Ageism – everyone is to blame. So let’s stop the bullshit shall we?

The bullshit of ageism is a social issue. We must stop the hiring nonsense urgently, writes Sue Parker, the owner of Dare Group Australia.

The Festival of Dangerous Ideas begins later this month.  Timely to share my own dangerous ideas about the perniciousness of ageism. Ready?

Everyone no matter their gender, race or age can be a total idiot, an amazing talent or somewhere in between.  And ageism is a social issue stoked by all ages, races and genders.

There I said it. We are all to blame in part.

Frankly at 62 years of age I am done with the bullshit narratives, assumptions and put downs from all generations towards other generations.

Young bemoan older and older bemoan younger. The absolute judgement of skills and attitudes apportioned to specific age ranges is comedic if not so preposterous.

Ironically, the mouse wheel of ageism has been alive for decades, if not centuries. It’s a national sport to create fantasies about the inabilities of other ages.

Ageism, the ubiquitous bias

Unlike racism and sexism et al which will experienced by only segments of society, every human will feel the cold steel poke of ageism.  It can be overt or covert, but it will happen. Like Pantene, it may not happen overnight but it will happen in time.

There has been decades now, and especially the last five years of affirmative action, focus groups, tireless work by the Age Discrimination Commissioner and legislation to stamp out ageism in workplaces and hiring ecosystems.

But there has not been much change on the ground and certainly not in hiring across media and agencies. And frankly ageism is as alive and spewing its poison as much now, if not even more so.

Why? Because it is a social issue and everyone is to blame in some way shape or form.

Critical thinking is lacking

I’m also bloody tired of fighting the good fight of stopping people of all ages in their verbal tracks of labelling an age range in absolute negatives and rejections.

And this again comes from all ends across Z generation  to Baby boomers. I’m tired of having to share logical examples to recalibrate thinking. Critical thinking is sorely lacking in people as they review hiring.

As an ex recruitment agency owner in media for 11 years I know full well the all ageism push backs.  Oh yes you can justify, rationalise and reassure yourselves all you will about the why someone won’t work.  I grew very tired of that nonsense too.

There has been enough academic research done on ageism in workplaces to fill the MCG.  But people are still hardwired to take the lazy and easy way out and continue to put down others who are not in their own age range.

The hiring tide flipped  

Back in 2019 I was interviewed on morning TV on the policy agenda of then Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on retraining the over 60’s so they wouldn’t be a drain on the economy.

I was fervent in my response, commenting he was dreaming to think that would be a valid policy taken up widely. There was then, and still now a disconnect between policy aspirations and hiring reality. Governments don’t get that ageism would prevent hiring irrelevant of retraining and their policies.

In 2019 the jobs market was weighted with more candidates. Now 3 years later the hiring tide has flipped with staffing shortfalls crippling Australia to pieces.

The new Labour government clearly took a front foot in caring about the issue and is attempting to redress by proposing that over 65’s who return to work will not have their pensions reduced.

Whilst that is a great initiative, I’m not sure it will change the attitudes of recruiters and hiring companies in the short urgent term.

And labelling people over 60 as ‘seniors’ contributes to the discrimination and negative  perception, as does phrases such as grey army. The whole debate of classification of grey hair towards mature workers is a campaign I don’t enjoy either.

And remember I’m 62, FFS, it’s about competency, attitude, personalities, skills etc.

The populist narrative that age automatically equates to wisdom is one of the biggest lies of all time. I find it nauseating to read that ‘you should hire older people because they are more stable, have more wisdom etc’.

Sure that is absolutely true in many cases, but not all.  Such narratives fuel the ‘me vs them’ angst and anger in society.

The whole notion that being over 50 relates to incredible wisdom and brilliance is nonsense. And likewise, that all Gen Z & X are lazy and fickle. Seriously people this shit has to stop.

It’s the experiences that a person has and how that shapes and informs them that is key.

We must move in society towards seeing people for who they truly are, not what we assume. And that is uncomfortable as it challenges so much of us doesn’t it.

Stopping the bullshit

Hire for who people are by firstly looking at your own biases.

Truly what do you say about age ranges other than your own? Take a skill from investigative journalism and research and talk to others and observe.

Not everyone in a certain age range will fit the stereotype. I know people in their early 20s whose maturity due to their life experiences puts them decades ahead of others. And conversely I know others in their 50’s who just never really got it in life and lessons they didn’t learn.

Having experiences and exposure doesn’t not equate to transferrable wisdom and application. And that is what hiring is all about is it not?

It’s time for action; there has been enough work done on ageism in recruitment and the costs of economic productivity etc. But frankly it now comes down to each and every one of us to stop the ageism bullshit. For goodness sake just look and review each person as they are and what they can bring.

Remember we all will get older and no one likes to be misjudged at any age. Oh what a dangerous idea it is to take responsibility for contributing to this social and recruitment malady of ageism.

Sue Parker is the owner of Dare Group Australia.


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