As we get older, especially women, we start to feel the wrath of our age. Physically, emotionally, and within our work environments, it eventually becomes obvious that as “we” change so do the views of others. This in-depth submission from RedLily contributor Diane Bruno hits close to home for me too. The truth is that no matter how much you try to impress upon certain colleagues or bosses that your experience is valid in certain circumstances – you can also be seen as pushy or irrelevant. Remember the saying that women should learn to grow old gracefully? Well, often we try, but the reality is that the workplace doesn’t always agree. So, we’ve decided to do something about it here at RedLily.
This post is super important for women coming up the ranks in their careers and for those who are already in it. Be aware of this unnecessary “ism” that Diane eloquently addresses. Ultimately, the point is that we both want to bring awareness to the topic and turn the page on society’s behavior by continuing to celebrate our expertise and experience. Because it’s a good thing! No, scratch that…, it’s a GREAT thing!! Hone your skills. Embrace your natural hair. Together let’s grow old gracefully and put these “old” stereotypes to rest. Because we’re not dead yet!
Enjoy & Get Educated,
Kerrie Lee Brown
“Why I’m Talking About Ageism in the Workplace”
By Diane Bruno
I have been a part of the RedLily family ever since Kerrie Lee Brown launched the platform, and I could not be prouder! My first contribution focused on my journey from corporate communications writing professional to a funeral director and back again. I have written about the pain of true love and my resignation from a career trajectory that no longer served me. Change has always been a part of my life, sometimes welcomed and sometimes not. This reality rings true for all of us; the one constant in life IS change.
Since then, I have transformed myself several times over. Spearheaded, a lifestyle brand – HelloSelf, launched a blog Helloselfblog.com and compiled a journal and planner for sale on Amazon devoted to Living Your Legacy each day. I fancy myself to be a transition expert primarily focusing on the ultimate transition we all share – death.
It’s an ominous topic, but I believe how we view our mortality can only help us live a life of more meaning and deliberate purpose. This leads me to another transition we will all experience if we are truly blessed – growing older.
How we manage this experience is in many ways in our hands. Eating healthier and exercising go a long way in managing mother nature and our genetics. Being part of a supportive community and being mindful of our mental wellness can help keep the mind-body connection healthy and thriving. And yes, there are those cosmetic advances that increase confidence – no shame here – I dabble in the technology of skincare and cosmeceuticals as well!
The Quiet “ism!”
Recently, I encountered a consequence of growing older that I knew was quietly lurking in the shadows but had not experienced first-hand. Many professional and personal acquaintances were being sidetracked and impacted by this almost silent nemesis and shared their experiences with me, but when it knocks on your door it takes on a new meaning.
I am calling it the quiet “ism.” That “ism” is ageism. I almost called it silent, but that would not be accurate. It is not silent. People and organizations that support the aging demographic such as AARP do write and speak of it, but what are they doing to spearhead the change that is sorely needed? More times the onus is on the aging person and what they can do to act, look, and speak younger, not on the problem itself.
Age discrimination is not just ethically wrong, it is against the law in the workplace, where it is unobtrusively manifesting itself in droves.
Signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1967, The Age Discrimination in Employment Act is a labor law that forbids employment discrimination against anyone, at least 40 years of age, in the United States. Unfortunately, having a law on the books does not mean it will be adhered to. Sadly, organizations have grown increasingly good at honing their internal hiring, firing, and cultural practices to circumvent this law. It is often subtle, but ever-present.
Mentality in the Workplace
Many of us have been subjected to companywide layoffs that appeared to be across the board. But, after further investigation, these corporate “changes” really centered on those dedicated workers with years of outstanding service peppered with a handful of younger workers to mask the true objective at hand.
The word experience has become an age-revealing red flag – with job postings soliciting workers with one to five years of “experience.” Evaporating are listings requiring a work history beyond that range – what does this say about what organizations are quietly coveting?
The advent and speed of technology have contributed to this discrimination. Older workers are often viewed as not up-to-date on the understanding of social platforms, communicating in the social and office space, or being flexible with day-to-day changes in the workplace. Being of a certain “gen” is an automatic qualifier for being current and desirable, while age is perceived as a negative.
A Time of Reflection
When I look back on my work-related experiences, I see them in an awakened light. For instance, the company I worked for at the time asked me to be in an advertisement for diabetes and I asked why. They explained that I was being asked because everyone else in the department was young and I would tick that box they needed.
When my Zoom call was not working, I was asked if I knew how to log in, did I know what the video icon looked like and how to mute my microphone when needed; discrimination under the guise of helping me out.
Repeatedly, I was addressed as not being a part of the social media generation and not knowing what a hashtag was for.
I have been asked during interviews if I would mind reporting to someone with less experience than I have. When I conceded during an interview that I had omitted my experience with a prestigious ad agency because I was concerned with discrimination, I was told by the hiring manager that it was smart because my resume would have been immediately dismissed if my experienced exceeded 10 years! It was a wise strategic move to deny the world of knowledge I gained during my tenure because I would be seen as old!
The Key is Staying Positive
Age discrimination in the workplace is disheartening and hits the older worker financially. Coming off the COVID crisis, there is more emphasis on working remotely, and being tech-savvy is the new norm – a norm I welcome, but do employers see the seasoned professional in the same light or as inflexible and grasping for the way it used to be?
Culturally, the writing has been on the wall for some time with the advent of social media influencers (especially in the beauty space). Companies now cater to and seduce those influencers with million-dollar boondoggles designed to foster their brand – while ignoring the aging consumer who has been loyal for decades and actually has the funds to purchase their products. It is about how this new blush will look on this under-thirty face and what innovative skincare product will help the under-thirty set defy aging.
In my opinion, a healthy society is defined by how we treat and accept each other, embrace diversity and honor the accomplishments and teachings of its seasoned citizens.
I have come to realize there is more than one inevitable we all will share if we are lucky enough. We will all grow older; it happens a little bit every day. Regardless of age, we are all sharing this beautiful planet.
Live Life to the Fullest
There is a movement in the social sphere to embrace your silver hair and beautiful women of all ages are showing off their graying locks with a sense of pride and accomplishment. This past December, I joined the movement and stopped hiding my beautiful white and silver mane with color. I wonder if I would have been brave enough to do it if it were not for this silver fox movement. I wonder how potential clients and employers will view me now.
At the end of the day, I want to control this narrative, not fall victim to it. My post here is my first step. There is a positive change to come!
Thank you, Kerrie for giving me the platform to share my thoughts.
About the Author:
Diane Bruno is a freelance content creator, blogger, and owner of Diane Bruno Freelance, LLC. Diane is also an empath who loves to write on transitions and topics that touch the soul. She is Funeral Director/Embalmer in the states of CT and MA. Follow @helloselfblog for updates and check out “HelloSelf – The Journal” now available on Amazon. You can reach her directly at dianebrunofreelance.net and [email protected]
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