I am pleased to share my latest post to The SHRM Blog.
I recently went to a Phillies game. Even at 90 plus degrees, I loved it. The win did not hurt either!
When there, I decided I wanted to learn a little more about the players’ vital stats, such as battering averages, home runs, RBIs, etc. The scoreboard provided this information but not quite as prominently as something else: the age of each player.
I now know the shortstop for the Phillies is age 24. But why does that matter?
Can you imagine if instead the scoreboard stated his race, religion or sexual orientation? It would never happen, at least not on a scoreboard.
And, calling out age, even at a ball game, has an effect. When I saw one player was age 33, my first thought was “older.”
We call out age in our culture often with a preference for youth. How often do we hear in laudatory terms how someone looks younger than their age?
It is more than 50 years since the enactment of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. Yet, age discrimination remains a persistent problem: https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/history/adea50th/report.cfm
Because society calls out age (often with no bad intent), we need to focus consciously on where our cultures may exclude individuals who are older. Here are but a few examples relative to hiring:
Do our job descriptions use words that may suggest youth, such as energy? Regardless of intent, the word “energy” may turn away an older worker who sees it as evidence of a culture that may not be as open to older workers. Why use energy when there are so many other words that convey the same message without the possible suggestion of bias, such as enthusiastic, passionate and action-oriented?
Do our recruitment materials include pictures only of younger individuals? I have seen many that do. It has been said that a picture paints a thousand words and among the words that may be painted are bias and exclusion.
Do we have positions that remain vacant because we cannot find qualified talent but then reject individuals who are overqualified? Yes, “overqualified” individuals tend to be older. Does it make business sense to keep a position vacant when there is a qualified applicant who happens to be overqualified?
Do we focus almost myopically on how to attract and retain millennials? Many articles sure do. There is another term for millennials: young.
We should not pretend to be age blind. We are not. To the contrary, we are quite aware of it.
For talent and legal reasons, we should acknowledge the degree to which our culture values youth and evaluate practices embedded in our culture that may do the very same without even a hint of bad intent.
Shortstop. Full stop.