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    Ageism is Bidirectional

    August 26, 2021

    Is your organization taking real action on DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion)? And are you addressing ageism as part of this work?

    Ageism is both a broad and deep problem. According to a report released in March 2021 by the World Health Organization (WHO), one out of two people around the world holds ageist attitudes. During the COVID-19 pandemic, ageism has become more evident as age-based stereotypes spread on social media and in public discourse. While many think of ageism as an issue centered on older people, it really is a bidirectional issue; it moves in both directions. It is present across healthcare, education, business, housing, and other areas that affect health, well-being, and quality of life.

    In the corporate realm, both older and younger adults experience ageism. While older people often lose access to specialized training and education as they age, younger people often find their voices or experiences dismissed. Whether deliberate or not, categorization of employees by age can be divisive and damaging. It can lead to prejudicial attitudes and discriminatory acts — and even institutional policies and practices that perpetuate stereotypical beliefs.

    How can your organization take steps to prevent ageism? Make a commitment to pursuing better hiring, management, and promotion policies; extending educational and mentoring programs; and building collaborative and networking activities across age groups. Offer training that helps people to stay relevant for longer periods of time within their career. You might also seek new ways to create an environment in which younger people feel included and have the tools and opportunity to move forward in their career.

    Begin a conversation on the meaning of social identity and how it not only shapes individual perspectives but also influences interactions with others. Collect data as you go so that you can build evidence-based strategies to change the way your organization understands age and aging.

    When age is part of the conversation, your organization stands to benefit more fully from its DEI efforts. All people deserve equal opportunity and treatment, and when these things happen within your organization, you’ll benefit from a richer blend of skills, experience, perspective, and creativity.

    Renard Jenkins

    SMPTE Governor for Eastern Region, Chair of SMPTE Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

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