Age discrimination is a double-edged sword: we cut down the elderly for being too slow to respond, and the young for being too quick to act. But when it comes to your job, is there such a thing as too young or too old?
While reading the Australian Human Rights Commission’s (AHRC’s) recently released report, Willing to Work, I discovered I am dangerously close to “unacceptable”.
The research for the report investigated employment discrimination against older Australians. Citing the 2015 National Prevalence Survey of Age Discrimination in the Workplace, it found that 10 per cent of business respondents were above the age of 50 – the age at which they themselves would not recruit a new employee.
I’m glad I wasn’t aware of that statistic when I celebrated my 50th birthday a few months ago. I dubbed this event a “launch into my power decade”. In my professional life particularly, I have never felt more able to bring real value to my clients as I consolidate the breadth and depth of all my past experience. An hour after reading the report, the phone rang. It was my 83-year-old mother wanting to tell me about an encounter she’d had at a ballroom dancing event the previous Saturday night.
“A woman came up to me and said, ‘Gee, aren’t you amazing, the way you keep coming to dances? At your age!’ She intended it as a compliment, but it left me feeling so flat. She sees me in such a different light to how I see myself.”