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Age and workplace diversity

Diversity in the workplace is not some narrow thing that just involves one or two factors. Rather, how diverse a given workplace is is affected by a range of different things. However, some aspects of workplace diversity tend not to get the same amount of attention from employers as others. Experts and survey data suggest that age diversity is one of those things.

In a survey which asked CEOs what things their company focused on when it came to promoting diversity, gender and race/ethnicity/nationality came up far more in their answers than age. Race/ethnicity/nationality was around three times more common of a response and gender was over four times more common of a response than age.

Why might age be getting ignored as a diversity factor by employers? There are many possible contributors. Employers might be putting off working on age diversity to instead work on things they consider to be of more immediate concern. They might be influenced by how much more attention in the news things like gender and race diversity tend to get as compared to age diversity. Employers may also sometimes let stereotypes regarding older workers get in the way of promoting age diversity.

When employers fail to consider age diversity in their overall view of workplace diversity, it could have negative effects, on workers and the workplace as a whole.

For one, when employers don’t include age in their diversity efforts, and instead let misconceptions about age seep into their decisions, it could result in older workers being subjected to age discrimination. This could include discrimination in hiring, promotions, workplace opportunities, scheduling or layoff decisions. When a worker believes that their employer has discriminated against them based on age, they may want to have a lawyer look into what sort of evidence is present of possible violations of employment laws (like the Age Discrimination in Employment Act).

Employers not considering age as diversity factor could also keep a workplace from having as full of diversity as it could. This could be harmful for a workplace and its culture, given the benefits full diversity can have.

What do you think could lead to a greater consideration of age as a diversity factor by employers?

Source: Bloomberg BNA, “Talkin’ 'Bout All Generations: Workplace Age Diversity Lacking,” Patrick Dorrian, Nov. 29, 2016

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