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Women and men of a certain age : the gender dimension of ageism in paid employment

Walker, H (2007) Women and men of a certain age : the gender dimension of ageism in paid employment. Doctoral thesis, Liverpool John Moores University.

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Abstract

Once a Cinderella subject, the employment of people aged 50 and above (often referred to in the literature as 'older workers') has become an issue of major prominence in recent years. This is no more evident than in the passage of the Age Regulations (October 2006) and with it, New Labour's pledge to encourage age diversity in the workplace. Older people are thus being encouraged to re-enter the labour market through schemes such as the New Deal 50 plus and Pathways to Work or to take up volunteering under the rubric of 'active citizenship'. There is now a variety ofways in which people approaching later life would, on the face ofit, be able to access work, education and training opportunIties. However, past research and current data suggest that there are number ofbarriers to the take up ofsuch opportunities. For instance, research has shown that older workers receive lower performance ratings than their younger counterparts (Saks and Waldman, 1998). The suggestion here is that .negative stereotypes regarding an individual's chronological age may over ride employers' appraisal oftheir older workers. Ageism has been cited as the main barrier to employability and occupational progression for the majority of older workers. Past research in this field has highlighted the discriminatory power of economic myths and stereotypes concerning the work ability of older age groups (for example Taylor and Walker, 1998). The picture to emerge is that older workers are perceived by employers to be less productive, harder to train, and more expensive and difficult to manage than younger workers. It is therefore hoped that policy intervention will have the long term effect of supporting older age groups who have consistently been undervalued and often discarded by employers for simply being 'too old'. Laudable aims, but are employers ready to listen? Moreover are older people (and society at large) ready to refuse to conform to or accept negative images oftheir age group? This research considers the nature and salience of ageism in the UK labour market. It also asks whether ageism alone is enough to explain the extent of the discrimination experienced by older wQmen and men. It looks at these issues through the eyes ofolder people themselves and the organisations that impact upon their lives in an effort to understand the barriers they face in the realm ofwork and employment. Qualitative and quantitative evidence is presented from older individuals and employers across the UK. Analysis of the data supports the existence of ageism in the workplace. It also reveals a gender dimension to the ageism experienced, which works to the detriment of older women and, in a qualitatively different way, older men as well. Yet self-reported examples of ageism were often more implicit than explicit, based around wider cultural stereotypes about people of a certain age. These findings are, of course, in accordance with much related past theory and research. Yet in contrast to previous work, consideration is also given to the part played by individual difference and to broader societal and psychological influences (i.e. life satisfaction). Such an approach indicates that older peoples' experiences of employment are more complex than previously assumed. For example, individuals' experiences of gender and age discrimination are not static, nor isolated from wider personal, historical and social contexts in which they had grown up and grown older. It is therefore argued that the study ofageism should be broadened out and linked to a variety offactors that concern how we as individuals and a society view old age.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HF Commerce > HF5001 Business
H Social Sciences > HF Commerce
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Divisions: Humanities and Social Science
Date Deposited: 13 Mar 2017 11:22
Last Modified: 13 Mar 2017 11:22
URI: http://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/5890

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