Does Diversity Include Age?
by. M. Anthony Sacco of Stratalyne
Premise: Age is an often overlooked and under valued aspect of organizational diversity.
I’m sure you’ve seen or heard it multiple times, “Seeking an energetic …..” and you fill in the rest. As someone who has a long career that included wearing the Human Resources shoes in one way (directly) or the other (indirectly but involved), I cringe every time I read or hear this phrase. Why not come right out and say it, “We want someone who is young.”. That is what this use of the word “energetic” means in this context. And, it shows a lack of respect and understanding of the value of age diversity.
Okay, I could buy “entry-level” or “new-to-the-field” or probably even “recent graduate” but, assuming that youth equals energy or that energy is a sound hiring trait is just wrong. How about experienced, effective, efficient, and educated?
I’ve been there, in a CEO’s office, hearing that I was fully qualified, and then told I was being passed over for reason of, clearly and succinctly, age (that was even defined by at number). I have had direct experience with blatant verbal age discrimination by principals in a firm, who then, lacked the integrity to admit that they said what they said when they were called on it. Either there is some real lack of understanding of age discrimination at the C-Level, or maybe it is that there is a convenient double standard that includes the subordinate but not the executive.
So what does this have to do with diversity. At this point I’ll let you decide how the experience, alignment to results, efficacy, and objectivity that comes with having been there and dealt with a challenging situation before could be of value to an organization. And, the reality is that “energy” does not equal effectivity nor does energy have a reverse correlation to age.