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  • Writer's pictureLena Hill

Sexism and Ageism in Hiring | Understanding the Intersection of Discrimination and Its Consequences

Even finding images of older women at work is difficult. This one was titled "Elderly woman at computer".

I am a female business owner and a member of Generation X. The life that I've had has been untraditional. I began my career as a performer, then went into marketing, took a step back due to motherhood and illness, moved across the country, opened my business and moved back again after many turbulent and heartbreaking years. All of my personal and professional experiences have prepared me for a myriad of positions in traditional corporate settings. However, for the last three years I've not gotten one interview. I've been seeking out more traditional opportunities for one simple reason: my daughter. Running your own small business requires a level of commitment and time that is all consuming. While it is extremely rewarding in many capacities, it lacks the one thing I desperately need to provide for my daughter. Consistency and security. Three years ago I began the journey to find that security. I have submitted between ten and thirty applications every month and have received zero interviews. Why? Sexism and ageism.

Sexism and ageism are two forms of discrimination that can impact the hiring process. Research from Harvard University's Implicit Association Test (IAT) has shown that unconscious biases can influence decision-making in hiring, leading to discrimination against individuals based on their gender or age. In this blog post, we will explore the evidence of sexism and ageism in hiring, the intersection of these two forms of discrimination, and the steps organizations can take to address these issues.

The Evidence of Sexism and Ageism in Hiring

The evidence of sexism and ageism in hiring is well-documented. Research from the National Bureau of Economic Research has found that women and older workers are less likely to be hired, even when they have identical qualifications to their male or younger counterparts. This is particularly true for women over 50, who are more likely to experience discrimination in the workplace, including being passed over for promotions and pushed out of their jobs.

The Impact of Unconscious Bias

Unconscious bias can have a significant impact on the hiring process. Biases can influence decision-making, leading to discrimination against certain groups of people, including women and older workers. These biases are often unconscious, meaning that individuals may not even realize that they are discriminating against someone.

The impact of unconscious bias can be particularly pronounced when it comes to hiring decisions. Hiring managers may unconsciously associate success with certain characteristics, such as youth or masculinity, leading them to favor candidates who fit these criteria. This can result in less diversity and inclusivity in the workplace, which can have negative consequences for productivity and employee morale.

The Intersection of Sexism and Ageism in Hiring

Sexism and ageism can intersect in the hiring process, creating unique challenges for individuals who are both women and older workers. Research from Coqual has shown that women over 50 are more likely to experience age discrimination in the workplace, including being passed over for promotions, receiving lower pay, and experiencing harassment.

This intersection of sexism and ageism can have serious consequences for individuals who are trying to find employment. Women who are over 50 may face a double dose of discrimination, making it even more difficult for them to find jobs that match their qualifications and experience.

Steps Organizations Can Take to Address Sexism and Ageism in Hiring

There are several steps that organizations can take to address sexism and ageism in hiring, including:

  1. Acknowledge the problem: Organizations must acknowledge that unconscious bias exists and can impact decision-making in hiring.

  2. Educate hiring managers: Organizations can provide education and training to hiring managers to help them recognize their biases and take steps to overcome them.

  3. Standardize the hiring process: Organizations can develop standardized hiring processes that eliminate subjectivity and ensure that all candidates are evaluated based on the same criteria.

  4. Ensure diverse hiring panels: Organizations can ensure that hiring panels are diverse and represent a range of perspectives, experiences, and backgrounds.

  5. Implement blind hiring practices: Organizations can implement blind hiring practices, such as removing identifying information from resumes, to reduce the impact of unconscious bias.

  6. Create inclusive workplace cultures: Organizations can create inclusive workplace cultures that value diversity and inclusivity, and provide support and opportunities for all employees.

The evidence of sexism and ageism in hiring is clear, and the impact of unconscious bias on decision-making can have serious consequences for individuals and organizations. By acknowledging the problem, educating hiring managers, standardizing the hiring process, ensuring diverse hiring panels, implementing blind hiring practices, and creating inclusive workplace cultures, organizations can begin to address these issues and create more diverse and inclusive workforces. It is essential for organizations to take these steps to ensure that they are hiring the most qualified candidates and creating a workplace that values and supports all employees, regardless of their gender or age. Addressing sexism and ageism in hiring is not only the right thing to do, it's also good for business. Organizations that value diversity and inclusivity are more likely to attract and retain top talent, which can lead to increased productivity, innovation, and profitability.

It's important to remember that addressing sexism and ageism in hiring requires ongoing effort and commitment. It's not enough to simply implement one or two strategies and hope for the best. Organizations must be willing to make changes to their hiring practices, culture, and policies, and regularly assess their progress to ensure that they are making a real difference.

In conclusion, addressing sexism and ageism in hiring is a critical issue that requires attention and action from organizations, hiring managers, and individuals alike. By understanding the evidence of discrimination, the impact of unconscious bias, and the steps that can be taken to address these issues, we can work together to create more diverse, inclusive, and equitable workplaces for all.

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