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Why The Most Accepted ‘Ism’ Will Become HR’s New Strategic Imperative


The workplace has undergone significant change in the six decades since John F. Kennedy signed the executive order in 1961 for affirmative action. That order guided employment policies and practices for race, creed, color and national origin and, since 1968, gender. For a long time, affirmative action was the closest thing to equal opportunity for people of color. In today’s workplace, race and gender initiatives have broadened in scope, in part to Title VII Civil Rights Amendment in 1964, and subsequent legislation for disability and age. While none of the protected categories would claim equity, one group, in particular, is bound to become the next talent management imperative.

Age is a characteristic that applies to everyone, regardless of demographic classification. That means anyone living long enough will likely encounter age bias either directly or as an observer. Younger workers feel bias and discrimination when considered for roles requiring a minimum number of years’ experience or when asking for leadership responsibilities. Older workers feel bias and discrimination when their many years of experience are considered “too much” for the role or when they are excluded from the applicant pool because of the assumption that their salary demands will exceed the budgetary limits.

There are two reasons why talent management strategy needs to make age an imperative – aside from it being an overlooked and unmonitored protected category. Age is a factor for all diversity categories, and workforce demographics project a talent shortage in the under 40 category.

Intersectionality and Demographics

The intersectionality of age and other protected categories increases challenges for applicants and employees. Adding age to the diversity mix doubles, triples and possibly quadruples the layers of bias and discrimination. For example, data shows that women of color over the age of 50 suffer the highest unemployment rates. It’s a triple strike built into organizational culture and societal mindset. This cultural mindset makes age the most overlooked form of discrimination today and the very reason that successful talent management must acknowledge and address it.

In July, a new precedent was set by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals when the federal circuit court covering Oklahoma ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 permits “sex-plus-age” claims. In this case, the “sex-plus” claim involved employees who alleged their employer treated them differently because they were women over 40. In 2016, the EEOC sued McCready FULL ARTICLE