Ageism in the workplace

You may consider yourself an equal opportunity employer, but have you considered whether or not ageism plays a role in your company's hiring process?

Recent research has found that ageism is prevalent in most workplaces. Though 82 percent of the 900 U.S.-based respondents to a hiring survey indicated that they work in a "diverse" workplace, the same individuals noted that they had seen or witness some form of discrimination. One of the most common issues the study found was ageism – a problem especially prevalent in Wall Street firms. The research found that the 40-year-mark was the point when many people's own perceptions of their chances at employment were discouraged due to their age.

"One of the most common issues the study found was ageism."

Of the respondents aged 50-years or older, 60 percent noted that their age could demoralize them when applying for jobs, while 70 percent indicated that they would consider their age an obstacle to getting hired. Meanwhile, just 10 percent of the respondents' colleagues under 40 answered similarly. In fact, fear regarding job security more than triples once an individual passes the 40-year threshold. Among respondents under 40-years-old, 9 percent noted that they feared for their job, while for those between 41 and 50, 32 percent indicated uneasiness regarding job security. 

With 64 percent of people over 55 saying they have experienced some sort of workforce discrimination due to age, employers should take particular care to ensure that ageism isn't prevalent in their own workplaces. Complaints regarding ageism have been consistently on the rise since 1997. In that year, 15,785 reports containing ageism claims were filed, while in 2013 the number of complaints jumped to 21,396. One possible reason for this is that the workforce is getting older as a whole. 

More than 20 percent of the U.S. workforce, around 33 million people, are aged 55 or older – and one of the nation's largest demographic cohorts, the Baby Boomers, has contributed heavily to the overall aging of the U.S. workforce. 

Avoiding ageism in the office
The first step to avoiding ageism in the workplace is to make sure that you, as well as your hiring team, are well aware of both local and federal laws regarding discrimination, specifically those that speak to age. Typically, it is illegal to discriminate against individuals 40-years-and-over due to age. Once you've made sure that hiring discrimination laws are well-known in your office, be sure to make sure that your advertising efforts are reaching people aged 40, 50 and beyond. 

Additionally, once people are in the office, do what you can to make sure that they feel as though their career goals are being respected just as much as everyone else's. It's easy for managers to place their older employees' career prospects off to the side, but they should be given as much importance as their younger colleagues. 

Make sure that as a hiring manager, you're paying close attention to the diversity in your workplace, and that includes how many older people your office has, and how they are treated. You shouldn't let age prevent you from hiring individuals for top finance jobs. Ageism is still a common problem, but it doesn't have to be a difficult one to eliminate.