“Stand up for your rights, don’t give up the fight” Bob Marley
The Canadian Human Rights Act is a statute passed by the Parliament of Canada in 1977 with the express goal of extending the law to ensure equal opportunity to individuals who may be victims of discriminatory practices based on a set of prohibited grounds such as sex, sexual orientation, race, marital status, gender identity or expression, creed, age, colour, disability, political or religious belief. In 2016, the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau introduced An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code (C-16) in the House of Commons of Canada, to add and include “gender identity or expression” to the legislation.
There are many feminist policies to protect gender equality within the society or on the workplace and avoid discrimination. Most of these policies are transversal and based on GBA+, a gender-based analysis where the “plus” means intersectionality The “plus” in GBA+ acknowledges that GBA goes beyond biological (sex) and socio-cultural (gender) differences and considers many other factors making us who we are, like race, ethnicity, religion, age, and mental or physical disability.
Great! But if discrimination based on gender, race or even disability remains hot topics, ageism stays under-the-radar… No employer wants to recognize having laid off or not having hired an employee based on the age.
Today, four generations find themselves cohabiting in the workplace. This may have an impact on collaboration and communication, as well on perceptions.
The cliché is particularly running is some positions and jobs with millennials and boomers, and related to technology. The competition is tough and you have to constantly upgrade your knowledge. Usually we’re used with the glass ceiling perception but Nicole Galluci (Globe and Mail) describes a glass floor:” companies, specifically in the tech industry, who undervalue experience and mentorship and never hire employees past a certain age”.
Of course, when a job seeker over the 45’s is looking for a job, struggling to get interviews, he will never get the answer “you’re too old”… The answers are much more insidious and it is difficult to interfere to demonstrate discrimination. Some real examples: “You’re overqualified”, “With that much experience, start a business instead”, “You have so much expertise, we are concerned that you will get bored in this position”, “Sorry but it’s more a Junior position and with your skills…[understand we will not be able to pay you]”, etc.
The solution is certainly not hiding a slice of the career out of the resume, shy be ashamed of such an experience? Stay confident that with that expertise, you’re talented, reliable and driven by the passion for your work. The journey can be long but you will find…
According to several studies, most age discrimination occurs among the older workers when employers hold negative stereotypes about them. Though evidence on declines in productivity is inconsistent, “other evidence points to declines in acuteness of vision or hearing, ease of memorization, computational speed, etc.” Another factor employers take into consideration is the higher cost of health or life insurance for older workers.
Yet older coworkers bring more experience in a company, more maturity and more serenity. Their children are often older which makes them also more flexible. Is it even taken into account?
And what about knowledge transfer? It’s a key component for a productive workplace. But beliefs are hard and claim that older workers are unable to learn and take new challenge. However, knowledge transfer between generations should be a motivation and are an important outcome.
Studies show that older workers have a slightly negative perception of their millennials colleagues. Nevertheless, the same younger colleagues perceive their older coworkers quite positively. And these perception patterns influence the communications, the workplace relationships and the engagement in knowledge transfer.
Actually, stereotypes are not a one-way, as older employees are victims, from millennials. These are also being criticized by their elders. Research suggests that age discrimination on the workplace has increased in the past years. The only way to fight discrimination is by building positive relationships among employees and having an equal hiring policy within the organization.
The loss of jobs among older workers is a high-risk situation, since it can lead to a long-term precariousness and finally to an exclusion from the labour market.
The studies show that it’s crucial for older workers to return to the labour market in qualified, sustainable, adequate, decent and sustainable work. Not only for the worker, to allow him/her a worthwhile personal life. But also for the organization, where the older coworkers can contribute to a sustainable development and wealth of skills.
Currently, the older worker still needs to negotiate and struggle a lot with the ageism but this must really be the next diversity challenge to tackle, indeed!
- Kelly Harris, MSc Sarah Krygsman, MSc Jessica Waschenko, MSc Debbie Laliberte Rudman, PhDThe Gerontologist, Volume 58, Issue 2, 19 March 2018, Pages e1–e14, https://doi.org/10.1093/geront/gnw194 Published:12 January 2017
- Understanding Older Canadian Workers’ Perspectives on Aging in the Context of Communication and Knowledge Transfer. de Blois, Sarah;Lagacé, Martine; Canadian Journal of Communication. 2017, Vol. 42 Issue 4, p631-644. 14p.
- Job Loss in a Group of Older Canadian Workers: Challenges in the Sustainable Labour Market Reintegration Process Geneviève Fournier , Hélène Zimmermann , Jonas Masdonati and Christine Gauthier ;Département des Fondements et Pratiques en Éducation, Centre de Recherche sur l’Intervention Et la Vie Au Travail (CRIEVAT), Faculté des Sciences de l’Éducation, Laval University; Institute of Psychology, Research Center in Vocational Psychology and Career Counseling (CePCO), University of Lausanne, Switzerland; Sustainability 2018, 10(7), 2245