Photo: Vogue

In a week that celebrated the centenary of some women winning the right to vote (those over-30, who were married or owned property. Men just had to be over the age of 21) we are still battling for equality. The gender pay gap, equal representation in parliament, sexual harrassment and ageism in the workplace are all scorching hot topics, right now. I’ve just been reading a Campaign feature on ageism at work: ‘A Case for Rebranding the Older Worker’ talks about how women experience ageism within the workplace earlier than men and how the advertising industry ‘doesn’t seem to have much room for many over-40, either in the workplace or in marketing materials.’

Photo: Campaign

Part of the problem here is that the average age of an ad executive is 28 and they just don’t get it. And the other part is, as Campaign puts it, ‘Baby boomers are plagued by the perception that they will require extra training and patience to get up to speed on technology.’ Plus, there’s the tedious issue of older men and women being viewed differently. When in reality we have the skills, the ability and the understanding – and the spending power. It’s been enough of a struggle for women to obtain positions of power and responsibility, why should this be taken away when we get older? I do strongly believe that we need to change the narrative, to keep fighting against ageism and invisibility – that we deserve a bit more respect. As Miuccia Prada says in the latest issue of Vogue, ‘We are clever, we are great, why are we not equal?’



23 thoughts on “Down with ageism in the workplace

  1. What’s the date of the Vogue photo? The model is quite androgynous, at best, which undermines your premise a bit – a premise that I certainly agree with as a 65-year-old retiree (and my retirement was entirely voluntary, tho librarians can pretty much work til someone finds their bodies in the stacks). Also I work at not being looking and have hired many women who were not conventionally “pretty” but I think the model could choose a more flattering hairstyle – tho if it’s an older photo perhaps her style would have been thought flattering.

    1. pretty sure that’s a photo of the designer, Miuccia Prada. I can’t imagine any editor/stylist at Vogue would dare tell her what to do.

    2. Miuccia Prada is the CEO of Prada, founded Miu Miu, is worth $3 billion, and has a Ph.D. in political science. So there’s that.

  2. Alyson I commend you for raising this topic now. There have been several articles and television programmes recently talking to feminists of all ages. There does seem to be a divide between women’s libbers of Baby Boom age and those younger women who in many respects have improved opportunity now. But still a long way to go.

  3. To Anne above. This is a picture of Miucca Prada, the celebrated designer and owner of Prada. She follows her own path and style. She is now in her late 60s at least and has a very distinctive style, hair and all !

    1. May I second both your comments Mrs Tonia.
      I was born right at the end of the Baby Boom but I sometimes look around and think that Feminism never happened.

  4. I am perpetually baffled by this not understanding technology thing – the over fifties are the generation that introduced computers to the workplace. I for one took part in the introduction of desktop publishing to book design through a collaboration between Penguin and William Collins (HarperCollins). I have a magazine article somewhere as evidence, will dig it out!
    My mum, who is in her mid-eighties, has had laptops for years and has only just ‘retired’ from publishing her village magazine – more because she was struggling to find interesting contributions than anything else.

  5. Alyson it’s good to raise this topic. Some may feel we have come far but we’re still on a journey and cannot be complacent.
    Re Anna’s comment above about Miucca Prada I think it’s a great photo. While she presents as a strong and assertive woman, the heels and stance are also feminine. I’m in my early 60’s and my nose is not unlike the shape of Miucca’s nose. The photo of Miucca exudes confidence and emphasises the ‘whole’ of her.
    The photo has lifted my spirits today.

  6. I was told by a senior manager who was all of 29 that ‘people’ (he meant women) in their 40s didn’t have enough ambition for the role I was applying for (I was 45 at the time and quite shocked that I was facing ageism so young). I got a promotion into a different department.

  7. Interesting points made in the link also – there now no longer a ‘normal retirement date’, so ‘baby boomers’ (whatever they are because let’s face it, like Millennials, the definition varies depending on your outlook!), will HAVE to keep on working. Employers look up, you need to embrace older workers, we’re not digitally dumb, we have many, many life skills and you need us because you need diversity in your workplace, you really do need it.

  8. Hurray for blazing your own path! The other day I commented to a female friend that I wasn’t going to apply for the CEO vacancy and she immediately launched into a speech about women not seeing themselves as leaders and feeling held back. I can honestly say I never felt like anyone could hold me back but I also know it doesn’t suit my temperament or skills to be the up front leader. Its complete madness to imagine that all women thing the same, or all working women, or all women over a certain age. Surely we just want the freedom to choose to do what we feel is right and not be judged for it – that sounds so simple…

  9. It is amazing to me that the older person is valued less in any arena. Returning to college at the age of 66 I was shocked that students in their late teens and twenties had absolutely no ability to reference history, important world figures, or connect the dots in socioeconomic discussions. The older professional brings a wealth of experience; sometimes a fabulous idea has actually been explored years ago! Employers sometimes want appearance not content. Airheads abound. Time to retire? No..just retool,refresh, and lend expertise to another endeavor. Reinvent. Be indispensable.

  10. I echo Rosamund’s comments, about us older individuals having grown up with IT and knowing how to use it, not just being end users. I’ve just, after 5 years of bouncing around between contracts, self-employment and zero hours, found a full-time role back in my area of expertise, at 55, albeit at a more junior level. Interestingly, I’ve been showing much younger members of staff, and my new manager, how to use the technology well, rather than just the basics and they are under no illusions now that old means slow!

  11. I believe companies miss out by not employing older people. I am 63, run a small business and everyone that we have employed from the “older” generation has been great. They have a wealth of experience, always on time and incredibly
    reliable. Add to that, they can compose a customer email that has no spelling mistakes or that resorts to text speech!

  12. I’m 45, and I was explained about what a hyperlink was by someone who wasn’t born yet when I was hardcoding HTML sites. I also have to push back against our IT help desk from time to time. “No, really, I think it’s the graphic card, not the monitor.”

  13. Great topic that needs to be openly discussed. I’ve been in fashion on the design end my entire career and quickly learned that after 40 you’re perceived differently. For all the older models on the runways lately there are very few designers over fifty in key jobs at major brands and this goes for men as well. Sadly it’s also true for women executives in fashion, much more so than men. I know far too many talented people who went from the top to unemployable. Supposedly it’s against the law in the US to discriminate based on age, but try to prove it.

  14. Dianne,
    I have come to believe that knowledge of history is a detriment to current employers. They like young workers with no context or understanding of socioeconomics. They are easier to manipulate. d

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