Ageism - A Rapidly Spreading Corporate Cancer
AGEISM is essentially a corporate form of ethnic cleansing, an enterprise class career euthanasia. If that sounds extreme, you might be surprised to learn that this problem is completely out of control; at the very time that the population as a whole, is AGING.
The entrenched, big-hair 80’s style high-school popularity contest variety of HR attitude must change and it must change quickly, or corporations are going to find themselve behind the eight ball both in terms of worker shortages and in terms of alienating CUSTOMERS who are not growing younger. If a company and it’s image doesn’t anticipate and accurately reflect its MARKET, it will discover the results too late, on its own frail and withered bottom line.
CareerJournal reports that “ SOME older job seekers believe that age is the primary obstacle in their searches,” but from my observation of family and frieds, I’d expect that a more accurrate word than ‘some’ would be MANY or MOST.
AGEISM penalizes and demeans the very Americans who BUILT the current American economy over recent decades. Today, some illegal foreign nationals seem to believe that they have an inalienable right to claim this built environment as their own. Many argue that it is wrong to discriminate against those individuals who voluntarily broke the law to enter the country illegally, but many of those same people turn a blind eye to discrimination and marginalization of workers over 40 or 50. It would not be surprising to find in many cases those same people identifying Americans over 40 as THE PROBLEM.
AGEISM is at least as much of a problem as gay discrimination, but gay activists have done a fantastic job of raising awareness and sensitivities to the point that the market as whole is gradually reversing that tendency. An important point of contrast between gay bias and ageism is that gay bias is not an “ism” in any conventional sense of the term. In only a very, very small percentage of cases can one look at a person and know with any confidence that the person is gay, so the PR blitz to create a linkage between gay discrimination and racial discrimination is a non-sequitur. It doesn’t map because gay is not a skin color, and seldom presents as an immediately obvious outward attribute.
IN CONTRAST, one can immediately see skin color and one CAN look at someone in their 40’s and immediately see that they are not 26. That is what makes Ageism an authentic and utterly immoral “ism” in the classic civil rights sense. Hence, when a 34 y.o. hiring manager reaches an immediate conclusion based upon observation of age, that is AGEISM. It is a spreading cancer in a society that has for too long deified the youthful, sexy, and superficial in comparison to the wise, experienced, effective, and experienced.
In a related article on workplace diversity, “Patrick M. Prout, president and chief executive officer of The Prout Group Inc., a New York recruiting firm that specializes in diversity” says:<blockquote>If a company screens someone out because of [a race-related affiliation on a resume], it’s probably a company that the person wouldn’t want to work for.” Age-related is interchangeable with race-related in that statement.</blockquote>On the WSJ CareerJournal discussion boards, we see such comments as<blockquote>The resume-screening process is merciless, and age discrimination is very real. Knowing to expect age discrimination, and to prepare for it, actually helps to overcome that feeling of vulnerability.</blockquote>These comment typify the level of acceptance of today’s status quo: an entrenched, completely illegal practice that epitomizes the ethical evil of discrimination. When a writer or hiring manager says, “oh, he or she wouldn’t like it here anyway,” it is a bald admission that the discrimination is so deeply entrenched in that particular business that it’s become the accepted norm that will never change. Flippant comments such as, “that’s just the way it is” are the euqivalent of what black parents used to say to thier 50’s era children who were disgruntled with a segregated society, “oh, that’s just how it is; know your place and get along with it.” Today, this is what older workers are told.
In Why Some Older Executives Land Jobs – and Others Don’t, Perri Capell adds:<blockquote>The over-50 job seekers [that] haven’t reached [the general manager or CEO] level are now competing for openings against 30- and 40-year-olds, who typically earn less, may be more technically competent or exude more energy. “If you are over age 50 and at a vice president, director, or project-manager level, you are going to have a fight on your hands, because the competition is tough,” says Ted Martin, president and chief executive officer of recruiter Martin Partners in Chicago.</blockquote>Newsflash for Perri: There can only be ONE CEO per company, so to blame workers for not ascending to the C-level ranks only further demeans the accomplishments of workers who have been Key Contributors to their companies, for decades.
The public debate on AGEISM – workplace discrimination based upon age – needs to be elevated and companies need to be educated about the value they are denying themselves and the marketplace. The debate will need to focus on the value of experienced workers because in today’s society, nobody cares that ageism is essentially a corporate form of ethnic cleansing, an enterprise class career euthanasia.