I awoke to my LinkedIn feed this morning declaring 50 as the new 60 when it comes to defining older workers. Sigh.
As a 50-something professional with a helluva lot to give, I’m a little incredulous that the age at which businesses consider a job candidate or employee an “older worker” is being reduced. According to the latest Human Rights Commission and Australian HR Institute survey, if you’re 51-55 you’re now classified as “older”.
Pretty ironic if you also happen to be an “older” woman who is being told that 50 is the new 40 - thank you J Lo (and yes, we are grateful to you for fighting against us being the invisible generation, when it comes to how we look). But isn’t it sad that on the one hand we’re being applauded for our “younger” looks but considered “older” when it comes to our brain power, our contribution to countless organisations in our rich and varied careers, and our immense ability to impart decades of learning and knowledge.
The survey of more than 600 business leaders is telling. In 2018 the same survey had 11 per cent classifying the 50s as older compared to this year at 17 per cent. And if you are in your 60s it jumps to 28 percent.
I am very fortunate to work for a progressive company where diversity and inclusion is encompassing of all ages. As People & Culture Director, I am adamant about recruitment policies that are very simply about selecting the best candidate, regardless of age, sex, cultural background. And, tellingly, age is the one critical element overlooked by many companies in their D&I programs and efforts. In a US EEOC report only 8% of firms surveyed included diversity and inclusion strategies.
The proof of a “grey ceiling” is out there. In my own network, I know of countless incredibly smart, talented humans with a depth of expertise who are out of work and struggling to get work. These are people whose achievements for the companies they have worked for are hard to be ignored - yet they are. They are not even getting a look in for roles that they would sweep the floor with given their arsenal of skills, experience, and expertise. Most have been aggressively networking and applying for roles for 18 months and more. It’s heart wrenching and demoralising to see all those years of experience not being valued.
I am so proud that in an industry renowned for a youthful workforce we are actively seeking people with seniority and expertise as we recognise the power of a multigenerational workplace. I am so proud that our leadership team is a beautiful balance of smart and talented women with varying years of experience and that this lens extends to our entire workforce recruitment strategy.
Age should not be a consideration. Capability to do the job should be the only consideration. Us “oldies” have so much diversity to give in terms of our capabilities, experience, and the deep-seated knowledge that comes with years of hard knocks and learnings.
Snezna Kerekovic is Thrive PR + Communications People & Culture Director