How To Address Women Facing Ageism At Each And Every Stage Of Their Career

How To Address Women Facing Ageism At Each And Every Stage Of Their Career

By Sheree Atcheson

The bias against women in leadership has long been discussed.

Research has covered this in many different areas. Just a few examples are:

  • the higher likelihood that men will be hired over women, when both groups are equally qualified,
  • to politics where, in 2022, only 45% of people in the G7 felt very comfortable with a woman running their country, down from 52% in 2021,
  • to half of women in STEM jobs report experiencing discrimination at work. That climbs to 74% if narrowed to just women who work in computer-specific jobs.

Bias does not exist in small bubbles, confining itself to specific one group over another. Instead, it exists in multi-faceted ways, in the same ways that people are multi-faceted. In this case, women are not a monolith and should not be treated as such.

Ageism, typically known as prejudice, or discriminatory behavior targeted against older people. Stereotypes such as views that older people are not as good at their jobs anymore, that their performance will get worse with age or that they simply aren’t broadly good enough anymore. Older women in the workplace face the double-edged sword, facing the stereotypes of both groups in an intersectional way. Adding ethnicity into the mix will also highlight even further bias.

Notably, new research has started delving into age bias against younger women too, where bias was found focusing on attractiveness of appearance, undermining credibility and assuming lower seniority in role.

Unsurprisingly, the same research shows there is no “good” age for women, as those in the middle-aged group of 40-60 face bias in hiring or promotion rounds due to “too much family responsibility and impending menopause” and whether they have “aged well” or not. Yet, jobs were actively given to men in the same age band, where family responsibilities or health were not a consideration.

What does this mean?

It means that ageism and sexism is interlinked and to tackle it, we must recognise it when it happens.

Call It Out When People Focus On Appearance

Appearance is not an important marker of expertise, worthiness or suitability for a role – especially not within the technology industry. When comments are made on appearance, call it out, make it known it’s not appropriate.

Focus On Skillset

Use hiring or capability matrixes to appropriately rate employees fairly. Provide clear guidance on what good and not-so-good is in terms of performance and review ratings for bias at regularly intervals.

Recognize The Importance Of Blended Teams

Homogeneous teams, in any format, are not good for business. Diverse teams create better business benefits and a more collaborative environment. Embrace multi-generational workplaces and provide the environments for them to succeed, such as recognizing that flexible opt-in benefit programs are a good way to ensure everyone has a place at your company.

Learn From Each-Other

The benefit of a multi-generational workforce means that we can utilize and learn from different perspectives. One isn’t better than the other, but together, give us unique insights in how best to create technologies and solutions for society – an incredibly diverse group.

All in all, it’s pertinent we recognize this bias. Women cannot win in the workplace because no age is the right one. At each step, research shows that working women’s capability, competency and value are questioned and challenged.

By calling this out and being deliberate about challenging gendered ageism, we can work to create a better, more inclusive workplace – for everyone.

*This article first appeared on the website

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