Article by Ceri Wheeldon



I have been a long term campaigner for addressing ageism in the workplace. I was really pleased to be asked to contribute an article to People Management magazine ( the HR Professionals official publication) explaining how women over 50 are affected by ageism in the recruitment process. This illustrates that the HR profession has taken note and that it is being taken seriously.  As the population ages so does the workforce – it is a major problem facing most of the major economies and needs to be addressed. In fact the country needs us to work.  In 2025 it is  forecast that there will be 13.5 million vacancies – with only 7 million young people leaving school/college and entering the workplace. So with fewer people joining the workforce, there is a need to retain those of us already working for longer.  The over 50s have to be appreciated and retained and if necessary retrained.

Men are affected by ageism in the workplace too

What was interesting was the number of messages I received from men who read the article – they stressed that they are affected too.

As women we are used to fighting our corner for equal opportunities and equal pay. I think for many men, experiencing ageism is the first real barrier to ambition and employment they have encountered. It seems to affect them across the spectrum at all levels in all professions.

Ageism affects us all

It illustrates that ageism is the one ‘ism’ that affects us all. It is an ‘ism’ that all generations should be aware of, and opposed to. It will affect everyone.

It is crucial to the quality of life for all of us. At a session at the recent CIPD’s Festival of Work conference , figures were shared regarding the UK’s productivity. For decades it increased at 2% per annum. Over the last decade it has increased by only 0.2% per annum. With an ageing population and potentially increased demands on health services – the need to both safeguard the health and wellbeing of those able to work for longer, while enabling them to have sustainable skills, has never been greater. We need to be more productive as a nation – and older workers can contribute to that productivity -given the opportunity to do so.

Older workers are assets , not liabilities

A dramatic shift in mindset is required . Older workers must be viewed as assets – not liabilities.

Perceptions that the over 50s are slow to learn, not ambitious, more expensive, difficult to manage, take more sick days are unfounded. The over 50s are happy to embrace new technologies. They have already demonstrated the ability to thrive through change in their careers to date. When most started work there were no PCs or laptops, no mobile phones, no internet, no emails, no social media. We have already illustrated our ability to transition to a new way of working (and living) . Past performance is always a good indicator of future performance – and the over 50s have repeatedly proven themselves over the past 3 decades in the workplace.

They also bring a wealth of experience in terms of not just navigating technological change , but to adapting to new environments and economic times. They are problem solvers. Far too valuable to be ignored and set aside.

Assets not liabilities !!

If you want to ensure that your skills are sustainable and marketable, check out the careers module of the MidLife MOT