You’ve had such an amazing career at the intersection of technology, analytics, and HR. Tell us a little more about your journey and how you got to where you are.
“Women between 55–65 constitute almost half of long-term unemployment.” The first time I read this statistic, I was forty-five, and it felt very personal. I vividly remember thinking, “I only have ten years to do something about it before I become a statistic!”. I knew something had to be done, and I needed to be part of the solution. For me, that solution would be found by forging partnerships between women and organizations. Four years have passed, and the situation is still dire. Since February 2020, the unemployment rate for women over fifty-five has almost doubled, from 3.5 percent to 6.1 percent. Nearly half of this population are considered long-term unemployed (out of work for six months or more).
Having spent my career in Human Resources, it shouldn’t have been a surprise to me that older women are so impacted by long-term unemployment. I’ve seen the societal norms at play that make it more common for women to step out of the workforce or decline opportunities to take care of children, ailing parents, or support a partner’s career path. In the current pandemic environment, women have exited the workforce in record numbers. When ready to re-enter the workplace, women suffer from outdated skills and stale professional networks, making it difficult to find meaningful employment and long-term job growth. Biased job descriptions and selection algorithms add to these challenges.
The difficulties women experience finding work at an older age don’t just impact their income needs. It makes it challenging to retire, and less time at work means less personal savings and smaller social security payments. Suppose we don’t respond by addressing some of the societal challenges that make it difficult for women to work. In that case, many will face financial insecurity and will potentially be pushed into poverty.
Tell us a bit more about the Amazing Community? Who should look to join it and why?
amazing.community is a nonprofit organization with the vision to expand the work horizon for women 45+. Our community is made up of women navigating career transitions and those who are passionate about helping said women. We are a community of individuals (of all genders) who are passionate about dismantling ageism in the workplace. We help build skills needed for a modern work environment, increase technological literacy, and support one another in pursuing individual and collective goals. Our work is targeted in three main areas:
When we do surveys and focus group discussions with job seekers, we find that ageism in hiring is alive and accepted. We hear many heartbreaking stories of discrimination - especially from women who are looking for new opportunities or looking to return to work after taking breaks for caregiving. Tell us more about Amazing Community and how you are addressing this problem.
First and foremost, our goal is to provide a supportive community so women can regain confidence that may have faltered along the way through career pauses, job rejections, lay-offs, and isolation. We do this by offering opportunities to build an arsenal of skills (digital fluency, analytics, design thinking, product design, communications, etc.), to establish and grow a local network of like-minded individuals, and by curating resources, training, services, events, and work opportunities. We recognize that transitions are unique, and every member will have their own specifics, needs, and interests. We aim to provide an array of options in how we support women.
What should companies do to change mindsets within their organization to hire older employees?
Ageism is a deeply internalized and personal bias, at times unrecognized. It goes in all directions and is not just discrimination against older but also younger people. Just think how many times you've heard people say, "this is a quote from XYZ movie... but I am aging myself..." or "I am too old for this stuff," or "these Millennials are so entitled." We must recognize that ageism impacts everyone. After all - age is something we all have. Aging starts from the moment you are born and is a unifying human experience. To start the change, we first need to look inward and assess how each of us contributes to the bias.
In terms of organizational actions - there are a few I'd suggest starting with:
More recently, with the massive demand and supply gap that companies are seeing, do you think hiring experienced workers is changing for the better? Are companies launching programs to attract older workers?
Increases in life expectancy, population aging, and women's labor force participation — all impact the workforce composition and how organizations adapt to them. Despite the tight labor market, sizable segments of older workers, especially women, continue to go untapped, underutilized, underpaid, or unemployed. When reentering the workforce, women struggle to sustain their income level, let alone grow it. On the other hand, women 55+ represent the single fastest-growing age-gender segment of the American population in the labor force. Over the next decade, they will account for more than 1/3 of additional workers entering the labor force. This is a perfect example of a segment with retired workers or seniors with big potential for companies to attract.
Research published by AARP reveals that age discrimination has increased since 2018, from 61% in 2018 to 78% in 2021. In a Harvard Business Review article, Ofer Sharone describes the results of a series of interviews he conducted with workers and recruiters from 2013 to 2015. Many respondents agreed that older workers in the job market experience age discrimination. One recruiter attributed this to the perceived learning ability of older workers compared to younger ones. Another noted that having more than the maximum suggested years of experience was a "problem," because of salary requests or the length of time the company expects the worker to stay. This is sometimes referred to as the "success bias." Furthermore, 7 of 18 top Silicon Valley companies have a median age of 30 or younger. A study by the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank showed that callback rates for jobs were lower for older applicants, with women having lower callback rates than men.
For companies looking to improve diversity overall, how should they approach the problem? We know it's a question that deserves its own blog! But we would love your perspective.
Over the past decade, with hopes to satisfy shareholders in a lackluster economy, companies have focused on cost reductions, which often include a workforce reduction under the guise of skills obsolescence. With the turn to global growth and fewer digitally-savvy candidates in the market, companies now have to rethink their workforce and hiring strategies and invest in upskilling their workforce. HR has an opportunity to shape these strategies. They can forge partnerships with educational institutions, the public sector, and startups, form coalitions with other organizations, lessen credential requirements, or a combination of all. Most of these efforts will still be about investing in technical skills. Opportunities will lie in supplementing those with soft skills such as design thinking, accessibility, communications, collaboration, and foundational skills. Upskilling is good for the business and a responsible way to uplift communities and positively impact your brand, attracting more high-quality talent. Win-win for everyone!
We invite all organizations to help create an environment where women 45+ can get and keep their job by advocating for mindful consideration of the following:
In conclusion, while the focus of amazing.community is on women 45+, ageism impacts everyone. We should strive to create inclusive workplaces that work for everyone, regardless of age, ability, aspiration, or life stage. Work is a huge part of our identity. We should not look at the relationship between the workers and organizations as purely a transactional exchange of time and talent for monetary rewards. Every human deserves to have the ability to contribute, make an income, grow their skills, and realize their full potential.
Meytier is partnering with Stela and Amazing.Community for their upcoming event, Age @ Work: The New Revolution. This evening will be an opportunity to deepen the dialogue about the future of work for the rapidly growing 50+ population. The event is October 12, 2021 at the Mark O’Donnell Theater at The Actors Fund Arts Center, Brooklyn, NY. Click here for tickets or keep an eye out here for the video replay after the event.