Age Discrimination in the Job Search – Disguised, But Ever-Present
Age discrimination (ageism) can be difficult to prove, but you may feel it intuitively. Is a younger colleague getting the best advancement opportunities at work? Did that less experienced job applicant get that job you felt best qualified for? Did you lose your job despite a record of great evaluations?
What is Ageism?
Age discrimination (ageism) is a form of prejudice that considers a person's age as a defining factor in their ability to perform a job or contribute to society. Some research suggests that up to 78 percent of older workers have either witnessed or experienced age discrimination at work. It can present itself in many forms: when a supervisor refuses to give you newer assignments because of your age. When you internalize negative attitudes toward aging or your own age group. When societal norms, practices and rules unfairly target older adults. Age discrimination can have myriad negative impacts in the workplace.
First, it can lead to poor job opportunities and reduced access to positions that match a job seeker's qualifications. Employers may overlook the experience and knowledge of older job seekers because they assume that their age hinders their ability to learn new skills or adapt to new working environments. Second, it can lead to lower salaries and benefits, even for job seekers who have a wealth of experience and qualifications. Employers may offer lower salaries and fewer benefits to older job seekers, based on the belief that they are either less productive or will not be in the job for a long enough period to qualify for retirement benefits. Third, it can lead to a lack of training and development opportunities for older job seekers. Employers may assume that older job seekers will not be in the job long enough to justify investing in training and development, or that their existing skills will be sufficient. This can lead to older job seekers becoming stagnated in their careers with fewer opportunities to grow and advance. Finally, ageism can contribute to a negative and demotivating atmosphere in the workplace. Older workers may feel undervalued, underappreciated, and even bullied, causing a stressful and unhappy work environment. This can lead to increased absenteeism, decreased job satisfaction and, ultimately, an early exit from the workforce.
Ageism in job searches, particularly for those over age 50, is a significant issue that can have negative impacts on both job seekers and employers. Combating ageism requires a shift in attitudes and biases, as well as policies and practices that promote diversity and inclusion. It is essential that companies understand and leverage the value of older workers' experience, knowledge, and insights and recognize the benefits of hiring individuals from all age groups.
It is also important to note that ageism not only affects older job seekers but also younger job seekers who may perceive ageism to be a barrier to entry into the workforce. Younger job applicants may feel they are not given a fair chance to compete for certain jobs because companies prefer more experienced applicants, which is particularly apparent in industries such as technology and finance.
In June 2021, President Joe Biden signed an Executive Order advancing diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in the federal government. This landmark commitment made it illegal to discriminate against older Americans serving in or seeking federal jobs. It’s a step in the right direction.
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