How Ageism Impacts Women Throughout Their Careers | Women in the Boardroom


How Ageism Impacts Women Throughout Their Careers

“As soon as women show any visible signs of aging, they are viewed as not only less attractive, but less competent.” – Bonnie Marcus

The intersection of age and gender can be a hefty anchor for women as they look to advance throughout their careers. Oftentimes when we think of ageism, we generally think of the very real prejudice that aging individuals experience later in their careers.

Ageism is overwhelmingly present in workplaces across the globe. According to a recent global survey, nearly 80 per cent of women surveyed have encountered age-related discrimination in their careers, underscoring ageism as a critical yet often overlooked barrier to professional growth.*

Let’s take a look at how gendered ageism can have a harmful impact on a woman’s career.

The Working Mother and Ageism

From concealing personal milestones like engagements or pregnancies to facing stereotypes as caregivers, women often find themselves compartmentalizing their lives to combat biases.

In fact, 1 out of 3 women actually remove their wedding bands or engagement rings when they go in for an interview with a potential employer.**

And women have good reason to hide these big life events, though nobody wants to separate their lives into different compartments, women are forced to. We can often be stereotyped as caregivers who aren’t serious about our careers, resulting in not getting that invite to team building extracurriculars outside of the office or being overlooked for a promotion.

The Motherhood/Caregiver Penalty

According to PayScale, women hit their peak earnings when they’re in their forties, but men continue to experience growth in their paychecks as they age.

Women tend to reduce work hours to accommodate caregiving responsibilities, while men often maintain or increase their work commitment. This divergence perpetuates the “motherhood penalty” and “fatherhood premium,” adversely affecting women’s earning potential and professional advancement.

Additionally, many women begin to care for their aging parents during this decade in their life. Employers may view this as a decrease in focus on their careers, even though women are proven better at multi-tasking, further delegitimizing a woman’s ambition for her profession.

Age Discrimination As We Appear Older

While older men are often perceived as “distinguished” or “very experienced”,  as women age we are looked at as less credible.

As women age, they encounter stereotypical assumptions about their proficiency with technology and their adaptability compared to men. These stereotypes further marginalize older women in the workplace, hindering their access to opportunities and advancement.

How To End Gendered Ageism In The Workplace

What can we (men, women, and workplaces) do to end gendered ageism in the workplace? We can start out by supporting each other.

  • Keep this conversation going. If we don’t continue these conversations they become taboo and it becomes harder to make progress towards inclusivity.
  • Be a mentor to other women.
  • Commit to dispelling stereotypes about age.
  • Allow, encourage, and reward women when they speak up!
  • Be flexible to keep women in the workforce and promote inclusion.
  • Provide opportunities for continuous learning and growth assignments.
  • Promote women into leadership positions.
  • Place value on women’s contributions in the workplace.

If you’re interested in continuing the conversation, Reach out to me directly! Sheila Ronning, CEO & Founder, Women in the Boardroom.

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