So, I read this article on the Guardian about older women being shunned in business. Partly because I read the Guardian in an attempt to look cultured and worldly, and partly because the piece was written by someone I work for. (Hi, Lynne!)
Ageism in the workplace. Literally ‘this old chestnut’.
The article’s more about ‘grannies’, women in their 50s and 60s who suddenly find they’re not as popular around the office. The opportunities dry up. They’re told not to go to conferences or publicly represent the company because they’re older. Younger colleagues get the work and the chances.
That… sounds horrible. I’m absolutely not looking forward to that stage of my career.
But we’re (mostly) nowhere near this point. The vast majority of you lot reading this are probably under 30. So how is this relevant, I pretend to hear you cry?
I’d argue that ageism is worse if you work in a creative environment. Everyone’s young, and fresh, and exciting – or at least dresses that way. If you haven’t made C-level by early-30-something, you done goofed. And the problem isn’t new. Even five years ago, the IPA put the average age of people who work in advertising at 34.
There’s something else that bugs me about this, though.
Y’see, I live in a paradox. I am a paradox, but with glasses and a caffeine problem. I’m filtered out of the job openings and little projects aimed at ‘young’ creatives, on account of my being over 25. That feeling of ‘quarter-life crisis’ isn’t limited to me by any means, as Sam also thinks 25′s a honking great turning point in life. It sure is. Trying to work out whether I’ve genuinely grown up or just aged a little is hard.
And yet I have trouble getting people to take me seriously at work because I don’t LOOK old enough. Yay. Coming to cinemas in 2016: Kady’s directorial debut, Short Women Can’t Write.
Most people who’ve met me would agree I don’t look 28. I look an age, but not that one specifically. That’s something I’m at peace with. I was hoping, with the whole puberty thing and snappy dressing, that I could at least pass for ‘grown-up’. But no. It seems I look so childlike that I may as well have no boobs, voice or opinion.
I was once told that I would never be able to attend client meetings. Do I have a track record of fucking up presentations? Nope. The person telling me this feared that clients would see me and doubt my level of experience.
A similar thing happened in a later job interview. To paraphrase: ‘This role involves a lot of liaising with other teams, and we’re not sure they’d listen to you. To be fair… you don’t look like someone who commands authority, do you?’ And my interviewer was a woman.
What. The. Fuck.
Battling ageism is one thing, but doing so while trying to convince people you *are* in fact old enough to be experienced and responsible? Rock and a hard place.
If there’s a clear solution to this problem, I have yet to find it. Choosing to associate with people who see me as the (moderately) successful adult woman I am totally helps. But it doesn’t stop the occasional smart-arse from remarking on my stature.
You can’t just judge people on how old they may or may not be. That is in fact illegal. You can’t just judge people on how they look. That’s illegal, too, just not in the sense I’m talking about here. Discriminating based on physically obvious things like race and (trans)gender is against the law. Discriminating based on height doesn’t seem to be covered. But if you’re assuming someone to be an age they’re not, then guess what? No dice.
If you think a creative’s useless to you because they’re a certain age or they don’t look exactly how you expected, then you need to grow up.