Ageism: Combating Discrimination in the Workplace - all about companies that discriminate against older workers and what can be done about it

Essay by karmaboyUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, June 2003

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In an investigation conducted in the Fall of 1999, researchers found striking evidence supporting the notion that age discrimination, or "ageism"--a term coined by Robert Butler in 1976--is far more pervasive than previously understood. In the article, which focused on ageism in the workplace, business students in their 20s were engaged in an exercise making decisions that affect employees of a fictitious company. These employees were described as "younger" or "older" and were then presented with various scenarios, such as whether to retrain or replace a worker whose skills had become obsolete. Results showed many students made decisions that were remarkably biased (Reio & Sanders-Reio, 1). Based on findings, the article suggested that employees are faced with resistance in career advancement as early as 40 years of age and offered surprising statistics relative to age-related stereotypes (Reio et al., 2). Using a very comprehensive approach, it goes further to illustrate common myths regarding older workers, depicting them as "less energetic, technically outdated, slow, less productive, rigid, unwilling to change, uninterested in learning, less innovative, technology- and computer-phobic, susceptible to physical ailments and less able to learn."

It also shares a historical perspective and identifies who is most vulnerable to discrimination, and notes the increased challenges of those who are already discriminated against for other reasons, such as being part of a low-status group including racial minorities, single, divorced and widowed women. Different factors affecting the severity of discrimination are also discussed. Reio & Sanders-Reio postulate how current adult education serves to perpetuate ageism, and despite employee access to training, mention how some companies segregate groups or offer differing amounts of training to age cohorts, ultimately giving an advantage to younger workers. Lastly, they present future-oriented information on how to counter discriminatory injustices.

Much can be done to combat discrimination in...