Ageism in the workplace takes the stage at a conference in Melville

Mark Fogel discusses the topic of ageism in a crowded conference room at the Melville Marriott Hotel

By Stephanie Melo & Kelly Alvarado

More than 50 participants gathered at the Melville Marriott last Wednesday to learn about professional biases and ageism.

Some of the attendants, who were concerned about age discrimination, attended a breakfast meeting organized by the Society for Human Resource Management of Long Island, which provides education to HR professionals.

“Where we are right now with ageism is where we were with sexual harassment 5-6 years ago,” Mark Fogel, presenter at the event and co-founder of Human Capital 3.0, an organizational leadership firm, said. 

As serious as claims of sexual harassment, race, gender and sexuality discrimination are, Fogel believes they are prioritized while ageism is overlooked. Fogel’s lecture brought forward awareness and suggestions to help eliminate age biases methods of selection and promotion. 

“Mark my words, ageism, this will be the big topic, 5-6 years. This will be the #MeToo,” Fogel said.

Ageism is when workers encounter age prejudices with their current employers or when looking for labor. These individuals are facing discriminatory rhetoric embedded in the interview process. Although ageism can be targeted towards any age group, the event focused on discrimination of older employees. 

The seminar was targeted towards HR executives, but the general public could still attend. Fogel’s focus on age discrimination brought upon a discussion in the room that unveiled the seriousness of this topic. Many of the participants told their personal stories of ageism, either in their workplace, or through job hunting. The presentation helped acknowledge warning signs, how job listings can be age biased, and the lack of age inclusivity in advertising. 

Terms like being overqualified, a poor fit, not tech savvy, and unsuited for the company’s culture seem to be common job rejections among people of this age group. Fogel also explained how older generations are excluded in job advertisements that are primarily on social media, require a college G.P.A., requests high-energy applicants or shows pictures of employees of a younger crowd. 

“About a year and a half ago I was peacefully removed from a job I had. I was the oldest person on the team and delivering the same results as everybody else on that team, none of which were very good, and I was the one that was given the choice to resign or be fired,” Chris Sullivan, one of the attendees at the event, said.

The program also listed ways to fight age discrimination in the work sphere. Eliminating biases in job advertisements, group interviewing, and providing training opportunities to employees of all ages, were some of the possible solutions for age discrimination.

The unveiling of this discreet rhetoric helped reveal to Sullivan, as well as others, how prevalent these discriminatory practices are. 

“It’s probably a lot more widespread than I even imagined it was and I never really felt I was being discriminated against until I was given the option to stay or go.” Sullivan said.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 protects certain applicants and employees 40 years of age and older from discrimination on the basis of age in hiring, promotion and conditions of employment. However, some individuals believe they are still discriminated against in subtle ways that are biased in terms of age. 

“Some of the phrases that you get back from a job rejections or an interview rejection you’re not a fit for the company, you don’t match the qualifications, you won’t fit into the company’s culture,” Chris Ingram,  an HR executive who has been unemployed for 14 months, said.

This conference allows for a taboo topic to be spoken upon. Women like Stephanie Horn, President of Synergy Professional HR Consulting Inc., she attended for insight. 

“I want to know what to do when age discrimination is apparent. What am I supposed to do or who am I supposed to speak to to avoid that from happening?” Horn said.

Although she finds the topic of ageism to be important, she believes that outside of the conference doors, it never seems to be discussed and there is avoidance.

“When I ask further I get no response, I get no help,” Horn said.

The first step, Fogel believes, is the education of ageism among marketing and management individuals and then taking preventable measures to stop the cycle of ageism.