A working woman who has reached a certain age is sometimes perceived by her
employer as being less valuable to the company than a younger woman or a
comparably aged male colleague. For men, however, advanced age is often seen
as a sign of experience and an asset. A 55 year old male with salt and pepper
hair is likely just hitting his stride in business; the perfect power age - a central
casting authority figure. His perceived value does not diminish as he grows
older. Contrast the middle-aged Wall Street titan, the middle-aged male
politician (think George W. Bush) men who are at the top of their game (not in
real value terms of course, based on true game competence, intelligence, wisdom
or goodness), but the perception of power--the personification of power,
authority and success -- with the similarly situated 55 year old female; on the
diminishing side of her value curve, post-menopausal, waning looks,
diminished opportunities from all sectors.
Consider the "aging female" stigma as it applies to celebrities. While aging male
actors such as George Clooney, Richard Gere, Sean Connery (the other side of
70) or Anthony Hopkins increase in value and are often coupled with women 20
years their junior for onscreen romantic pairings, aging actresses (anyone over
40 by Hollywood standards), on the other hand, find they are both paid less and
employed far less often in direct proportion to their advancing age. For
instance, the always comely Kim Bassinger was reduced to playing Eminem's
mother in the recent film 8 Mile when she was all of 45 years old.
Although age discrimination may be the actual motive behind a woman's
termination, the employer may call it an early retirement package (sometimes
referred to as a “golden handshake”). These offers can be thinly disguised ways
to clear a position for a younger employee that is willing to work for less pay and
no medical coverage.
Those who have experienced unequal treatment because of their age and/or sex
Human Rights Law. These laws prohibit anyone over the age of 40 from being
treated poorly, demoted or fired solely because of their age.
If you feel your employer is degrading the terms or conditions of your
employment as a result of your age (regardless of your gender), don't wait to be
fired, complain now, formally and in writing, about the discriminatory
treatment you believe you’re suffering as a result of your age. The law requires
you to do so and by invoking a protected activity before you’re terminated, you
may just yet save your position and at the very least, your negotiating leverage
may improve measurably.