I hear a lot about ageism against older people at work today, and that’s fair enough, no one should be mistreated because of their age. What I don’t hear much about but experience on a weekly bases is ageism against young people at work (reverse ageism). Ageism is one of the last socially acceptable forms of prejudice, and ageism against young people the side of it that rarely gets addressed. For a good example of something that would never be allowed in regard to race or gender see “Shed experience, hire young fools” from the Times.
When I asked a representative of DWP (the government body responsible for such issues) about ageism against the young at a conference this year – I was greeted with a somewhat confused look and the comment “We normally concentrate on older people.” Happily they followed-up by e-mail with some good resources -and I recommend contacting them if this is an issue for you. One of their papers concluded:
“The research findings show evidence of ageism against younger people in the workplace. The group discussions produced fairly widespread anecdotal evidence of younger people experiencing some form of discriminatory treatment because of their age.”
So where does ageism against the young at work come from? Fear of the unknown, fear of change, clinging onto power, arrogance? I don’t know – what I would claim is this – if you need to mention how long it’s been since your parents happened to get jiggy with it to justify something – maybe it’s time for some other qualifications. How is being asked how old I am in a professional context where it’s not relavent different from asking if I’m gay or Jewish? I’ll happily tell you my age, sexuality and ethnicity if you’re just curious, but if you’re asking so you can jump to some stupid assumptions you better just take a jump full stop.
Anyway, I’m 30 next month so I guess I can start complaining about the other side of the coin 🙂
Ageism So What: It ain’t about how long you’ve been here, it’s about what you’ve done and what you’re going to do here.