As America goes through its racial reckoning, ageism is another form discrimination that advocates feel doesn’t get as much attention.
Studies show that the age bias of employers in deciding who to keep and who should be let go increased as a result of the widespread layoffs during the pandemic.
AARP conducted a survey before the pandemic and found that 61% had experienced or seen age discrimination at work.
When the study was completed, 78% of those who had experienced or seen age discrimination increased to 78%. This is the highest level of the problem AARP has ever seen since 2003, when it started tracking it.
“I had a track record, a very successful track record. I was known in Denver as one of the best in the business,” said Linda Harmon, a 67-year-old marketing professional who was denied a job, she said because of her age. “The big joke with women my age is that you have to keep your hair colored. You have to do this or that because they know how old you are and if they know how old you are, you can’t be hired.”
Harmon applied for the chief marketing position in a company but was rejected by her hiring manager when she said she would not be able to manage their social media strategy.
She said that she was scared by the feedback and had to leave the job market almost for two years.
“It was extremely difficult,” she stated. “If there are gaps in what could enable you to get your dream job, you fill those gaps, and I looked at this and thought, this is a gap I can’t fill. So what do I do?’”
Age discrimination is not just psychological, but studies have also shown that it can have financial consequences.
ProPublica and the Urban Institute conducted a study that found 90% of older workers who were fired before they retired were not able to regain their former earning power.
“Ageism hurts us on every level: it hurts us financially, it hurts us health-wise because, and I think this is why it’s so hard to get people in front of the camera,” said Janine Vanderburg, executive director of the Changing the Story group that works to combat ageism. “People are reluctant to admit that they believe there is something wrong with them, rather than that there is a systemic problem called Age Bias.”