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"Double Whammy": Older women experience ageism and sexism in the workplace

June 07, 2019  · 2 min read

Ensuring older adults have equitable access to employment is critical for healthy ageing, however older adults are often subjected to ageism in the workplace. According to author and activist, Ashton Applewhite, ageism “occurs when a dominant group uses its power to oppress or exploit or silence or simply ignore people who are much older or significantly younger.” Ageism can intersect with other types of discrimination including sexism. 

An article from Forbes highlights the “double whammy” older women experience through ageism and sexism in the workforce.  The article argues that ageism impacts the genders differently as research shows that with older age, men in the workplace are regarded with increased value and competency while women lose credibility. The article describes how older women are feeling pushed aside, invisible and excluded in their workplace and also fear losing their jobs.

Older women also experience discrimination in the recruitment process. A 2017 study submitted 40,000 fake resumes to online applications. The resumes differed only by age and gender. The researchers found that responses declined with age and more so for women compared to men.

Despite the discrimination, an article from City A.M. reports that women are increasingly more likely to work beyond 70. Fortunately, in an opinion piece, researchers explain why older women in the workforce will benefit the economy. The researchers explain that impending labour shortages could be mitigated by retaining and recruiting older workers, particularly women.  This is because many of them have high education levels and already occupy the positions that will experience high shortages such as registered nurses, nurse practitioners and occupational therapists.

IFA expert Dr Pat Armstrong is an expert in long-term care, health care, health policy, women and work, and feminist political economy. Contact her for an expert opinion on women in the workplace. For more information on the IFA’s work in ageism in the workplace, visit the 15th Global Conference on Ageing website. A central theme of the conference will be 'Combating Ageism' with a sub-theme of ‘Access to Work and Reshaping Retirement.’ Conference registration and abstract submission are now open.

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