Ageism affects workplaces across all industries — sometimes it's explicit, but other times it's subtle. And it's not always against the older generations of workers.
More than 20 percent of workers in the United States (who make up about 33 million people) are aged 55 years and older, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Because they make up such a large chunk of the workforce, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 protects workers 40 years and older from personnel decisions that are based solely on age in hiring, firing, layoffs, demotions and promotions.
But there are no laws protecting young people in the workplace from those same discriminatory, age-based decisions.
And FGB'ers have witnessed this "reverse ageism" firsthand.
"I just want to say that ageism is REAL," an annoymous FGB'er shares on the community board. "I have experienced ageism a lot during my career, mostly because I look a lot younger than I am. I'm in my late 30s, and I've been told that I look like I'm in the mid-20s. While this is not a bad thing for my personal ego (LOL!), it's been bad for me professionally. I've been passed over for jobs because I've 'looked' too young."
She also talks about her retired, 70-something father-in-law who wants to return to the workforce but is having a difficult time landing an interview, which she says she knows is because of his age.
"He is a smart, alert, dependable and determined individual; all he wants to do is get a part-time job to get out of the house, but no one will hire him," she goes on. "So sad! People should be hired because of their skills, not because of their age."
Befuddled, she asks other FGB'ers if they have ever experienced ageism in the workplace, as well. Here's what they've had to say (and how they recommend dealing with ageism!).
"My husband gets [ageism] all the time — he just turned 60, and has been dealing with this for about a decade now," says an anonymous FGB'er.
Many more chimed in on the discussion.
"Yes, ageism is real — just because someone is older, doesn't mean they can't do the job," responds Bosslady835198. "What I've observed in the last 15 years is that we are more reliable, trustworthy and capable to do the job right."
Ageism is alive and well, both for younger and older workers, says another FGB'er, LadyPele.
"Just as a recommendation for your father-in-law, take the earliest 20 years off his resume," she advises. "Review all dates from degrees. Also, if he's not looking for a salary, his skills would likely be snapped up as a volunteer."
It happens largely in male-dominated workforces.
"I personally feel like this isn't discussed enough — as a young woman in an older male-dominated field (mostly retired cops with a median age around 65), I often get told that I'm 'too young' for this or that," says C. Klein.
Even recruiters see it.
"Ageism definitely is real; as a recruiter, I see it all the time — my clients even tell me they only want someone in their mid-30s for a director or VP level role, and if you are not at a VP level by the time you are 40, they think there is something wrong with you," says an anonymous FGB'er. "It's especially difficult for women who take a back step for a few years to raise kids. I also always looked very young for my age, and was passed over for promotions because of it. Now that I am 45, I am experiencing ageism on the other end of it. I have a young mindset, look young, have two toddlers and the same energy level as a 35-year-old. Yet, I am thought of as over the hill and passed over for jobs for people in their 20s and 30s. I still have another 20+ years of my career, but I feel stuck."
"Ageism is definitely real," says EmpoweredGirl653467. "I previously worked as a contractor for a local college. I basically was forced into retiring after six years there, and I’m only 60. The entire time I worked there, I applied for openings... It doesn’t matter how educated [you are] or [the] experience you bring to the table. Most of us aren't even granted an interview."
She recommends that companies put on blinders when hiring. This way, they don't "just hire the young [people] who [they] think will be there for 30 years of their lives."
"Finding a job at any age is about networking — not applying to jobs online," says FGB'er Kathryn Sollmann. "Your father-in-law needs to position himself as a subject expert, network with insiders in his field of interest (through personal connections and LinkedIn) and aim for the freelance and consulting roles in the increasing gig economy. One last note: Don’t ever let ageism become a foregone conclusion. It’s best to forge ahead with confidence and a solid job search strategy. People are often quick to cry ageism when, in fact, they are not going about their job search in the right way!"
"Once a new boss in my department passed me over for several promotions in a row, giving the roles to people younger than myself by five to 10 years, so, after the third one was announced (the youngest promotion yet), I questioned why I was being skipped — the answer was that, since I was so early in my career, I had plenty of time to climb corporate ladders," shares EdesRozsa. "I should wait my turn and give older, [presumably] more competent workers the opportunity to climb the ladder while they have time."
EdesRozsa's boss was consistently impressed with her work but, nevertheless, promoted a 22-year-old graduate with just six months of experience at the company over her. When her boss was unable to explain it, she quit.
"Frankly, any company that allows that kind of promotion pattern to go on, without questioning a new boss's decisions, doesn't want me much as they want a warm body," she goes on. "I am so much more than that."
"I experienced ageism during an interview no less two years ago by the deliberate questions and comments; they did not hide their discrimination," says FGB'er teresacuervo. "Phrases like 'Where do you see yourself in five years?' or 'When you were working back then...' were obvious for me. Although the first is a legitimate question and many interviewers ask it, I knew by how it was phrased what they meant and what it was meant to say."
"I constantly have to remind upper management and coworkers that, not only do I have a Master's degree, but I also have 15 years of experience outside the corporation I work for," says KatieM45. "I've learned in that last four years that my work does not speak for itself — and I continually have to advocate for myself."
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 @herreport and Facebook.