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Spot the Bias

 Jan 27, 2020 2:00 PM
by Helen Spence

There is considerable irony in job ads that proudly pronounce the employer is an Equal Opportunity Employer (EOE/AA) but the words in the ad reflect anything but! Recently, I came across one that epitomized this scenario. See if you can spot the bias. For the sake of anonymity, I have changed references but the essence remains.

“Young, enthusiastic person with good marketing skills and technical acumen.

  • 8-10 years of work experience
  • Manufacturing expertise is preferred
  • ETC.”

Yup, you got it. The very first word was discriminatory and yet this was an ad from an EOE/AA certified business.

Imagine starting an ad with “white” rather than “young”? Would that have alerted anyone more quickly to the fact that there was bias? It would have been considered shocking in today’s world. However, when references are made to age, no one seems to notice.

Unfortunately, this kind of discrimination is pervasive. Ageism continues to be widely accepted and is so well-tolerated that we often don’t recognize our own internal bias.

Many organizations and businesses are allegedly inclusive. No doubt they are as long as you are indigenous, LBGTQ2S, a woman, disabled, an immigrant or refugee, and ethnically diverse. But, if you are over a certain age and looking for work or you want to stay in your job, you can be sure that your age will come into play.

Age discrimination in both retention and recruitment is a serious obstacle. An American study involving 40,000 fictitious CVs sent in response to advertised vacancies for low-skilled jobs found that applicants between 49 and 51 had 19% fewer callbacks than those aged 29 to 31 with otherwise identical CVs. For the 64-66 age group, the difference was 35%. Source: Age Discrimination and Hiring of Older Workers, Research from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco 2017

What is most troubling is the lack of awareness about age diversity and inclusion. Routinely age is not part of the conversation, nor will it ever be if we don’t start to make a fuss and take ageism out of the closet.

Here are a few tips that will help you make a difference:

  • Observe the types of diversity being advertised. If age is missing, bring it to the attention of the advertiser.
  • Write to your local MPP or MP to raise their awareness of this gap in diversity and inclusion.
  • If you are currently employed, check out your employer’s diversity policies. Is age included?

With the shift to an older demographic, ageism is more topical than ever before. We all have a role to play in its elimination.

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