Gendered ageism — the ensuing discrimination rooted in the unfounded assumption that, because a woman is middleaged, she lacks the stamina, commitment and capability to perform her job well — plagues the workforce.
In fact, according to a report from AARP, 64 percent of U.S. workers over the age of 55 have experienced or witnessed age discrimination. More than half of them admitted that it'd started in their 50s. And, to little surprise, it is worse for women. And further research reported by NCBI reaffirms that aging is, indeed, a gendered process, particularly with regards to financial and work-related matters. The research suggests that it's far more difficult for aging women to retain current positions and to land new jobs than it is for aging men.
Of course, gendered ageism is both ill-founded and discriminatory. But it is nonetheless pervasive, and women in their 50s and older deserve equal respect in their places of employment.
With that said, here are five things you can do to help the women over 50 in your company feel the respect that they deserve.
1. Advocate for the middle-aged women in your company.
Routinely acknowledge the achievements of the middle-aged women in your company, both privately and publicly. Give credit where credit is due.
2. Set up and/or listen to employee resource groups' concerns.
If there's not already an employee resource group for women or employees of any gender identity in this age bracket, set one up or encourage employees to set one up. If there already is one, be sure to take the questions and concerns that they raise seriously; address them and create change that lets these women know that you hear them.
3. Establish an open door policy that does not penalize middle-aged women for voicing their concerns.
Allow women of all ages (and all employees of all ages) to visit and speak with managers and your human resource department whenever they have concerns, assuring them that they will not be penalized for voicing these concerns. Of course, in order to assure them of this, you will need to lead by example.
4. Invite the middle-aged women who have been with your company for some time to be mentors to newer and/or younger employees.
Invite the women who have been with your company for a certain number of years to act as mentors to newer and/or younger employees in the company looking for guidance in their careers. This suggests to these women that their time, work and knowledge is valuable and that you want to be able to share all of that with the rest of the office. It will help them to feel not only respected, but also appreciated.
5. Promote middle-aged women in your company.
Give promotions and raises when they're deserved, regardless of whether or not the person deserving of it is closer to retirement than someone else. Let women in your company know that, regardless of their age, there is still room for them to grow and to move up within the company.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.