Do you want to know what exactly ageism is? How to avoid it? Here’s everything you need to know, plus the industries where ageism is most rampant.
Over the last year, we’ve seen a rapid change in the workforce. Over 1.1 million workers between ages 55 and 70 have left the workforce in the last quarter, which is an incredible improvement from the 2.6 million that left the workforce in Q2 of 2020.
The high number of people over 55 in the workforce that wants to work, but can’t get a job is increasing. Why is that? We think it’s because of something called ageism, and we’ll tell you exactly what that is and what industries it’s most prevalent in.
What is ageism?
While older employees are usually more knowledgeable and experienced than other staff members, they are typically discriminated against in favor of the younger and less experienced employees. Like racism and sexism, ageism refers to discrimination against specific staff members based on their age.
Robert Butler coined the term in 1969. According to Butler, ageism is visible at an individual and institutional level. It can include wrong assumptions, stereotypes, dislikes, avoiding contact, and outright aversion at the workplace against employees who are more experienced and considered older.
In 96% of the cases, ageism is also affecting the health of the employees targeted. They are submitted to “stress-inducing negative age stereotypes” that affect their mental and physical health in various ways.
Common stereotypes against workers considered older
Some of the most common myths and stereotypes of workers aged above 55 include:
- They resist change.
- Are demotivated.
- Avoid career development programs.
- Are less productive.
- Know how to do their work and don’t innovate.
- Are taking sick leave more often.
- Don’t share their knowledge.
- They will leave their jobs sooner.
While this is obviously not true, it’s still what many younger employees think. Employees who are considered older bring their work experience, their life experience, and their overall know-how to get the job done. They connect the dots quickly and have deep knowledge of the industry.
Age discrimination in employment act explained
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) offers protection for certain employees and applicants aged over 40 from all forms of discrimination in hiring, promotion, discharge, and workers’ compensation. The act also prohibits the use of age preference in the hiring process. It prohibits denying benefits to older employees.
According to this act, it’s illegal for an employer to decide to hire or fire an employee based on age. They also can’t base pay on their age and have a policy that negatively affects employees because of their age. Beware of ageist interview questions and know how to respond to them.
While the ADEA act doesn’t protect workers who are under the age of 40, some states have their own law that protects younger workers from ageism.
7 industries where ageism is most rampant
While it happens in all industries, there are specific sectors where ageism is more prevalent.
These industries are known to have a lower median age among employees, and a couple of them have already lost lawsuits with regards to ageism.
Here are the industries where ageism is most rampant.
1. Business and Finance
Many professionals in the business and finance sector attest that ageism is common in the industry. They feel that they aren’t taken seriously in the business and finance sector because of their age. Some are discriminated against because they are too young, while others feel they face discrimination because they are too old.
Employers in the business and finance industry feel that employees who are too young might not stay long enough in the industry. Others face ageism because they lack the same level of experience as their older colleagues. Old employees face ageism in the business and finance sector because employers feel they are too old to learn new things.
PWC, one of the biggest auditing firms globally, was recently sued in the US, where it was alleged that the firm favors younger job seekers. The company focuses on university campuses for their new hires and doesn’t consider older candidates for their entry-level positions. According to a study presented to the San Francisco federal court by the plaintiff lawyers, younger people have a 538% better chance of getting hired at PWC than applicants aged over 40. The company finally agreed on an out-of-court settlement in the class suit. It is a clear indication that ageism is rife in the business and financial sectors.
The technology industry is one of the sectors that have a terrible reputation for ageism. Employees in the technology industry often prefer young workers instead of seasoned workers. According to a study done by Payscale, only three out of 18 well-known tech firms in the study had a median employee age over 33. The medium age in seven of the companies studied was 30 years or lower. This is in comparison to other industries in America, where the median age is 42.3 years.
Ageism in the technology sector occurs in various forms, from innocuous comments to being overlooked in the hiring process due to age. Employees in this sector face numerous hurdles to prove that they are not yet an “industry dinosaur.”
As a sign of ageism in the technological sector, Tokensoft, a technology platform that issues digital securities, faces an ageism suit. In the lawsuit, a woman says she was repeatedly overlooked for promotion while opportunities were given to younger workers with less experienced. She also claims to be excluded from dinner meetings with key clients and weekly sales opportunities. Her complaints to the CEO were dismissed as “not being helpful.”
3. Marketing and advertisement
Older consumers have high spending power. This might make you believe that advertisers will target them in their marketing and advertisement. However, this is not the case. In fact, not only is this demographic shunned, but they are also caricatured in many marketing images.
While over 30% of the United States population is over 50, this group only appears in 15% of the ads. Even in ads, older people are often shown at home and will be depicted as unproductive employees.
According to a Bureau of Labor Statistics report, over 60% of workers in the marketing, advertising, and public relations industry are under 45 years. The median age is 40. With these kinds of statistics, it is clear why older consumers are often overlooked in marketing messages.
Experts believe that younger employees are often associated with a higher level of creativity and technological aptitude. Simultaneously, older people are often seen as less innovative, less creative, and not able to put out creative advertisements.
4. Hospitality industry
The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that the hotel industry has workers with a median age that is less than 30. The hotel industry has often been found to be discriminatory in the hiring of older workers in principle and in practice.
Some hotel positions such as waiters and receptionists are often for workers below the age of 35. Hotels and restaurants would hire young and vital people over more experienced and professional older workers.
5. Retail industry
In the recent past, we have seen big retailers get sued for age-related discrimination. Retailers GNC and Anthropologie lost in ageism lawsuits.
In the Anthropologie case, an employee sued for what he called an age-based hostile environment as co-workers referred to her as mom despite recording her displeasure at the use of the term. She was also denied a promotion when her manager claimed she didn’t have the stamina for the job, as she was too old. She won the lawsuit from the company.
In the GNC case Santos Anduja, age 57, claimed a manager fired him because of his age. He won the lawsuit as well.
These are perfect examples of how the retail industry is equally affected by ageism.
6. Healthcare industry
Five nurses at the former South Peninsula Hospital filed a lawsuit at the Homer District Court alleging that they were fired from their jobs due to age discrimination. All the nurses were aged over 50, and they termed their sacking as an attempt to replace old employees with younger, less experienced, and cheaper staff. This is even though they were all highly qualified.
In the healthcare industry, ageism is mostly based on productivity concerns. When you get older, people believe that you
Atlas Energy LLC will pay $85,000 in an ageism-related suit against it by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a production foreman aged 52 with over 20 years of experience who a young superintendent sacked.
The production foreman was widely considered knowledgeable by pumpers and field operators under him. This is an indication that ageism is rife in the energy sector.
Conclusion: Industries with the most ageism
All industries have ageism, however, there are some industries where ageism is most rampant. Generally, the newest industries will have the youngest workers, making ageism more prevalent.
If you are experiencing ageism at work, you can schedule an appointment at an EEOC office. They will help you with the next steps and they will tell you exactly what you need to do.