It’s no secret that sexism still affects women in 2023. However, as individuals age, they also experience ageism based on gender, or gendered ageism. It affects a woman’s ability to advance professionally as well as her physical and mental wellness.
omen in all business sectors may face age discrimination at every age. The bad news is that these inequities are deeply embedded in contemporary culture, health care practices and socio-economic policies.
When it comes to shipping, maritime industry tries to eliminate all types of discrimination onboard and on shore. Age discrimination is only one of those challenges that the industry faces, with ageism affecting all ages, with the age gap between seafarers in some workplaces currently as high as 50 years. According to Natalie Shaw, Director Employment Affairs, ICS, people can do wonderful things at all stages of their life and age shouldn’t necessarily be a determinant. ‘’It’s not so much age, but capability. One 60-year-old employee may be very fit and perfectly able to do manual work, while another 35-year-old could be obese and unable to do it.’’ Natalie Shaw noted.
In particular, ageism or age discrimination is an unfair treatment based on a person’s age. Under the Equality Act 2010, employees are protected from age discrimination in all aspects of employment, including recruitment, employment terms and conditions, promotions and transfers, training, and dismissals. Discrimination can occur from the application stage through to the termination of employment and beyond, including job references.
For this reason, to avoid the ageism that women face and to improve the working environment on board ships, the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) has issued Guidelines to help to eliminate age discrimination and to improve the working environment on board ships. For example, a shipowner must be careful when writing a vacancy advertisement, job description and person specification. Avoid suggesting applicants of a particular age group. Furthermore, a shipowner must emphasize skills required and objectively assess and select applicants to reduce excluding an applicant due to their age.
It is worth mentioning that bias or stereotypical thinking about age should not influence assessment or decision-making. Steps should be taken when:
- Writing essential documents – ie a vacancy advertisement
- Advertising a role
- Pinpointing job skills, experience and qualifications
- Drafting an application form
- Using social media
- Seeking job references
- Offering a job
- Using a recruitment agency
Key actions to combat gendered ageism
#1 Recognize age bias
Ageism has been largely neglected over the years. All employees should be trained on gender age bias, just as they are on other forms of discrimination. When the problem ceases to be ignored, necessary improvements can be made.
#2 Focus on skills
Shipowners, rather than focusing on age when hiring, making promotion decisions, or bringing on new team members for a growth opportunity, they should focus on each woman’s skills, not their tenure or external demands.
#3 Address “lookism.”
Women often experience the constant pressure to seem young and appealing more than males. Lookism should be covered in DEI training, and it shouldn’t be utilized as a covert metric for recruiting, promotion, or performance reviews.
#4 Develop creative collaborations
A recent study of Generation Z’s expectations at work showed that one of their highest desires was for mentoring relationships; they long for connection with older workers who take an interest in them. Too often women lack connections that would help them develop professionally due to exclusion from informal networks and events. Intentionally pairing younger women with older mentors and sponsors will aid their learning and career success and enhance your company’s performance.
ICS notes that encouraging greater awareness and understanding of age discrimination, alongside tackling discrimination, can reduce complaints, disciplinary action or tribunal claims and avoid costs and disruption.
‘’It can also improve morale. Employees who feel discriminated against are likely to be unhappy, less productive and de-motivated with negative impacts for the whole workforce. Preventing age discrimination can also help a company to attract, motivate and retain staff, thereby enhancing its reputation as a shipowner of choice. Conversely, if staff feel discriminated against, undervalued or ‘forced out’, a shipowner will accrue costs to recruit, train and retain new staff and suffer a damaged reputation.’’, ICS highlighted in a related report.
Above all, it’s very important what women believe for themselves. If they believe that getting older is a bad thing, then that’s going to affect the way they interact with other people. Research conducted by Harvard Business Review, concluded that a woman’s competence can be questioned and her suitability for leadership put into doubt at any age when it is seen to be “the wrong age” for her. But if we cease stigmatizing women’s ages, it will be advantageous for everyone in the organization, not just women.