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Prioritizing Inclusion: Recognizing and Countering Ageism in the Workplace

Valuing diversity, equity, and inclusion has become an essential norm for many employers, serving as fundamental components of their employee and customer value propositions. However, the issue of ageism, particularly its impact on older workers, often doesn’t receive adequate attention within DEI discussions, even though it can greatly affect a company’s overall performance and success. Despite anti-age discrimination laws, ageism silently persists in numerous workplaces.

Moreover, there’s an intersection between ageism and sexism, frequently labeled as ‘gendered ageism.’ It’s been observed that ageism tends to disproportionately affect women, with the bias becoming even more pronounced when race and ethnicity come into play.

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Ageism leads individuals to feel undervalued and disrespected, which consequently results in decreased job satisfaction and motivation. Such feelings can culminate in reduced productivity and high staff turnover. Additionally, ageism can negatively affect older workers’ mental health and well-being, causing them to feel their contributions are no longer appreciated.

Employers often lean towards younger candidates, assuming they are more technologically proficient, innovative, and adaptable. However, research indicates that the skills and experiences of older workers can be beneficial to organizations. Diverse teams, inclusive of different age groups, have been found to be more productive, innovative, and successful. Older workers also tend to show greater loyalty and dependability by staying longer in jobs and taking fewer unexpected leaves than their younger peers.

Despite possessing relevant skills and experience, older workers often face barriers in career advancement. They may also not be afforded the same training and development opportunities as their younger colleagues, which can hinder their ability to stay abreast of new technologies and processes.

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To mitigate ageism, employers should embed DEI in their culture and ensure fair and equitable treatment for all. This could entail the establishment of training initiatives emphasizing the advantages of age diversity and the elimination of biases in recruitment and promotion practices. Additionally, introducing mentorship programs pairing younger and older workers can foster knowledge and experience exchange.

Based on Statistics Canada’s data, as of last year, one in five Canadian workers were at least 55 years old. In August alone, approximately 307,000 Canadians retired — an all-time high. If this pattern persists, its impact on businesses could be more disruptive than the much-discussed ‘Great Resignation.’

Therefore, it’s crucial to heighten awareness about ageism and foster positive perceptions about aging. By crafting inclusive, equitable workplaces that value older workers’ contributions, companies can nurture a culture that promotes lifelong learning and continual growth, to the advantage of their employees, their business, and society at large.


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