Ageism and sexism ‘end women’s careers at 45’
Firms accused of failing to recruit, train and promote them
A DOUBLE dose of ageism and sexism effectively ends women’s careers at the age of 45, a major report will say tomorrow. The Government- backed research found that firms write off mature female staff by failing to recruit, train and promote them.
Men also face age discrimination, but their career progression apparently ends a decade later than women – at around 55.
The study by the Government’s older workers’ champion, Ros Altmann, questioned HR executives, employees and bosses.
She uncovered damning evidence that women who have barely reached middle age are being passed over for better-paid roles because they were deemed to be ‘past it’.
Workers with young bosses face the worst discrimination, as do those who are increasingly required to have IT skills, including knowledge of social media.
Dr Altmann said many employers wrongly assume that older staff who are less familiar with computer technology will not be able to learn, and fail to train them, leaving them lagging behind.
Women faced an extra layer of discrimination from employers who want young, female staff who ‘look a certain way’, she added.
The damning report will say: ‘Promotion prospects for older women are limited – talent progression for them stops around age 45.
‘For men it is said to be around age 55. After that, the attitudes in the workplace usually change.’
Dr Altmann told the Mail it was wrong to write someone off just because off their age.
She added: ‘This should be as unacceptable as deciding not to promote or train them for career progression because of their race. It is pure discrimination.
‘Many women and men are reaching their prime in their fifties, and are certainly not past it.
‘Unfortunately, workplace attitudes as still so ageist and this urgently needs to change.’
The report singled out the television industry as a prime example, claiming that older women are ‘far less likely to be retained as main newsreaders or presenters’.
Last month, a former BBC journalist claimed that the corporation wrote off women over 50 as ‘barking’. Olenka Frenkiel told the house of Lords she feared bosses would ‘try to paint me mad’ when she challenged the redundancy notice she was served with after entering her mid-50s.
Former Countryfile host Miriam O’Reilly, 58, won a landmark age discrimination case against the BBC four years ago, after claiming she was axed from the show when it moved to a primetime slot.
Dr Altmann said the media was one of many industries failing to value women over 45.
She cited the case of a lecturer called Lauren, with a PhD and 20 years of experience, who was overlooked for a more senior job in favour of a recent student of hers.
The respected academic, who is in her 50s, said: ‘There was no rational reason for them not to give it to me. I realised then that I was being discriminated against because of my age.’
A recent survey of teachers over 50 by union NASUWT found 40 per cent had seen job adverts that sug- gested older teachers should not apply. Nearly a third said they had been subjected to negative comments about their competence due to their age.
Caroline Abrahams, of Age UK, said: ‘Knowledge, talent and ambition don’t disappear because people reach a certain age, so it is very disappointing that older workers, including many women, face so many ageist barriers in the workplace.
‘We are all living longer and working lives are extending – by 2020 state pension age will be 66 for everyone, and many of us will want to continue working into our early 70s or even beyond.
‘employers simply can’t afford to ignore their older employees – not only is it discriminatory, it doesn’t make economic sense to ignore the wealth of skills and experience they have built up. There is overwhelming evidence that older workers are at least as productive as their younger counterparts.’
‘It is pure discrimination’