In the numerous posts I've written about ageism, I tend to lump 50-plus men and women together. While ageism obviously applies to both genders, it is worth pointing out that there is a double whammy for women known as "gendered ageism."
In an excellent recent Forbes article, Bonnie Marcus writes that gendered ageism "is a growing concern for professional women." To validate that statement, Marcus, author of the book Not Done Yet!, collaborated on a research study that collected responses from 729 participants who ranged in age from 18 to 70+, with 65 percent of respondents from the U.S. and the remainder from Canada and Europe. It is well worth reading and considering all nine survey takeaways cited by Marcus, but I'll concentrate on three of them here, taken directly from the article:
- Gendered Ageism is Real – 80% of those surveyed experienced some form of gendered ageism. A third of all respondents (33%) felt they could not get a job or interview because of their age. The most common experiences were “feeling opinions were ignored” (47%), “seeing younger colleagues get attention” (42%) and “not being invited to key meetings” (35%).
- DEI is Not Making the Cut – When asked if their company’s DEI initiatives included gendered ageism, 77% responded that it was not included. Interestingly, 23% stated they did not know and 15% said their company did not have DEI initiatives. Public companies were more likely to have DEI, all but 3%, but only 23% of both public and private companies included gendered ageism. Almost a full third of private companies did not have DEI at all (30%). However, almost all respondents from both public and private companies (93% and 83% respectively) believed that more could be done to combat this prejudice.
- A No-Win Situation – Not Enough Money to Retire and Limited Prospects for Work – Gendered ageism has long term implications for retirement, with more than half of those surveyed reporting that they do not have enough money to retire and nearly all (95%) of those over 53 – including those 65-70 - stating that they want or need to keep working. Yet, more than a quarter 28% of women 59-65 thought their chances of continuing to work were “fair” or “poor”. The most common reason stated – “My company does not value older workers."
Just these three observations by Marcus are compelling enough to highlight the depth of gendered ageism in the workplace. The COVID-19 pandemic revealed the precarious nature of working women in the U.S. Millions of women were forced to quit their jobs to care for younger children because of inadequate daycare. That was one indignity women suffered. But another indignity made even worse by the pandemic was gendered ageism, which likely contributed to the increase in retirees.
In her article, Marcus notes that "many women 50+ are pushed to the sidelines and/or pushed out to make room for younger workers. Though this is also true for men, women experience this earlier. Once terminated, women find it much more challenging to get rehired at a time when may they lack the funds for retirement." Sadly, ageism in general seems to be a systemic problem -- and gendered ageism is a more insidious subset.
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