Diversity, equity, and inclusion are esteemed values held by many employers and are table stakes in the value proposition for employees and customers.
However, in the context of DEI, ageism and the importance of supporting older workers is rarely mentioned. It’s a complex issue that can have significant consequences on a company’s performance and its ultimate success. Despite the existence of laws against age discrimination, it continues to be a silent problem in many organizations.
The intersection of ageism and sexism, often referred to as gendered ageism, is also a very real phenomenon. Evidence shows women are disproportionately affected by ageism, more so when race and ethnicity are factored in.
Individuals who experience ageism in any form feel undervalued and disrespected, leading to decreased job satisfaction and motivation. This can ultimately result in lower productivity and increased turnover rates. Ageism can also have a negative impact on the mental health and well-being of older workers, who may feel their contributions are no longer valued.
Many employers have been known to favour younger candidates over older ones, believing they’re more tech-savvy, innovative and adaptable. However, studies and research have found older workers’ skills and experience can benefit organizations and diverse work teams are more productive, innovative and successful. Older workers also tend to demonstrate more loyalty and reliability by staying in jobs longer and have fewer incidental absences than their younger counterparts.
Despite having the necessary qualifications and experience, older workers are often denied opportunities for promotion. Additionally, they may not receive the same level of training and development opportunities as their younger colleagues, which can impede their ability to keep up with new technologies and processes.
To address ageism in the workplace, employers can prioritize DEI and take steps to ensure all individuals are treated fairly and equitably. This can include implementing training programs that focus on the benefits of age diversity and addressing any biases that may exist in hiring and promotion practices. Additionally, organizations can create mentorship programs that pair older workers with younger ones, allowing them to share knowledge and experience.
According to Statistics Canada, one in five Canadian workers is now at least 55 years old and, last August, roughly 307,000 Canadians retired — a record number. If this trend continues, it will have a profound effect on businesses and one could argue it would be even more devastating than the ‘Great Resignation.’
It’s important to raise awareness of ageism and promote positive attitudes towards ageing. By creating inclusive and equitable work environments and valuing the contributions of older workers, organizations can develop a culture that supports life-long learning and continuous improvement, benefiting their employees, their organizations and society as a whole.