Unpacking the Consequences: How Ageism Contributes to the Gender and Racial Pay GapMar 17, 2023
Age discrimination, also known as ageism, refers to discrimination against an individual or group of individuals on the basis of their age.
While ageism is most commonly associated with discrimination against older individuals, it can also be directed toward younger people. Either way, ageism can have a harmful impact on individuals and society because it limits opportunities, erodes self-esteem, and perpetuates inequality.
Because women and minorities are more likely to experience age discrimination, the impact is that they have less time to build up their careers and retirement savings, which will have a long-term impact on their financial well-being.
Success Strategies for Creating an Age-Friendly Workplace
Age discrimination in employment is real and it is a serious problem because it not only harms hard-working individuals but also their families.
While we do need stronger civil rights protection for older workers, here are 10 strategies companies can adopt to create an age-friendly workplace:
- Challenge the myths and inaccurate stereotypes that hinder older workers’ ability to contribute. Age is not a reliable indicator when judging a worker’s potential productivity or employability. In fact, an AARP study showed that workers age 50 and up are among the most engaged members of the workforce. They also offer employers lower turnover rates and greater levels of experience.
- Capitalize on your older workers’ expertise. Before you start planning for their exit from the company, find ways to harness their productivity and wealth of expertise. If you don’t do that, you will be missing out on a terrific opportunity for your company.
- Increase opportunities for intergenerational teams. A number of studies have shown that exposing young individuals to older workers can diminish the implicit bias of older adults and change younger people’s perceptions about aging.
- Abolish mandatory retirement ages. Offer, instead, a phased retirement program that allows employees to gradually exit the workplace by reducing their hours.
- Audit your company’s policies and address any inequities you see in place. You need to make sure to create an inclusive environment and that you continue to invest in all employees, regardless of where they are in their careers. This will only strengthen your workplace.
- Make sure training and development opportunities are offered to all employees, regardless of age. If you send younger employees to conferences or training events, the same needs to be done for your older employees. Why? Because there’s always something new to learn.
- See that the employee handbook includes an age discrimination policy. Often, employee handbooks contain policies against sexual harassment or other forms of discrimination, but not on age discrimination. You also need to include the steps employees should take if they feel they have been discriminated against. Explain the policy to all employees and make sure all managers understand it.
- Ensure flexible policies are in place and that they apply to all employees. For example, if you allow younger employees to leave early to attend a school event, you must do the same when an older employee asks to leave to meet other family commitments.
- Address any microaggressions you see taking place. If you notice someone making frequent comments about someone’s age, no matter how lighthearted they seem to be, take the employee aside and let them know this is not an acceptable practice in the workplace. This would be a good opportunity for you to review your age discrimination policy with the employee. (For strategies on how to have difficult conversations in the workplace, see the DEI Minutes of February 10, September 09, and August 19).
- Your company’s Website needs to be welcoming to all. Whether you’re using stock photos or photos of your actual employees, make sure they reflect a diverse and inclusive workplace. If not, you could unintentionally drive potential job applicants away.
Nowadays, we can easily find multiple generations working side by side. It is imperative that you pay very close attention to the impact of age discrimination--especially because ageism in the workplace can be subtle and hard to detect.
Even if not intentional, ageism has the devastating effect of driving older workers out and preventing highly qualified ones in. The economic and societal impacts of ageism are also worrisome. Workers now live longer but feel less secure financially in retirement.
In today’s economy, rare are healthy pensions or employer-matched 401(k)s. Creating opportunities for older workers to support themselves could ease pressure on an already overburdened social safety net.
As a society, we need to work together to ensure that ageism is eradicated from all workplaces. We can start by promoting diversity and inclusion in all aspects of our businesses and advocating for equal opportunities for all employees, regardless of age, gender, or ethnicity.
Let's work towards creating a fairer and more equitable workplace for everyone. Because the bottom line is that having an inclusive workplace with a diverse range of employees will not only strengthen your business but also make you a better competitor in the marketplace.
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