New research from Harvard Business Review has revealed that there is no right age to be a professional woman.
Originally, ageism was understood as prejudice, stereotypes and discriminatory behaviour targeted at older employees. However, research investigating how age is used to justify bias and discrimination has revealed that any age can be viewed as ‘the wrong age’ for a woman.
There was ‘always an age-based excuse’ for not taking women seriously, discarding their opinions or not supporting career progression.
Younger women reported being called pet names in the workplace, experiences of inaccurate assumption of one’s role, and a credibility deficit whereby their statements and expertise were not believed. Older women reported being deemed unworthy of advancement, with many feeling discouraged and burnt out. Despite once being considered the “sweet spot’, the research revealed middle-aged women suffer similarly, with committees choosing not to hire middle-aged women due to menopause, family responsibility, and looks.
Age diversity results in better organisational performance, with age discrimination resulting in lower job satisfaction and engagement.
The report goes on to suggest ways of combatting gendered ageism. Firstly, recognising age bias and the problems that exist. Secondly, addressing “lookism” and including it in DEI training to avoid it being used as hidden metric. Thirdly, focusing on the skills of individuals, rather than who has them. Finally, cultivating intergenerational, mixed-gender teams to encourage learning and collaboration.