Ten years ago today, in honor of my 40th birthday, I wrote this:
Today is my birthday. I am 40. I’ve been planning this post for the past year, and curses, Jon Hyman, had to go and steal my idea. Turns out Jon is two days older than I am, so I’ve been discriminating against him for two whole days already.
I love Jon’s idea of raising the age for ADEA discrimination to 50. Why? Because 40 is NOT OLD.
But, I’m going to to go a step further. Let’s abolish it altogether.
Gasp! I realize that now I’m protected by this law. (Or, rather, I would be if I lived in the US, which I don’t, but let’s pretend.) Does anyone out there really think that yesterday I was just fine but today I’m an old lady incapable of new ideas? (Well, perhaps my children.)
I still feel young. I hope to wake up one morning and be responsible about things like bedtime, nutrition, and yelling at kids to get off my lawn. (Joke’s on them: I live in an apartment without a lawn.)
I firmly believe that the best way to combat all kinds of discrimination is through free markets. Make it as easy as possible to start businesses. Make the rules of running one less complex and less costly, and you’ll see less discrimination.
Age discrimination is a huge problem. And it’s the stupidest type of discrimination. After all, you won’t wake up one morning a different race or sex than you were yesterday. (Sure, you can change your religion, but that’s voluntary.) Everyone, however, either meets an untimely demise or one day wakes up over 40, over 50, or over 60. We prefer aging to the alternative.
So when you discriminate against someone for being “too old,” you’re essentially saying that you think your knowledge, skills, and abilities will become of lesser value as you age. What a depressing thought!
Of course, when you are young, you think you know everything. (Source: I was young once and currently have teenagers.) And you’re shocked to find out as you age that not only do you not know everything, there is a tremendous amount of stuff you don’t know and will never know. This realization makes you a better leader because you can see your limitations.
As HR people, including recruiting, we play a significant role in age discrimination and can play an essential role in stopping it. We tell candidates only to include the last 10-15 years of their experience on their resumes and to take their college graduation dates off to hide their age. But we need to do more than that.
We need to challenge leaders who assume that new ideas mean young. We must push back against age discrimination the same way we fight against other forms of discrimination. Stop it with the “okay, boomer” attitude.
Am I less innovative than I was ten years ago? Then I was 20 years ago? Hardly. I’m more innovative now because I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t, and I’ve had time to make changes where necessary. I intend to make this decade of my life the best and the most innovative.
I hope you join me on this journey.