrimination after being dropped from Countryfile at the age of 53 in favour of younger presenters. These latest reports suggest that things have not moved too far forward.

With over a third of the workforce over the age of 50, now must be the time to change attitudes and behaviour towards older workers.

Change starts from the top so let’s challenge our executives to see the business case for valuing age diversity.

Share this Post