Make Sure Your Diversity and Inclusion Push Includes Age

According to the US government, I’m officially old. This is important not only for legal reasons, but because I’m likely to be a target of people who loudly proclaim equality for all. Yes, it turns out that the equality movement focuses on women and minorities, but turn against older people.

It’s just as illegal to discriminate against people over the age of 40 as it is to discriminate against people because of their race, but people somehow feel comfortable doing it. Researches from New York University found the reason:

Although facing their own forms of discrimination, older individuals are perceived as blocking younger people, and other unrepresented groups, from opportunities—that in turn, motivates egalitarian advocates to actively discriminate against older adults

People tend to think this type of discrimination is okay and speak loudly about it. BPS Research notes:

As the researchers note, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has said that “younger people are just smarter” while Vinod Khosla, co-founder of Sun Microsystems, which has won awards for diversity and inclusion, has opined that “people over 45 basically die in terms of new ideas”. They are not alone in this attitude — broader society (or at least US and UK society, as a generalisation) finds ageism acceptable, too. “Ageism is so condoned in American culture that many do not see it as an ‘-ism’, in the same manner of other forms of prejudice,” the researchers note.  And yet, older people as a group are disadvantaged, and have more limited opportunities.

You cannot let this attitude creep into your company. It’s not only illegal to base hiring and promotional opportunities on the idea that younger peop;le are better, it’s damaging to your companies. And there isn’t much proof that younger people have better ideas and provide better leadership.

The Wharton School found that entrepreneurs in their 20s were most likely to fail, while those in their 40s and 50s were significantly more likely to be successful.

If your businesses is rejecting older applicants, or ignoring ideas from older employees because young must be better, you’re not really advocating for equality. Treat people as individuals and ignore those pesky immutable characteristics and it will be better for everyone and for your business.

Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay

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7 thoughts on “Make Sure Your Diversity and Inclusion Push Includes Age

  1. I agree that ageism — along with fat-shaming — remain two largely socially-acceptable forms of discrimination. I’m the oldest employee in my building (of approximately 200 employees). Even my boss, who is a Nationally-accepted Employee Engagement leader, in the EEO Function, no less, thinks it’s fine to openly joke about my age and appearance and to suggest that I may be retiring soon. All this despite the fact that I met — or exceeded — all my Pay for Performance goals and was the only one in my role, Nationwide, to do so and to earn the corresponding raise. At least I still have a job, and a quite secure one at that. Unfortunately, many seniors have lost their jobs, due to circumstances beyond their control, in the past few years, and have found it difficult to impossible to readily obtain comparable employment. There are those who, for political reasons — such as, to facilitate gutting Social Security and Medicare — seek to pit the generations against each other. Don’t let them get away with it! We’re all in this together. And, all of us benefit from the contributions of the widest variety of people, by expanding — not shrinking — opportunities for all. I work and support not only my 3-person household, but also supplement the 3-person household of my younger Grandson, who’s on active-duty in the military — which does not pay enough — and is financially struggling. Were I unable to work, I might become a burden to my family — as well as to Society — as opposed to remaining an active, productive, contributor. My contributions benefit the economy and increase the opportunities for all, including younger people eager to ascend to higher, leadership, positions such as mine. This is not a zero-sum situation. “A rising tide raises all boats.”

  2. I was early-retired from one company (volunteering for the program was better than being laid off) and then I chose to retire from my next employer ten years later, earlier than I had intended, but the discrimination nonsense had become too painful. As soon as I announced at both places, you’d have thought I had aged 30 years overnight. All of a sudden people treated me like I was decrepit with dementia. People my age who had treated me as a professional equal one day acted like I had lost my mind the next. At the second company my presence was tolerated in my last few weeks but it was clear that I was thought to be incapable of offering any useful knowledge to my successor. I felt oddly outraged at unwarranted pity with which people suddenly treated me. It was an eye opening experience to see how ageism is so baked into our culture that my peers behaved this way and never noticed that their behavior was unusual.

  3. Hello–In 2014, I pursued what I had hoped would be my encore career of Human Resources. Went to grad school, finished in 16 months with an MA. So many HR professionals has encouraged me while in several Fortune 100 companies, I thought I would be welcomed with open arms.

    Have a skill set that includes IT certification, and HR certification and other business skills and 30 years of business and management experience. Foolishly, I believed that would be useful, but when an HR manager wrote in an HR forum that they prefer to grab young people out of college with a 4 year degree, I knew that was an attitude that may have contributed to my inability to land a position.

    It is ironic that the HR departments I talked to seemed less enthusiastic about older people than actual hiring managers. I ran into several older grad school graduates who targeted HR as an encore career, but met with a deep disappointment.

    Age is not something that happens to a single generation, as if the boomers are the only old people. We must resolve this issue in the next 10 years, if only for our own kids and grandkids.

  4. First of all, congratulations on achieving the hallmark age of full adulthood, but neither are you old or less useful. Respect for people above a certain age level was always a thing in the rebellious years of youth but now lately it has become something out of an SYFY story like “Logan’s Run”, in real life. If fiction tells us anything, wishing to remove what has gone before will only create problems because surviving the act of aging gives us a historical reference to the cycle of learning. Today’s new ideas may have been yesterday’s mistake and if you cancel out the old ideas, you are going to repeat the mistake and not learn anything. Anyway, welcome to being considered “old-fashion and out of date”.Those who had complained the most (the millennials) are just getting a taste of ageism handed to them by Gen Z.

  5. The other viewpoint to this is that older workers know how to get things done. They are more experienced and possibly more efficient.

  6. The other thing not mentioned here that it’s also about money. Presumably if you are nearing retirement age, you are making more money than someone in their 20s or 30s. So companies are ready to offload the monetary liability and take on the less tangible liability of inexperience.

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