Diversity & Inclusion: How to avoid age-based discrimination in the workplace?
In recent years, many companies across the globe took the time to reflect on their unconscious biases and create a Diversity & Inclusion strategy to improve equality in the workplace. However, the issue of ageism remains unsolved, as it is still viewed by many as the most socially acceptable form of discrimination. According to Age UK, over 36% of workers over 50 felt they had been disadvantaged because of their age.
Centre for Ageing Better recognised that “ageism – the stereotyping, prejudice and discrimination against people on the basis of their age – is a widespread and insidious problem that has harmful effects on older adults.” Negative attitudes towards older people are incredibly prevalent in our society – mostly due to inaccurate stereotypes, which are often amplified by the media. Structural and institutional ageism can be manifested in many forms, such as workplace and recruitment processes, stereotypes in TV and advertising, and marketing. In turn, this means that our economy and labour market are not realising the full potential of older workers and consumers.
Ageism is often seen as prejudice against older individuals; however, there are forms of ageism that affect younger generations as well, which became evident during the response to the Covid-19 pandemic. From a higher likelihood of losing their jobs to hurtful stereotypes on social media, those at the start of their careers have faced prejudice and limited opportunities.
Types of ageism
Many different types of ageism can affect every one of us throughout our lives.
Self-inflicted ageism – As we get older, we may consider our age as the indication of what activities we should get involved in, what technology or social media we should use, or whether to apply for a specific job. This judgement, based on age rather than abilities, means that we self-inflict ageism which can be detrimental to our lives.
Ageism in the workplace – Age-based discrimination is particularly prevalent in workplace settings. Often colleagues are judged as “too old” to help on a fast-paced project or undeserving of a promotion because they should be thinking about retirement instead.
Reverse ageism – When the younger generations are thought to be too young or inexperienced to manage a situation or a team, this is an example of reverse ageism. As with the other types of age-based discrimination, it stems from false stereotypes.
Negating ageism in your workplace
Change is on the horizon as more companies are looking for ways to avoid discrimination and promote inclusivity in the workplace. Here’s what you can do today to keep ageism out.
Diversity & Inclusion training
Your managers and employees can benefit from training sessions dedicated to fighting discrimination and promoting diversity. This training should cover unconscious bias, stereotypes and provide real-life examples of the benefits of age diversity.
You need to introduce clear and defined policies and inform everyone in your organisation, especially the new employees. The policy should stress that your business will not tolerate any unfair treatment based on age.
A performance-based approach to promotions
Make sure that rewards and promotions are based on performance, rather than tenure alone. This helps to guarantee that all your employees are receiving equal opportunities. Your company should also offer the same training opportunities to all, regardless of their age or experience.
Review the hiring and interview process
Make sure that your hiring process does not discriminate based on age. For example, place your advertisements across various platforms, remove any age-specific language, stay away from age-related interview questions, and avoid stereotyping.
A careful approach to redundancy
When you have to reduce your workforce, be careful not to base your decision on age and look at other factors such as performance.
To learn more, join us at the upcoming Diversity & Inclusion Forum: Too young, too old… Is ageism still an issue? on Tuesday, 28th September.
With our guest speakers, we will discuss the impact of ageism and what companies can do to create headroom for the next generation without discriminating against more seasoned employees. Click here to register now.
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