An impressive team gathered to discuss one of the final taboos in the workplace — ageism. Carole Easton (CEO, Centre for Ageing Better) lead the panel with Jane Storm (chief people officer, Saga plc), Helen Webb (chief people & services officer, Co-op) and Pauline Miller (chief equity officer EMEA, Dentsu International).
Carole began by offering some questions to ponder and giving the audience some key facts, including that 30% of job seekers aged 50-60 are put off applying for jobs as they’ve experienced ageism, and that older people are dropping out of workforce and not coming back. She asked us to consider what ageism looks like — perhaps being told you’re “too qualified” or being told employers want “an energetic and dynamic recent graduate”.
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Jane explained how ageism is being address in Saga, placing huge importance on the value of insights, and understanding the needs of staff as well as customers — in particular as the Saga audience is an older one.
The team considered the idea of grandparent leave and of course attitudes to the menopause, and how employers can best support.
Pauline stressed the importance of intersectionality, examining what ageing means to the LGBTQ community and reminding us we need to think about ageing in the broadest terms as well. She also made the key point that there can be a real disconnect between the treatment of C Suite leaders, and employees further down the scale who are of exactly the same age.
Helen discussed the idea of taking out DOB on forms as a straightforward place to start — and addressed training programmes within the Co-op too, for example having no age limit on apprenticeships. She said the eldest apprentice they’ve taken on was 82 — stressing the concept helps both the person whose life has been changed by the opportunity, and the attractiveness of the Co-op as an employer.
She also noted that organisations should be shouting a little more about how flexible companies can be, and that it’s hard to have the funds to advertise every scheme on offer so national conversations need to be had in order to move thinking along.
Jane addressed the idea of hidden biases, and stressed how confidence is intertwined in the issue. She noted a colleague who’d left a previous job because everyone kept asking her about retirement plans, adding that organisations have to nurture and encourage confidence in the older generation if they want to retain older talent.
To wrap, Carole asked the panel about what excites them about the agenda — with Jane saying the learnings have been fascinating, with Helen backing her up adding that talent has no age limit! Pauline reminded us all we need to harness the experience of older employees and use it well within organisations — as we will all be the older employee one day!