Ageism

October 04, 2021

When conditions changed at my job several years ago, I decided it was a good time to move back to the state of my birth.  I had lived out of state for the previous 30 years and knew my parents were growing older and wanted to rebuild a connection with them.  Another motivating factor was that I had just turned 50.  While I did not consider this to be OLD, I realized many employers in my field did.  Most seemed to be looking to hire the perfect person, or a young person who had years of experience and a proven track record for growth.  While the perfect balance between age and experience rarely exists, I believed if I did not move soon, my likelihood of finding a good job in a new area of the country was slipping away.  This was an example of the ageism I knew existed in my industry.

I came across a report from LinkedIn that reported the US Census projects adults over age 65 will outnumber people under 18 by 2034.  Despite this population shift, ageism and age bias continue to confront Americans at both work and play.  While the employment rate of workers 55-plus took a hit during the pandemic, it is recovering slowly.   Regardless of the earning and spending power of the 50-plus, media and marketers are focused almost exclusively on Millennials and Generation Z consumers and continuing to ignore those over age 65.  Workers 50-plus make up over a third of the workforce in key sectors like technology, health, and education.  When the 50-plus are looking for work however, they find ageism hurts their chances for finding a job.  LinkedIn’s research showed that 78% of older workers reported seeing or dealing with ageism at work last year, up from 61% in 2018.

The covid-19 pandemic has especially had widespread impact on midcareer and older women workers.  About 40% have experienced at least one job interruption.  Of those still unemployed, 70% were out of work for six months or more.  Even if employed, these workers were concerned about the possibility of future unemployment.  Many are concerned about future job interruptions and one-quarter have seen their financial situation worsen over the course of the pandemic.  While younger women seem to bear the brunt of childcare and remote schooling, older women struggle with ageism.  This is particularly true when trying to find employment.  The Urban Institute reports that once displaced, older workers take about double the time to find a new job as younger workers.  

Thoughts:  The problem with ageism is that sooner or later, we all (hopefully) reach “that certain age.”  When I turned 35, I realized I would never be known as one of the Young Lions of my industry.  When I turned 50, I realized it would be harder to be hired by those who did not already know my reputation.  I skirted the loss of opportunity at 65 by retiring early, even though I now find myself in the workforce.  One reason touted for not hiring 50-plus workers is they require higher salaries.  They also bring the experience that makes them worthwhile.  Research has shown that innovative young workers become innovative older workers.  Ageism is not a reason to be reluctant to hire, it is an excuse.  Do the work.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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