Article by Ceri Wheeldon
I attended an event over the weekend covering the topic of ageism in the fashion industry (organised by the Bias Cut.com). It was interesting to see how the discussion progressed to include ageism in the workplace in general. There is a trend currently on social media for women to share their ‘going grey’ journeys, it has almost become the case that if you choose not to go grey you are letting down the sisterhood.
Personally I believe that hair colour is a very personal choice at any age. Not all women even go grey (at the moment I’m one of them). There should be no rules when it comes to how we should look over 50. We are an individual at this stage of our lives as we are at any other . One size does not fit all! One of the attendees at the discussion said that she worked in the corporate world and that there was no way she would risk going grey if she wanted to continue to process her career….or keep her job!
Fear of how going grey could affect their livelihood
At a time when we have an ageing workforce, the fear of how going grey can impact your livelihood should not be a factor when it comes to employment. Why do women feel under pressure to disguise the physical signs of ageing? Is this the case in the workplace in general or just certain sectors? I have met many women in academia who have happily gone grey with seemingly adverse no consequences, women with careers as mature models obtain more work if they go grey, whilst others in the world of high tech were adamant that they had to be extremely guarded about their age.. In fact I met one marketing director who I thought would make a great interviewee for Fab after Fifty but she said that she could not take the risk on going public about her age as it would limit her career options if it was known that she was over 50! Sadly it is the very women like her who need to come forward as role models to help change the perception of ‘older’ women in the workplace. If someone is concerned about concealing their age at 50, then there needs to be a dramatic shift in mindset now that we are all expected to work until we are 66, 67 and beyond!
What can employers do to help the situation?
Appoint age diversity champions, individuals who are respected across the organisation and are proud to stand out as role models
Run age diversity workshops, where employees of all age groups can better understand and appreciate the qualities of each generation.
Encourage multi generational project teams
Provide training and guidance to younger line managers on how best to manage and appreciate ‘older’ workers
How can individuals help combat ageism in the workplace?
Don’t let your age become an issue.
Put yourself in situations where you continue to learn and grow.
Lead by example
Future proof your skills.
In an ideal world there would be no ageism in the workplace. If women feel they can’t allow their hair to go grey due to the potential negative impact in the workplace it shows that we still have a long way to go to have age not be a barrier in the workplace.