According to recent research by Catalyst, ageism is the most common form of discrimination in Europe. In fact, more than 44% of respondents interviewed in Europe and 64% of those in the United Kingdom reported their concerns about age discrimination. In the United States, 61% of workers at or over 45 have reported witnessing or experiencing ageism in the workplace.
Professional women over 50 experience gendered ageism every day, and they face this discrimination earlier than men because of society’s emphasis and value placed on youth and beauty. After decades of gender bias that results in less sponsorship, unequal compensation, few avenues to advancement and therefore less representation in leadership, as women over 50 show visible signs of aging, their competence and relevance are questioned. Not only are they marginalized as a result, but they’re often pushed out the door prematurely. Because of this, they face serious challenges during the aging process that affect their job security and financial viability. The fear of termination is palpable when their potential of getting hired diminishes substantially with every birthday.
Women in this demographic reported to me that they are perceived as less valuable, their once sought-after opinions are now ignored. They shared the demeaning remarks they hear from co-workers about their age and how their workload is re-distributed to younger colleagues. Many women feel the pressure to look youthful and seek external make-overs to their appearance. They opt for Botox, filler and cosmetic surgery because they believe these procedures will help them keep their jobs.
No judgment for those who feel the need to look more youthful. In fact, this may give some women the boost they need to show up more confidently at work. However, what is most important is an internal shift in mindset and behaviors.
Here are some tips on how to stay marketable despite gendered ageism.
Identify your own ageist assumptions and fears.
The very first thing you need to do is examine your beliefs about aging that may be holding you back. For example, if you believe you’re too old to be promoted, then you won’t be competitive. You may not advocate for yourself or volunteer for special projects. You won’t bother speaking up in meetings. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. You won’t be promoted, not because of your age, but because of your actions and behavior.
Declare your ambition.
It’s important that your manager know that you’re still invested in your job and committed to doing your best work. Schedule a meeting with your manager, get their input on how you can best continue to add value to your team, department, and organization. Work together to put a career path in place for the next few years.
Cultivate a growth mindset.
Be proactive and have a sense of urgency here. Take a good hard look at your current skills and experience. What skills do you need to improve? What new skills do you need to stay on top of your game? Don’t allow yourself to fall behind the curve. It’s very easy for employers to demote you or let you go because your skills aren’t up to date.
Build and nurture a strong network.
Your network is more important now than ever. Within your company, you want allies and champions who can advocate for you when you’re not in the room; people who understand the value you bring to the organization. You want connections with key stakeholders and decision makers as well as people who are in their web of influence. And reach out across generations to younger colleagues and form mutually beneficial relationships. You have much to learn from each other.
Advocate for yourself and others.
It’s important that your achievements be known in your department and across the organization, and it’s your responsibility to let others know about your accomplishments and those of your team. What value do you add to your team and company? Find out what’s important to your manager, colleagues, and the organization, and offer to help others achieve their objectives based on the value you can add.
Raise your hand. Share your opinions and ideas.
You want to make sure people know that you have great ideas and valuable opinions. Ask for the agenda for key meetings ahead of time. Prepare your thoughts around the topics so you can confidently raise your hand to share.
Make it your intention to be visible. In fact, make a strategic visibility plan. Create a list of the best ways to stay on people’s radar. You might include things like volunteering for special projects or running a company-wide event, getting involved in affinity groups or women’s leadership initiatives. You may include in your plan attending social events and/or arranging for outings for your colleagues, offering to mentor younger female colleagues or hosting lunch and learns for your department.
And last but not least, Own the Power of Your Age. Throughout your career journey thus far, you’ve accumulated much wisdom and experience. You’ve learned many lessons that can be of value to your colleagues. Own it. Own your talent. Own your ambition. Because, you’re Not Done Yet!
Award winning entrepreneur, Forbes contributing writer, and executive coach, Bonnie Marcus, M.Ed., assists professional women to successfully navigate the workplace and position and promote themselves to advance their careers.
With 20+ years of sales and management experience, Bonnie’s extensive business background includes CEO of a ServiceMaster company and VP of Sales at Medical Staffing Network and two others national companies in the healthcare and software industries. She has held executive positions in startup companies and Fortune 500 companies.
Bonnie started her corporate career at an entry-level position and worked her way up to the top of a national company. Her passion is now to help other women embrace their talent and ambition and step into their full potential and workplace power. Bonnie shares her message globally through speaking engagements, live and virtual workshops, blogging, and her popular podcast, Badass Women at Any Age.Bonnie’s book, The Politics of Promotion: How High Achieving Women Get Ahead and Stay Ahead, provides a roadmap for women to navigate the complexities of the workplace and position themselves for success. Not Done Yet! How Women Over 50 Regain Their Confidence and Claim Their Workplace Power, will be published March 2021.A certified coach, Bonnie has been honored by Global Gurus as one of the world’s top 30 coaches in 2015-2020. She has been acknowledged as one of the top 100 keynote speakers in 2018 by Databird Research Journal.Bonnie received a BA from Connecticut College and a M.Ed. from New York University.