Australian organisations are starting to understand that to create a diverse, equitable and inclusive environment we must look beyond gender. Race, religion, sexuality, disability and age are all attributes that impact our experiences in the workplace and must become front and centre of our DEI work.
The discrimination or stereotyping based on a person’s age, is a pervasive problem in Australian workplaces that needs to be addressed if we are to actually achieve gender and racial equality. In Victoria, the Gender Equality Act requires public service organisations to analyse the age data in their organisation by gender and address inequities identified. This is a great step forward, one that we would encourage all organisations to look at.
Ageism can manifest in various ways, from biased hiring practices to exclusionary workplace cultures. Older workers may find themselves facing barriers in securing new job opportunities, despite their skills and experience. On the other hand, younger employees may encounter prejudices that undermine their capabilities and contributions. In my work I have also discovered significant pay gaps by age for workers across various industries. In a recent example it became clear that women over 45 were earning considerably less than their male counterparts. Understanding the why so that it can be addressed is vital for moving forward.
Promoting inclusivity means recognising and appreciating the unique perspectives and strengths that individuals of different age groups bring to the table. Baby boomers, Generation X, millennials, and Gen Z each offer valuable insights shaped by their life experiences. By leveraging the diverse knowledge, skills, and work styles of each generation, companies can achieve a more comprehensive and dynamic workforce.
To combat ageism, we must challenge the stereotypes that perpetuate it. It’s crucial to move away from generalisations and instead focus on an individual’s abilities, experiences, and potential. Let’s stop assuming that older workers aren’t skilled in using technology or that younger workers aren’t committed to their jobs. Challenge comments that are made in the workplace around ageist assumptions and actively review recruitment processes for age bias.
Building bridges across generations is key to breaking down age-related biases. Encouraging intergenerational collaboration creates opportunities for knowledge sharing, mentorship, and skills development. Implementing cross-generational mentorship programs can be particularly effective, allowing seasoned employees to pass on their wisdom while younger colleagues bring innovative ideas and technological insights. By fostering an environment where individuals can learn from one another, we nurture a workplace culture that thrives on diversity and inclusion.
One way to combat ageism is by promoting lifelong learning for employees of all ages. Offering continuous professional development programs, training, and upskilling opportunities ensures that individuals can adapt to changing trends and technologies. By investing in their growth, organizations demonstrate their commitment to cultivating talent across all age groups, breaking down stereotypes about older workers’ adaptability and younger workers’ depth of experience.
To address ageism comprehensively, organisations must evaluate their policies and practices to ensure they are inclusive of all age groups. This includes implementing fair recruitment and promotion processes, establishing flexible work arrangements that recognise the needs people have at different life stages, and providing equal opportunities for career advancement regardless of age. Encouraging diverse representation in decision-making roles can also help to create an inclusive culture that values the perspectives of all employees.
Remember that no aspect of someone’s identity can be viewed on its own. When reviewing your workplace profile data with respect to age, ensure you look at this data with a gendered and cultural lens. Are men disproportionately represented in the older age brackets? Does cultural diversity change by age bracket? Having the data to analyse (both quantitative and qualitative) is essential to being able to identify ageism and introduce initiatives to reduce it.
As Australian workplaces strive to create more inclusive, diverse and supportive environments, it is crucial to address ageism head-on. Embracing individuals of all ages fosters a richer, more vibrant work environment where everyone can thrive. By challenging stereotypes, fostering intergenerational collaboration, promoting lifelong learning, and creating inclusive policies, we can dismantle age-related biases and create a workplace that truly values the contributions of every employee.
If you want to discuss how to understand ageism in your organisation please Book a call with Bree today.
01 January 2020
15 April 2022
19 August 2022