“I have been told in interviews that they want somebody younger,”
January 2, 2016 10:22 AM   Subscribe

Over 50, Female and Jobless by Paticia Cohen [The New York Times] A new study found that the employment prospects for women over 50 darkened after the Great Recession, as many now earn far less and use many fewer skills than they did before.
Laid off at the start of the recession from the diagnostic testing firm in Seattle where she spent more than three decades, Ms. McAfee, 58, has not worked since 2007. “I’ve been applying and applying and applying,” said Ms. McAfee, who has relied on her savings and family to get by as she fights off attempts to foreclose on her home. At interviews, she said, “They ask, ‘Why has it been so long?’”

Ms. McAfee is part of a group that has found the postrecession landscape particularly difficult to navigate: women over 50. That is especially striking because many recent economic and social trends — the decline of manufacturing and the rise of health care, the advance of educated women into professions and jobs once mostly occupied by men — were seen as harmful to working-age men and advantageous for the growing ranks of working women. But many of these older women now earn far less and use many fewer skills than they did before. Others have been left stranded without any job for months or even years. Some have given up the search altogether.
Related:

STUDY: Age and Gender Differences in Long-Term Unemployment: Before and After the Great Recession. [Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis]
The Great Recession caused a surge in unemployment. In the last quarter of 2009, the unemployment rate reached its peak at 9.9 percent. At that time, the average duration of unemployment spells (continuous time in unemployment) was 30 weeks. It would rise further—to 40 weeks—by the second quarter of 2010. Behind those averages are important differences in the changing incidence and duration of unemployment across age groups and by gender. In this essay, we focus on changes in the age distribution of long-term unemployment (LTU), the component of unemployment that grew to prominence during the Great Recession and its aftermath. In particular, we consider the differences between unemployed male and female workers. We also compare years before and after the Great Recession.
posted by Fizz (147 comments total) 57 users marked this as a favorite
 
Thank for this link. When experience becomes a liability, you know you have a screwed up society...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 10:28 AM on January 2, 2016 [16 favorites]


That was depressing. But lets raise the retirement age for Social Security to 70 because people are living longer or something.
posted by octothorpe at 10:50 AM on January 2, 2016 [32 favorites]


I worry about this a lot. Right now I have a fairly secure career, but ..
posted by bunderful at 10:54 AM on January 2, 2016 [16 favorites]


I would have liked to see if race and educational level factor into this phenomenon. I'm sure race does, as unemployment for black Americans is twice that of whites.

I believe that the loss of government (especially local government) jobs has affected women disproportionately as well.

It's high time we had a universal basic income.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 10:56 AM on January 2, 2016 [62 favorites]


I can sympathize with business owners being hesitant about hiring older people. Too much perceived cost, hassle and risk; better go with someone younger. The strategy to make yourself attractive to employers as a 50+ individual isn't going to be popular or easy.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 10:59 AM on January 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


> It's high time we had a universal basic income.

Ideally one indexed to inflation, with the deliberate intent to spark off wage-driven inflation that weakens the position of the creditor class and makes debts in current-value dollars easy to pay off.

That said, though, literally any means of distributing money outward to the poorly connected fringes is a good idea. The UBI is just one part; along with the UBI we need other demand-side-tending economic stimuluses. We need to lower the social security age so that people in their 50s have some spending money above and beyond what they get from the UBI. We need to institute significant paid leave for parents — ideally at least two years for both parents — so that they can do the important work of childrearing instead of wasting their time in offices, factories, and restaurants — parents deserve more than the UBI. And we need immediate reparations for Black Americans, to right the moral wrong of building a nation using slave labor, a moral wrong that continued well past the Civil War, in the form of de facto slavery under the sharecropping system and de facto and de jure slavery, which continues to the present day, in the form of prison labor.

All of that would be a decent start.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 11:08 AM on January 2, 2016 [61 favorites]


The strategy to make yourself attractive to employers as a 50+ individual isn't going to be popular or easy.

Become younger?

I worry about ageism a lot; I've seen it in action and I know that at some point my options are going to constrict quite radically. That this is so gendered doesn't surprise me, but it is depressing and sad.
posted by Dip Flash at 11:09 AM on January 2, 2016 [23 favorites]


oh also lowering the work week to 30 hours (alongside a rise in the minimum wage so that 30 hours at minimum wage is like 40 hours under the current system), with the intent to continually lower the maximum working day until the unemployment problem is solved.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 11:12 AM on January 2, 2016 [43 favorites]


I saw this happen to several women in my family and I can only assume it'll happen to me too in 20 years. Or less! I work in a very "in the now" type of field, not even one where "lots of experience is necessary + the fundamentals don't change" type of field like law. I know I should ramp up my savings to account for it but it's hard.
posted by bleep at 11:16 AM on January 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


welcome to my world..
posted by lapolla at 11:17 AM on January 2, 2016 [10 favorites]


I'm pretty scared of this happening to me. I've had some pretty dark thoughts about what I would consider doing if I switched from being breadwinner to liability for my little family. I know I'm not the only one.
posted by emjaybee at 11:30 AM on January 2, 2016 [8 favorites]


I surmise there might be another reason for the disproportionately high unemployment rate for older women - the demise of the clerical job. Thanks to email and cell phones, executives now handle their own correspondence and phone calls. Businesses don't need typing pools anymore. There are still secretaries and office managers, but far fewer of them are needed. Women over 50 came of age in an era when most women still worked clerical jobs (if they were not teachers or nurses).

Of course there is no reason why a clerical worker can't switch careers. I think that a lot of employers don't want older workers because older workers aren't as easily exploited and BS'd as younger, less experienced ones. Older workers don't want to put in 80 hours a week with the vague carrot of "maaaayyyybe you'll get a promotion if you work really hard" dangled before them.

I agree with YCTAB that a shorter workweek would help. Cut out the toxic culture of overwork and the reason to need energetic, easily exploitable workers would vanish. And lowering the retirement age - maybe by steps, first to 60 then to 55 - is a great idea; nobody would have to retire, but they could if they wished.

Especially with increasing automation, there just aren't going to be enough jobs to support everyone; a universal basic income would solve that problem, and, I think, lead to a new renaissance in culture and the arts. People who don't have to work 80 hours a week could fill up their time with gardening, painting, writing, and making music, to enrich all our lives.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 11:39 AM on January 2, 2016 [37 favorites]


The hacker news thread on this article is quite interesting including addressing the strange spin (that older women are disproportionately impacted) with actual numbers.
posted by rr at 11:42 AM on January 2, 2016 [6 favorites]


Hacker News.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:49 AM on January 2, 2016 [8 favorites]


"Long-term unemployment increased disproportionately for older women after the Great Recession."

This is true. I took that quote from the St Louis Fed article. In 2006-07, women 50+ were less likely to be unemployed than men of their age group. In 2012-13 they are almost at parity. It's the first table in that St Louis fed link.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 12:01 PM on January 2, 2016


love that Mancession, baby
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 12:01 PM on January 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


I worry about ageism a lot;

Don't worry. You'll get there.
posted by valkane at 12:03 PM on January 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


so from the table, it looks like before the recession, older men and women fared differently, and now they are treated the same? but that younger men still fare worse than younger women?

that summary of what the numbers show seems completely different to what the article is about. am i misunderstanding something? i'm not at all sure i understand what these are percentages of.
posted by andrewcooke at 12:05 PM on January 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


>> I worry about ageism a lot;

> Don't worry. You'll get there.


We all will... if we're lucky...
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 12:07 PM on January 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


The Hacker News thread points out that the numbers for older men and women are now very similar - the rise in 50+ unemployed women has been sharper since the Recession, and has brought the previously-lower numbers into parity with 50+ unemployed men. (Naturally they decry the slant of the NYT article as pro-female sexism, but hey it's Hacker News, look at the demographic there.)

The difference is in the effect of unemployment for women. Because many women took time off from their careers to raise kids, they've earned less money over the course of their work life. This means they have less pension money available, less savings, fewer assets. It means they have less capital available to make a new career or new opportunities for themselves. It means that long-term unemployed 50+ women are more likely to be looking at a remaining lifetime of deeper and more pervasive poverty than a man in the same situation.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 12:16 PM on January 2, 2016 [54 favorites]


I've had the opportunity to meet some amazing women over the past 6 months who are affected by this exact issue. They share a desire to change their financial circumstances, but more importantly they came of age when acquiescence was expected and they no longer want to take orders quietly. I suspect these newly outspoken women are the ones who are being left out of the job market. Which is a huge shame because they have so much wisdom and support to share.
posted by A hidden well at 12:36 PM on January 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


I'm starting to think .. do women who are subjected to ageism ever get together and start a company? Hire each other? Cause that would be awesome.

(Yes, starting a company is hard and not something that you can just jump into ... still ... )
posted by bunderful at 12:55 PM on January 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


Well, that would be illegal age discrimination, too. Also gender.
posted by Mitrovarr at 1:10 PM on January 2, 2016


do women who are subjected to ageism ever get together and start a company? Hire each other? Cause that would be awesome.

Startup spaces focus on youth just as much as traditional employers. There are a few places that are focused on diversity and inclusion, but they are still IMHO too few.
posted by A hidden well at 1:19 PM on January 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


Back in the day, jobs requiring learned skills wanted older experienced workers. As made things shifted to machine made things, speed, strength replaced skill (age)...now, discrimination exists for a variety of reasons but age moves up the ladder to be a big one. But if women continue to get lower salaries for the same work as men, wouldn't it make sense to hire women, even older women, to save on costs? Perhaps the discrimination trumps (pardon the word) sense.
posted by Postroad at 1:24 PM on January 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


Well, there's Vita Needle in Massachusetts...

FRED HARTMAN: Our turnover, believe it or not, is very low. We probably bury more people than have people leave in a given year.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 1:25 PM on January 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


Well, that would be illegal age discrimination, too. Also gender.
posted by Mitrovarr at 1:10 PM on January 2


Ahhh, the majestic equality of the law.

What is the best way to establish this sort of collective of the excluded? What organizational tools are available to make sure the excluded maintain control over their organizations? Because law is rigged up to prefer insiders, insiders can set up companies and refuse to hire anyone not exactly like them through appealing to vague "cultural mismatch" nonsense. Presumably the excluded can't do the same thing; if a white boy went in and was told he didn't get the job because he didn't seem like a good cultural fit, he could launch a successful lawsuit.

The other thing that makes co-ops of the dispossessed difficult in practice is that definitially the people involved are people who have been systematically excluded from holding capital, and so are left with nothing but their labor time to sell. I mean I've just spent like five minutes trying to word this so that it doesn't just sound like Marxist cant, but I can't. So: how does this work without first seizing the means of production? are there means of production that can be seized? Is big capital, in its late, digitized stage, finally not the sole steersman of production?

I would preferentially buy products from Crone Industries every day and twice on Sunday. I just don't see how Crone Industries gets off the ground.

Barring Crone Industries (or the Revolution or whatever), we must understand that a worker in their 50s is not a highly skilled end product of the capitalist production system. A worker in their 50s is a waste product of the production system, a negative externality to be gotten rid of by whatever means available.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 1:28 PM on January 2, 2016 [24 favorites]


One of the main reasons that women get sucked into multi-level marketing. At its best, it's providing a way to make money to women who are otherwise shut out of the job market. At its worst, a few of those women are making money by selling that idea to other women and profiting off of their labor.
posted by hydropsyche at 1:31 PM on January 2, 2016 [24 favorites]


I see age discrimination a lot in my corporate roles. I think it comes down to several perceptions, including a broader social... distaste of age.

1) pay. As people get more senior and more experienced in corporate settings they generally paid more. For managers, it's a lot easier to get a grad headcount than someone who will do a similar job and cost three times as much.

2) ambition. Older people are smart enough to know there is more to life than work, often have other things going on, have experience not to put up with crap, and I will not lie here if they have been with the organisation a long time are more comfortable and less likely to work as hard. Sometimes the experience may outweigh this, but sometimes not.

3) skillset. Many older people have specialised a lot and are not interested or sometimes able to become more generalist. They are often not great with newer technologies or platforms, something increasingly important in corporate settings, and sometimes resent that they may have to learn these things. There can be a reverse ageism at play where they struggle following the lead of someone younger.

These perceptions are often unfair, driven by a bad experience dealing with reallocated, retrenched staff, for example. But older people are easy to tag as a group and so that experience becomes a stereotype fuelling prejudice.
posted by smoke at 1:53 PM on January 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


Oh, bugger. I don't need to know this. After 22+ years as a teacher, I'm starting to feel burned out on 6th graders and was planning to change careers, but I'm going to be 65 this summer . . . Bugger.
posted by Peach at 1:54 PM on January 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


I'm a guy, but approaching this epoch of my life, and not even close to being financially secure for retirement. Employment possibilities with age have been lurking in the middle of my mind for the past couple of years, so this crops up as nightmare fuel.
posted by rhizome at 2:04 PM on January 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


> But if women continue to get lower salaries for the same work as men, wouldn't it make sense to hire women, even older women, to save on costs?

Marx discusses this some midway through Capital Volume 1, wherein he notes that the companies that push barges down canals in the UK would hire women to do the work, since the labor time of a woman came significantly cheaper than the costs of horses, donkeys, oxen, and other animals more typically used for that category of work, and cheaper by far than the cost of the machines that would be needed to more fully automate this work. Male labor was more valuable than the labor of donkeys, so in practice few men pushed barges. Female labor was quite cheap, though, and so women were perfectly suited for the job.

There are two way to understand the wage gap between women and men. The lower bounds for pay, to which all salaries tend, tend to reflect the value of the package of goods required to support the laborer — food and minimal shelter, whatever counts as minimal, minimal transportation in areas where transportation is necessary for workers, the minimal education required to make a useful worker, etc. Because patriarchal society consistently undervalues
women, the minimal acceptable quality of life for a woman laborer is lower, and so a woman's labor time comes cheaper.

That's the first way to understand it. The second involves appealing to what Marx called "primitive accumulation," the process whereby capital holders initially achieved their social positions. Normal accumulation works under the rules of the liberal marketplace; you, a worker with nothing to sell but your time, sell your time to capitalists who put your hands to their machines (their heavy industrial machines, their sewing machines, their espresso machines.) Because we pretend that the abstract freedom to contract is a real freedom (even in cases where one party's material bargaining position is overwhelmingly powerful), we pretend that then contracts we negotiate are fair rather than exploitative.

Marx observed that this legalistic theft by the capital-holding classes isn't what started the system off. instead it started with straightforward dispossession — an aristo or a rich merchant says "this land is mine, I've got fences around it, fuck its previous status as common grounds that you needed to live," or else an adventurer in the Americas puts down a flag and thereby takes some slaves and steals a gold mine.

One of the important theoretical innovations since Marx is to understand primitive accumulation as not being so much primitive. Instead, we have to understand that while the regular process of exploitation operates through liberal markets that front as being free but aren't, alongside this a process of hyperexploitation, naked theft without even a hypocritical appeal to law, also feeds the machine and starves the people. I think it was Rosa Luxemberg who first spoke meaningfully on how capitalism needs continually injected doses of money gained through primitive accumulation (typically out in the colonies) to survive.
David Harvey's term for primitive accumulation is "accumulation by dispossession," which he devised to highlight how primitive accumulation isn't primitive. So we see two circuits of theft under capitalism; the regular one, where they take the bulk of the value of your work from you on contractual terms, and the by-dispossession one, where they just take it without the formalities.

So maybe women are particularly vulnerable in the face of capitalism because women have been coerced into accepting lower standards of living, thus making their labor come more cheaply than the labor of men. Alternately, perhaps patriarchal societies have marked women (like people of color) as valid targets for hyperexploitation / primitive accumulation / accumulation by dispossession / whatever you want to call it.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 2:07 PM on January 2, 2016 [42 favorites]


I'm a guy, but approaching this epoch of my life, and not even close to being financially secure for retirement. Employment possibilities with age have been lurking in the middle of my mind for the past couple of years, so this crops up as nightmare fuel.

Heh. This is me too, and my job is being phased out in a month.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:19 PM on January 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


Scary...

I kind of knew this, even over a decade ago when I was a teenager trying to decide what career path I should pursue (and also thinking, "I can't believe I'm supposed to think about a career this early in life"). I kind of split myself between doing art (indie comics and stuff) and doing biology, with the assumption that art tends to value novelty and freshness, while science tends to value both experience and innovation, so that I could pursue my art but fall back on science as a sort of safety net.

But the nature of an industry and field can change. Sometimes I wonder if my gradual accruement of benchtop skills will actually pay off the way I predicted, or if there is some wall I'm going to hit. A lot of the industries I've interviewed at specifically told me they wanted someone young so they could mold them into the employee they wanted. But at the same time I see a lot of companies downsizing, outsourcing, closing, changing direction, etc so it's not like they're actually securing a job for you. My manager at my current job told me I should try to have a depth of knowledge in a few subjects vs a shallow breadth of knowledge in many subjects, but I wonder if that's not really the case?
posted by picklenickle at 2:33 PM on January 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


Don't forget that women's unemployment is typically very underreported, because US unemployment statistics only look at those actively seeking work. It doesn't count the many women who, faced with a terrible labor market and high costs of daycare, dropped out of the workforce because they couldn't find a job that would pay enough for them to put their children in high-quality daycare. It doesn't count older women who "retire" because they can't find a job (and frequently are supported by a still-earning spouse), years before they'd prefer to exit the labor market. And it doesn't count women who are undermployed, which happens far more often to women in the professions than men -- I can't tell you the number of women I went to a top-10 law school with who now work as paralegals because between the sexism and the desire to have children, it was impossible to find a lawyer job. Or the women I went to seminary with who, instead of being pastors in large churches as our male peers are now finding themselves, have been shuffled into low-paying children's ministry jobs, or tiny back-country churches.

Women may have "better" unemployment statistics than men, but that's largely because so much of women's unemployment is dropped from the data as "voluntary," and the data doesn't count the underemployed.

(PS, here's a dirty trick: Law schools reporting their employment data to the ABA and US News and so forth actively remove women who have recently had children from the statistics. If you're "still unemployed six months after graduation" but have popped out a baby in the last 18 months or so, they will assign you to "voluntarily not working" because you've got a kid and remove you from the data they report to make their placement stats look better. When law schools say 85% of their female grads seeking employment have jobs within six months or whatever, that is a BIG FAT LIE because they've removed all the women who aren't working but have kids, and who maybe have specifically had trouble finding a job because they have to meet family demands as well as law firm demands!)

I've long thought that especially in smaller cities like mine, there must be a market for an employment agency that works with stay-at-home parents and recent retirees to place them in short-term assignments with employers needing a temporary surge of labor for a particular project or season. I see all these really talented professionals -- six sigma experts, accountants, marketing gurus, designers, HR execs -- dropping out of the full-time labor market because of the demands of childcare, and I think, "This is a lot of wasted talent that would be PERFECT to hire for 10 or 20 hours a week for short periods, to work up your new logo or help with your payroll system changeover, you'd get really experienced people focusing on JUST YOUR WORK who are actively seeking short-term contracts and small projects that can be hard to hire for." I'm never quite sure how one would go about starting up such a thing, however.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:34 PM on January 2, 2016 [62 favorites]


"As the ruling circle continues to build their technocracy, more and more of the proletariat will become unemployable, become lumpen, until they have become the popular class, the revolutionary class."
— Huey Newton, 1970.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 2:36 PM on January 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


As a woman in her fifties who has applied for over 400 jobs in six months, with absolutely no success, this was not news to me. At a particularly memorable interview I actually saw my interviewer's face visibly change when he clocked that I was middle-aged.

As for women over 50 having 'more issues' I beg to differ. My years of drama-filled relationship problems, toddlers with stuffy noses,hangovers, and the need for a busy social schedule are long behind me now. It is the first time since I became a parent at 18 that I've been unencumbered by obligations.

I am also, apparently, over-educated (for retail and entry-level work) and five years without a regular income has left me rather shabbier in appearance than when I was more affluent. My teeth alone are reason enough for some to pass me by for employment. The longer it goes on, the worse my chances get. I've recently had a few freelance writing gigs (where what I look like doesn't matter at all) but as for actually getting hired by a company, forget it, it's not happening. I'm preparing to live on air during my twilight years.
posted by alltomorrowsparties at 2:54 PM on January 2, 2016 [45 favorites]


I have white hair and a Y chromosome, and can tell you that this is very much a reality. My age and gender(as well as handicap status) affected my last job, which was in IT management. I did take a couple years off after my job ended, and getting re-employed was non-trivial. My current wages are a lot less, to say nothing of longevity benefits like extra vacation time that I no longer enjoy.

I can tell you that the world is generally not kind to women, to old people, and people who are not white, who have any visible disability, have it much worse.

I have a realistic understanding of my capabilities, and, while I'll bet geezers have been saying this over generations, I have a better work ethic, great experience, common sense, and years of work give me something that looks like wisdom. Discrimination does not have efficiency or common sense behind it.
posted by theora55 at 2:55 PM on January 2, 2016 [23 favorites]


If you are in a position where you get to make decisions about hiring and firing — if you're that interviewer in the story above — your job as someone working for your own interests is to ensure that the new hires become your co-conspirators. People who have seen the outside of the system, by dint of having been excreted from it, make fantastic conspirators. If you think elements of their resumes make them a difficult sell to your higher-ups, do everything you can to alter their resumes to remove the red flags, and likewise do everything you can to quietly slander the candidates who look like they're bad co-conspirators.

If you are a worker for a company, you don't work for that company — the company is a tool you use to achieve your ends as best you can. If you are a manager in a company, you don't work for the company; instead, you use the resources your company gives you to assemble the team you'll need to extract maximum value from the company going forward.

I mean it's not as easy as that, nothing is ever as easy as that, but nevertheless that's the goal you have to shoot for, even if you never reach it.

If you're not looking for ways to hollow out your employer's company and walk away with as much of its value as possible in your hands, and ideally with a crew of trusted co-conspirators for you to hire into the next target company, you're not really working.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 3:19 PM on January 2, 2016 [28 favorites]


I'm favoriting a lot of comments here. If older workers of any gender who've experienced this want to memail and share info/war stories, please do.
posted by NorthernLite at 3:20 PM on January 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'm 57 and started my career in real estate two years ago, first as an assistant-got my license a little over a year ago.

I think it is one industry that, as long as you stay up on your technology, age is an advantage.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 3:30 PM on January 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


Oh, and has anyone here ever filed an age discrimination claim with government/pursued a lawsuit against a current employer? E.g., for losing out on better positions to newer, less qualified and much younger people and/or having a position reduced, etc., again to favor much younger, much less experienced newbies.
posted by NorthernLite at 3:33 PM on January 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


It's contemporary free trade or whatever the kids call it these days that has absolutely and royally fucked things for everyone. Labour laws mean squat when you can just go offshore or bring in someone cheaper, or have your pick of hungry young domestic rockstars. Or get them for free (interns!), why not, that's what the math is like these days. The jobs that require a physical presence are body jobs best suited to the young and healthy - retail, healthcare, trades related to property, like plumbing. As for essential public services like teaching and government work, if there's limited cash - because no one's making any to throw into the coffer, or if the cash is having a little holiday in Switzerland or the Virgin Islands - the meaning of "essential" just gets redefined. Discrimination etc. would be manageable within the frame of a not-insane bigger picture.
posted by cotton dress sock at 3:35 PM on January 2, 2016 [4 favorites]




I can sympathize with business owners being hesitant about hiring older people. Too much perceived cost, hassle and risk; better go with someone younger.

I literally don't get this. Every time a thread on agism comes up, someone says something like this. Substitute "women" for "older people" and then see how that sentence reads. Would anyone dare say the position is sympathetic?

What makes agism socially acceptable? Is it because Jack Weinberg once said ""Don't trust anyone over 30."?
posted by frumiousb at 3:47 PM on January 2, 2016 [8 favorites]


it's because we're better at imagining ourselves as the business owners we will never be than we are at imagining ourselves as our actual selves. we feel sick, embarrassed of our weak actual selves when put up against the power of our imagined selves, the power we would have if we, like our employers, had the power to coerce others into acting for our own benefit. And to paper over this embarrassment we reflexively pretend, in this sort of thought experiment, to be the employer rather than the employee.

we are disgusted by our lives and by our bodies insofar as they diverge from perfection, with perfection defined as rich, white, tall, youngish, with great hair. over the course of the 20th century we woke up enough to learn to love ourselves even if we're women instead of men, or Black or brown instead of white, or even if we're queer, and sometimes even if we're broke as shit and living in our cars. But we are still sufficiently disgusted by the old bodies that we either already have or will someday (if we're lucky) have that in the case of older workers looking for jobs, we see the event of hiring from the perspective of the employer (with whom we have nothing really in common) rather than the perspective of the interviewee (someone who, if we're lucky, we'll have everything in common with.)
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 3:58 PM on January 2, 2016 [25 favorites]


What makes agism socially acceptable?

Because there's an unspoken understanding that the reality of aging doesn't fit with the exploitative conditions that are taken for granted in (most) business operations today. Yes, you can stay up to date and try to be as fit and young-looking as possible, but with time come physical and psychological needs (happens to everyone) that don't easily fit into a 70-hr workweek. Same with parenthood and disability. We need laws to protect the right to a livelihood of anyone who's unwilling or unable to pull those 70 hour weeks, and practically speaking, those laws are unenforceable given supply and demand. There will always be a "better fit" candidate who's happy to stay until 10pm to get a job done and doesn't have to take time off to see a doctor on a Wednesday.
posted by cotton dress sock at 3:58 PM on January 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


Yes, you can stay up to date and try to be as fit and young-looking as possible, but with time come physical and psychological needs (happens to everyone) that don't easily fit into a 70-hr workweek.

Okay, but let's assume that this is straight up true. But I would challenge anyone to prove that a 30 something with small children will be more fit than someone in their 50s whose children have gone. By that very logic, you would prefer the 50-something candidate-- less distractions, more sleep, more able to relocate for work... Hell, by that logic, divorced single women in their 50s should literally be the employer's dream. But it isn't happening.

Ageism is also a factor in Europe, where the 70 hour weeks don't happen. I've run into employers who *brag* that they want a young workforce there. Where's the explanation in that context?
posted by frumiousb at 4:03 PM on January 2, 2016 [9 favorites]


kids everywhere are stupider about the scams that happen in offices and on shop floors than old people are, and thus are easier to rip off.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 4:11 PM on January 2, 2016 [21 favorites]


Bias, no question, I think smoke has it above and YCTAB too.

But we need to be able to make room for frailty and human bodies and needs (also as YCTAB said). If someone can make it to their 50s with a clean bill of health, that's great, but unlikely, I think. (I mean, I'm in my thirties, and I have carpal tunnel and a bunch of other orthopedic problems already, plus some niggling issues that may require more care over the next 20-30 years.)

And there is no incentive to make room for frailty when the supply/demand ratio is what it is, and that is a macroeconomic question.
posted by cotton dress sock at 4:17 PM on January 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


Ageism is also a factor in Europe, where the 70 hour weeks don't happen. I've run into employers who *brag* that they want a young workforce there. Where's the explanation in that context?

Also, they straight up ask you for your age in your CV. I asked a HR rep about this and they told me honestly (unlike their US counterparts that would lie about such a thing) that it was because older people expected to get compensated more (due to their experience), and thus they avoided hiring older people. I was shocked, but as age isn't a protected class where I was, they could be honest with me.
posted by el io at 4:22 PM on January 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


America is too screwed up, on too many levels, and in too many ways, for anything to solve the problem of sustained poverty other than a guaranteed living wage. All other proposed solutions are just band-aids.
posted by Beholder at 4:26 PM on January 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


Older women are perceived as less tech savvy than our younger cohorts. I highlighted tech skills on my resume and cover letters and dropped off all but the last fifteen years on my resume. I also saw the look on faces of hiring managers 20+ years my junior. Eventually I found the right place, but it was luck and they were desperate. Like others have said I have never been a better employee. I don't care for workplace drama, have no dependents, I get up at the crack of dawn anyway...my present job was lucky to get me, but if they had the time they might have kept looking. I hope to stay until I retire because it is so disheartening to go to interviews when you know they have written you off before you even speak.

There's also a perception that employers run the risk of being hit with an age discrimination lawsuit if you hire an older person who for whatever reason does not work out. Why take the risk?
posted by readery at 4:29 PM on January 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


I just turned 50 but look a bit younger, so I'm still able to squeak by in a software development shop that has regular hours and a fair number of people over 40. That being said, I'm thinking long and hard about my alternatives should this job go away.

My former field, law, is on the whole kinder to women and older people than high tech. The irony of that is, well, gobsmacking considering how bad things used to be for women in law.

I know at least two women over 50 who have been completely out of work for over two years not through any fault of their own. Neither is married or partnered. Scary stuff.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 4:32 PM on January 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


Ohgod. I probably shouldn't read this, but here I go.
posted by Space Kitty at 4:40 PM on January 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


I can sympathize with business owners being hesitant about hiring older people. Too much perceived cost, hassle and risk; better go with someone younger.

I literally don't get this. Every time a thread on agism comes up, someone says something like this. Substitute "women" for "older people" and then see how that sentence reads. Would anyone dare say the position is sympathetic?

But this is ABOUT women...even a post about women turns into "substitute women for x" - can we just talk about how this phenomenon seems to be about women?
posted by sweetkid at 4:41 PM on January 2, 2016 [17 favorites]


"the recession, which ended six and a half years ago,"

ORLY?
posted by Space Kitty at 4:43 PM on January 2, 2016 [20 favorites]


Well, that would be illegal age discrimination, too.

In the US, it is completely legal to discriminate against people based on age, as long as they are under 40.
AGE LIMITS
SEC. 631. [Section 12]

(a) Individuals of at least 40 years of age

The prohibitions in this chapter shall be limited to individuals who are at least 40 years of age.
So yes, old people like me could totally band together and form a company that did not hire young people.
posted by nev at 4:46 PM on January 2, 2016 [10 favorites]


Also, they straight up ask you for your age in your CV. I asked a HR rep about this and they told me honestly (unlike their US counterparts that would lie about such a thing) that it was because older people expected to get compensated more (due to their experience), and thus they avoided hiring older people.

I heard this a lot as the explanation in the Netherlands. And having been a manager there, it is true that older coworkers were entitled to (slightly) more vacation leave and we needed to pay a (slightly) higher amount towards their pension. However, from a total P&L perspective the amount is trivial. More a justification than a reason.
posted by frumiousb at 4:49 PM on January 2, 2016


I'm not really old enough to worry about this yet, but I think networking helps with this a lot. Keep your networks and skills up, and sorry but, stop posting about how much you hate talking to people because introverts. Being pleasant to talk to makes people remember you for jobs, more than remembering Caring For Introverts articles.
posted by sweetkid at 4:56 PM on January 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


Keep your networks and skills up, and sorry but, stop posting about how much you hate talking to people because introverts.

As someone who has maybe a few times chosen their words poorly, I think I can point this out as an example.

Telling someone not to be introverted is like telling someone to not be depressed. From your side of the fence, it seems simple, but from the introverted side, not so much.
posted by Mooski at 5:01 PM on January 2, 2016 [19 favorites]


This is not a problem particular to women.

I'm in my early fifty's now. I was laid off in December of 2006 and stopped looking for work long ago.

It becomes abundantly clear, very quickly, that if you're 40+ and you're looking for work, you are not welcome in most establishments.

It has nothing to do with my experience, or my capabilities: it's all about my age, being older than the person doing the hiring, and there's no getting around that.
posted by rougy at 5:02 PM on January 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


You've got to keep a hand in things to network, though. And good luck with that if you're out for mat leave, or if you have an older parent you're taking care of (too often a woman thing), or if you move to be a with a partner, whether that's because you're an idiot and think you're in love (in the specific ways we're taught to be in love and love - too often a woman thing) or because (if you're a het woman with a male partner) your partner's salary and prospects are that much more amazing.
posted by cotton dress sock at 5:04 PM on January 2, 2016 [15 favorites]


> I'm not really old enough to worry about this yet, but I think networking helps with this a lot. Keep your networks and skills up, and sorry but, stop posting about how much you hate talking to people because introverts. Being pleasant to talk to makes people remember you for jobs, more than remembering Caring For Introverts articles.
posted by sweetkid at 4:56 PM on January 2 [+] [!]


Correct. Militating for your own interests is not a thing you can do on your own. You have to identify your trusted comrades, you have to speak regularly with your trusted comrades, and you have to steer opportunities to extract money from companies toward your trusted comrades. A lone wolf dies. If you let yourself become cut off from your comrades and stuck in a workplace without a conspiracy to protect you, you can be ruthlessly hyperexploited by your class enemies.

The one proviso I'd add, though, is that we can't just fight for people who are good at networking. The best people in the world are the people who care deeply about craft, and about skills other than just the skill of organizing effective conspiracies. And so we must work as much as we can to militate for the interests of the introverts while we militate for our own interests, because the interests of the shy and the meek are, ultimately, our interests. Attempting to blame people too fundamentally decent to set up a conspiracy for their status as excluded from networks of power is victim blaming at its purest.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 5:09 PM on January 2, 2016 [28 favorites]


[One comment deleted. As with many things, if this isn't a problem you face, really consider if you're weighing in in a constructive way.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 5:15 PM on January 2, 2016 [11 favorites]


Are introverts victims though? I'm all too happy to advocate for them ,but people who seem to willingly not want to expand their personal network because people just being people are too odious to deal with, but then suddenly find themselves not knowing anyone who can help them get work, it just doesn't seem too practical. I'm only in my 30s but have gotten work through people I know for ten years or so. Some of these are from long, long relationships of ten years or more where I genuinely care about other people and we help each other.
posted by sweetkid at 5:16 PM on January 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm a unicorn here: just after turning fifty last year, and with a spotty employment record since the recession, I was hired to manage the tech aspects of a nationwide law firm library based in Los Angeles. Positions like this in large metropolitan areas are very competitive, and not only don't I have the full graduate degree (just decades of experience), none of my previous positions were as tech-heavy as the job required, PLUS though I present as white my resume name is unmistakably Latino.

The only reason I can surmise for my good fortune, besides the fact that I am qualified, is that my employer is a woman AND she's a woman over sixty. Her company, which she built, staffs many law firm and government libraries. I'd worked for her as a temp years ago so my name was good. She apparently has no prejudices about hiring women of a certain age. But there aren't too many of her.
posted by goofyfoot at 5:19 PM on January 2, 2016 [8 favorites]


I work for a corporation that's friendly to older women. It's a shitty place to work, by and large, and I wouldn't recommend it to my worst enemy, but I guess it all depends on the people doing the hiring.
posted by gehenna_lion at 5:21 PM on January 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


picklenickle: But the nature of an industry and field can change. Sometimes I wonder if my gradual accruement of benchtop skills will actually pay off the way I predicted, or if there is some wall I'm going to hit.

It depends on your level of education. If you have just a bachelors (or an associates), the wall will be hard and hit fairly quickly. Whether you can make enough to live on will depend on your field, but the pay will never be very good. With a masters, you might be ok, but there will still be a wall. With a doctorate, there's no wall, but the benchtop skills are not very important toward your progression.
posted by Mitrovarr at 5:29 PM on January 2, 2016


This is why I dye my hair and keep everything off my resume and LinkedIn fifteen years or older. My male counterparts happily cite "decades of experience" in their "headlines" and cover letters.
posted by tilde at 5:30 PM on January 2, 2016 [21 favorites]


I mainly understand things through the lens of YA novel series and superhero comics, with the occasional science fiction novel thrown in. I've found this easiest to think through in terms of superhero comix, though.

Take the Marvel universe. Consider how there are, roughly speaking, two types of superhero and supervillain. There are superheroes and supervillains with physical powers; they can fly, they can jump, they can turn invisible, they can punch real hard, they're made of fire, whatever. Then there are superheroes and supervillains with mental powers; they can read and control the minds of the people around them. These characters — Professor X, for example — who are most often depicted as significantly physically weaker than the non-mentalists, look much less impressive but tend to quickly establish themselves as leaders, or even as little gods. The recent Jessica Jones miniseries explored the difference between physical and mental powers extremely directly; the title character has superstrength, but is utterly helpless in the face of the show's villain's mind control powers, and at some point before the start of the series had spent a very large amount of time under his control, forced to pretend to be his happy girlfriend while he took her out to dinner and when he took her back home to rape her.

Extraversion is a mind power. A good extravert has access to all of the skills of all of the people in their network, like a kindler, gentler version of Kilgrave from Jessica Jones, who doesn't have any skill in labwork but who was at one point able to synthesize a new experimental chemical just by mind-whammying the people with the physical skills into doing it for him. Introversion is a physical power; introverts are bad at playing the mind-control games associated with networking, but instead get very, very good at working the material you work (code, writing, carpentry, engineering of various flavors, DNA, plumbing, whatever). The hands that make the best things are the hands of introverts, despite introverts having tapped out of the power games played by the networky extraverts.

Rational play according to networking theory is to strive to network with the people who've got the best networks; the guy with the contact list with everyone's number is the guy you want to get on your side, and then you want to find that guy's own "guy with the best contact list," and so on ad infinitum, until you're networked in on all the biggest and best networks.

Irrational play (and you know I love me some irrational play) is to specifically seek out the loneliest, most isolated, least connected people you can find and get them in your network. This is because the people you find chasing the biggest network tend to over time be people who are no good at anything but network-chasing, and because network-chasing means being palatable to the other network-chasers, which means seeming like the other network-chasers, the people who are best at the network game a: are hideously bland people, and b: set the fashion for everyone else. If you want worthwhile humans, look down, not up.

If we do this we will be better people with better conspiracies. Extraverts of the world: fan out, build networks, and find weirdos to connect to those networks. A better world is waiting for us.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 5:33 PM on January 2, 2016 [26 favorites]



This is why I dye my hair and keep everything off my resume and LinkedIn fifteen years or older


Yes, I've seen a lot of women do this. It sucks but seems necessary.
posted by sweetkid at 5:33 PM on January 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


Extraversion is a mind power. A good extravert has access to all of the skills of all of the people in their network, like a kindler, gentler version of Kilgrave from Jessica Jones, who doesn't have any skill in labwork but who was at one point able to synthesize a new experimental chemical just by mind-whammying the people with the physical skills into doing it for him. Introversion is a physical power; introverts are bad at playing the mind-control games associated with networking, but instead get very, very good at working the material you work (code, writing, carpentry, engineering of various flavors, DNA, plumbing, whatever). The hands that make the best things are the hands of introverts, despite introverts having tapped out of the power games played by the networky extraverts.

I mean this seriously, so hope it doesn't get deleted - I'm an extra/ambivert but I am actually good at "real skills"too. I just think not wanting to network for your whole life and then ending up unemployed with few contacts because you think you're so good at code and writing that networking isn't necessary isn't the way to proceed in the new economy. Working with other people is a skill, not sorcery. It's not like being a villain in Jessica Jones. It's just having an interest in people beyond what you can get out of them.

Being of the age group that might be hiring people in 20 years - I won't be looking for people who were posting cartoons about how much I need to understand their dislike for other people because they're so talented at other things that I shouldn't worry about an extreme dislike of social interaction.
posted by sweetkid at 5:40 PM on January 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


Touched on above, but one of the issues that would face a cadre of older folks starting a company could be the availability of funds. VC and angel investors are largely poisoned by the same youngwhitemale-ism that has tainted tech. If you can bootstrap your company, that would be a huge advantage; but you'd be at a disadvantage in trying to raise venture capital.
posted by Existential Dread at 5:44 PM on January 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


Well, except there's a lot of evidence that organisations need introverts as much as they need extroverts. As per the direct age issue, diversity is healthy. Some of the best project leaders I've ever known are brilliant understated people. They would be in serious trouble if they had to sell themselves outside of their home organisations (if they suddenly got laid off). This says nothing about their job skills or their people skills.

Good at networking does not equal good at managing or working with people. That's too easy.
posted by frumiousb at 5:45 PM on January 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


I think the introvert/ extrovert discussion is a bizarre, victim-blamey derail, and I find it really distasteful. There is no reason to believe that ageism and sexism are caused by older women failing to behave the way you think they should.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:50 PM on January 2, 2016 [76 favorites]


But if people were in "serious trouble" outside their mothership job, they might need to work on those networking skills.

I think if you publicly bellyache about having to even talk to other people, you might not be the first person people think of hiring in a recession, especially if you think your non people skills are so great that your people skills shouldn't matter.

My expertise on this is over ten years working with programmers, who seem to have figured out that they can't just hate on the lil project manager lady and still get the job, not anymore.
posted by sweetkid at 5:53 PM on January 2, 2016


And also, sweetkid, I think that there's a real danger with ageism to fall into the just world fallacy. What I mean is that a 50+ person can't get a job "because they didn't network/ because they have too many health issues/ because their tech skills aren't up to date/ because they cost more".

From the evidence, even if you had a 50+ er in top shape, great networker, able to relocate, with up to date skills and a reasonable salary-- they'd still be less likely to get an interview or a job than a 30 something with far less qualifications. I think the perception of incompetence associated with age is really that high. It's almost as though age inspires viceral dislike.

I'd argue that this is stronger for women, where so much of our perceived worth is bound up in our sexual attractiveness. When there's little or no diversity on the hiring side, there's no reason to check this tendency. (Yes, I know that the unemployment data for men an women over 50 is roughly similar, but given that this doesn't include women who just don't bother to look or who have given up and taken "retirement" within marriage, I don't trust those numbers.)
posted by frumiousb at 5:55 PM on January 2, 2016 [33 favorites]


I know some successful 50+ women and their standout quality is their relentless networking. That's not victim blaming, that's just what I aspire to and what seems to be something to emulate to me, a much younger woman. They have kids and pets and families and health issues and etc.
posted by sweetkid at 5:58 PM on January 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


one of the issues that would face a cadre of older folks starting a company could be the availability of funds.

Also, entrepreneurship usually still involves those 60-70 hour weeks. Maybe I'm projecting because of my own medical issues, but bodies do get worn out, I feel like there has to be some realism around that. Also, there isn't a lot of time for someone older to recuperate from a loss. That business idea had better be solid.
posted by cotton dress sock at 5:59 PM on January 2, 2016 [6 favorites]


Idk, the introvert/extrovert discussion is a big part of this very gendered issue. If the Ideal Self caricature is masculine (because to be feminine is to be wussy, weak, submissive) and extroverted, we envision him like an unstoppable Don Draper who can call in a favor from almost anyone and never suffer from isolation. So extroverts win everything. His introverted counterpart is like Peggy before her transformation. "Um, uh-huh, sure, I guess," says the ineffectual little lady, never standing up for herself and always getting passed over for promotions.

But that's total BS and a false dichotomy, this introvert/extrovert thing, here in the age of Buzzfeed quizzes and Tumblr. We wear our Meyers-Briggs type as a badge and derive (imho) way too much of our sense of identity from this stuff. We need to throw introvert/extrovert out the window and all the gender assumptions it carries with it. What if you just...talked to people, or didn't? And enjoyed it, or didn't? And considered it an important part of doing your job and being a professional...or didn't?

There's no getting around the fact that you have to communicate with people in order to get shit done. People want to hire people who get shit done. You don't have to like it, but it is inevitable that you will have to do it. Regardless of your INTJ-ness.
posted by witchen at 6:00 PM on January 2, 2016 [6 favorites]


Honestly, I'm not even out of my twenties yet, but I've been planning for the day when I'm considered "unemployable" for a long time already. The most secure way to ensure you can keep working is to own/run your own business, so that's what I'm preparing myself for (both financially and in terms of skill-building).

I agree that many people (any gender) equate a woman's worth with how easily she's exploited. The older and presumably wiser a woman is, the harder she is to exploit, so the less she's "worth" socially. That's true across the board, ime, whether the woman in question is trying to find a boyfriend or a job or something else entirely.

Ime, it's also very easy to price yourself out of the market as a woman. I suppose it's because the ceiling for earnings and authority is generally lower for women and/or in industries whose workforces skew female.
posted by rue72 at 6:01 PM on January 2, 2016 [11 favorites]


On preview, I should add: I come to this from a mostly-humanities field. In my department, we're taking on new interns and employees who are women in their 40s and 50s, and they get their feet in the door because of either a) another (female) professor recommends them highly, or b) they aggressively submit their very impressive resumes--listing, notably, their years as a parent, because that is very much work!--and email to follow up and schedule a sit-down.

So in this semi-cushy semi-academic field, the best bet is to just be impressive, full stop. Promote yourself. Then be a little bit friendly. The rest is all luck and timing.
posted by witchen at 6:04 PM on January 2, 2016


Maybe I'm projecting because of my own medical issues, but bodies do get worn out, I feel like there has to be some realism around that.

idk, I'm 47 and I don't have a track record of any more illnesses than coworkers in their 30s. And while I am active, I'm not exceptionally healthy. I have Crohn's disease, but I'm actually better at managing it now than I was in my 20s. I've also managed widely diverse teams and didn't see health-related differences impacting older coworkers more. I did have a coworker who was 63 who started suffering from heart problems. But then I also had a 32 year old with bowel cancer-- so I don't see the difference really.
posted by frumiousb at 6:07 PM on January 2, 2016 [6 favorites]


If the Ideal Self caricature is masculine (because to be feminine is to be wussy, weak, submissive) and extroverted, we envision him like an unstoppable Don Draper who can call in a favor from almost anyone and never suffer from isolation. So extroverts win everything. His introverted counterpart is like Peggy before her transformation. "Um, uh-huh, sure, I guess," says the ineffectual little lady, never standing up for herself and always getting passed over for promotions.


From my perspective, the stereotype is that women create networks, partly out of our lack of institutional power, and this is something we can exploit. The women programmers I have worked with have had much better social and networking skills, because they have to. Ten years ago it was cool to be a surly dude who was like "get out of my face, I'm PROGRAMMING" but that's not the case anymore, and I'd rather hire a woman who knows social skills and how to comment her code than a man who was like 'OUT OF MY FACE I KNOW PROGRAMS' and the women are the ones I still communicate with and want to work with, in our fifties and on and on.
posted by sweetkid at 6:08 PM on January 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


Wait, is someone really commenting on a social network full of introverts to complain that introverts do not have networks?
posted by yarntheory at 6:14 PM on January 2, 2016 [6 favorites]


Sweetkid, good point. I was referring to the thought experiment YCTAB mentioned upthread, where instead of identifying with the imperfect/aging worker we actually are, we imagine ourselves as the powerful boss man with the great head of hair.

But it is true that that's one big payoff of all the accumulated emotional labor women perform over a lifetime. In many cases, it gives us the skills to get together and accomplish things without the surly-dude intransigence/passivity that often masquerades (and is fetishized) as introversion.
posted by witchen at 6:16 PM on January 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


I guess "someone" means me but, I think as women our power might be in social networks. Especially as we age. Since this is the topic of the thread.
posted by sweetkid at 6:16 PM on January 2, 2016



But it is true that that's one big payoff of all the accumulated emotional labor women perform over a lifetime. It usually enables us to get together and accomplish things without the surly-dude intransigence/passivity that often masquerades (and is fetishized) as introversion.


Yes! This is very well said.
posted by sweetkid at 6:18 PM on January 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


I was pushing 50 when the company I worked for was bought out by a competitor and shut down. I had a good-paying union job that evaporated in the Recession, and I wasn't alone; 3 of the largest employers in my town were gone - bankrupt or moved to Mexico - within a year. I never did find another job. I had saved some money for a rainy day, and now I have a small business that pays me about a third of what I made before... but at least it's mine, I earn my bread with my own efforts, and nobody can take it from me or downsize me.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 6:28 PM on January 2, 2016 [10 favorites]


I've also managed widely diverse teams and didn't see health-related differences impacting older coworkers more.

Do you think there may be some protective factors at play? Are your coworkers securely employed, with access to good health insurance, for instance?
posted by cotton dress sock at 6:31 PM on January 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


It's funny, sweetkid, that my experiences have been opposite with female over male programmers who were programming code. The women were very "GTFO I'm programming I am not explaining code to you you can't read it go find someone else who can" and the guys worked with me to set up the context their users needed to get things done with what I was putting together on their code for their users.

The exceptions were female and male non-programmers; women who happened to not specifically code in a language but work on the more meta programming and designing of systems architecture. They rocked, too. But maybe I was lucky to work with folks who like architecture.

But I've also potentially finally found a position in a company that's mostly run by older women (who are looking to retire and hiring me in as part of the New Guard and in the face of a possible schism among the company founders) but hires people of all ages and backgrounds for the rest of the company for their skills. It pays lot less than I'd make running a comparable team at a software company but I might also not spend half my day fighting for the continued funding of my job, either. I've been interviewing for the comparable jobs but as I get older and more qualified I also see that I just have less tolerance for putting up with 'brogrammer' bullshit, no matter who it comes from, so I should take the lower pay and lower stress.
posted by tilde at 6:37 PM on January 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


Sigh. I guess all of my thoughts about networking as a concept are fairly heavily informed by this post by Slacktivist, about a particularly networky campus christian group. The conclusion Slacktivist gets to (which srsly is worth reading) is that the ethos of networking is the ethos of winner-seeking — you join up with the people who are already winners, so that they'll like you and make you a winner too. Christian ethics (as Slacktivist has it — and this interpretation of the) is largely about the preeminence of losers, and so winner-seeking network-building recruitment strategies sit uncomfortably in that particular context.

I dunno. On the one hand, it is good for an individual to have a good network. And also, people without good networks sometimes don't have them because they're too offputting or difficult or unreliable to work that way with people. The snarling old male programmer who's been obsoleted by the new-gen networky brogrammers is one type of non-networker. But there's others.

Ugh, I've been dancing around it, but I'm going to cut to the chase. If people are criticizing unemployed people for having small and weak networks, they are saying that their problems can be traced to them having too few friends, and to the friends they have being too uninfluential to find them jobs. They are saying that their problem is that they're unpopular, or at best popular with the wrong crowd. For example, a Black woman in her 50s may have a strong network of other underemployed Black women in their 50s, but that doesn't get anyone a job unless she can rope someone with capital into the network and then adjust her social behavior to please — pardon, to better network with — the capitalholder.

Diving all the way into the systems-obsessed cartoon I am, I'll note that the end state of the game that privileges popularity-striving over everything else, and that punishes the people who are unpopular among the popular for their unpopularity, the end state of that game is viciously white supremacist, patriarchal, classist, ageist, homophobic, and dystopic. This is for, well, obvious reasons. The features of the best connected people become privileged — you want to be around them! they're good for your network! — the features of the least connected people become reviled (ugh why are you talking to that homeless guy people are going to think you're homeless).

The phrase that everyone who thinks that networking saves everything (be it digital networks themselves, social networking, whuffie-based social systems, or work site networking) should always remember is the tyranny of structurelessness.

special bonus comment: how to hire, the You Can't Tip a Buick way!
  1. Start with a stack of applications. Winnow out all the ones that are obviously not valid applications for the job.
  2. From that list of valid applications, pull out a statistically improbably large number of applicants from disadvantaged classes, races, castes, genders, ages, and orientations. Include applications from people outside disadvantaged categories too, if you really like their applications.
  3. Stand in a large room with a high ceiling and paint or draw a small mark on the ground.
  4. Step back about six feet from the mark and throw the stack as high as you possibly can
  5. Hire the person with the application that lands closest to the mark.

posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 6:52 PM on January 2, 2016 [48 favorites]


3) skillset. Many older people have specialised a lot and are not interested or sometimes able to become more generalist. They are often not great with newer technologies or platforms...

In my experience, it's not about being "more generalist" ... my specialty. It's simply ageism ... supported (in their minds) with a set of stereotypes and reductionist arguments and (sometimes unconscious) agendas.

At age, you expect to be paid for your experience. Strike two. Because you've been around the block, you are more resistant to being abused and suggested at ... and less willing to work 60 hours for 40 hours pay, because you *know* life is short. Strike three.

People who are AFRAID of this shouldn't be, because it doesn't help, and it's definitely the trend. There are over THREE TIMES as many workers out there as there were when you started. And a LOT of KIDS with HUGE college debt ... who don't have time to discover themselves or the world any more.

So: rather than being afraid, IMHO, your best course is the boy scout motto: Be Prepared. Get that mortgage paid off. Use the employment you've got to liberate yourself from specialty and dependence. And pay more attention to networking than you might want to. As you know: it's WHO you know.

Kids: hire some old folks. There's more to enjoying your business than 100% focus on the bottom line and devouring human resources. Fezziwig was right - ask Ebeneezer.
posted by Twang at 6:54 PM on January 2, 2016 [8 favorites]


> It's WHO you know.

And keep in mind that even though this is the coin that Caesar demands we pay — the coin of our attention — "it's WHO you know" is a concept diametrically opposed to Christian ethics, which are less about knowing the people who get described as WHO in all capital letters like that, and more about knowing beggars and dealers and underpaid sex workers and fast food company employees and homeless people and the elderly and the disabled and the weak and the unemployed and the unpopular.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 6:59 PM on January 2, 2016 [8 favorites]


For example, a Black woman in her 50s may have a strong network of other underemployed Black women in their 50s, but that doesn't get anyone a job unless she can rope someone with capital into the network and then adjust her social behavior to please — pardon, to better network with — the capitalholder.

Are you a black or otherwise WOC in her fifties? Lots of black women have strong networks because they have to.
I'm not penalizing anyone for not wanting to build their networks - but if for most of your life you actively don't want to interact with other people, you might find yourself in a tough spot if you're looking for work. I've made career connections at parties, where if I were like " I wish I were home with a book" I might have a harder time making that connection. And I do think that the required emotional labor of women, especially women of color who might not have the family/social connections others do at top like companies, can help ease this transition. From everything I've read and am starting to experience, the advantage of age is social connection and the length of social ties.

The challenge facing women in their 50s in 2016 will not be the same as those facing 50+ women in 2026 or 2036 and I think younger women now should be working on their networks. That isn't victim blaming or anti Metafilter behavior, it's just common sense. You can even do this now without talking to people, if you really don't want to, though I find it helps.
posted by sweetkid at 7:04 PM on January 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


the end state of that game is viciously white supremacist, patriarchal, classist, ageist, homophobic, and dystopic

While I have been dutifully following this thread even though the sense of dread and foreboding has been growing with every comment, and as someone who is probably the worst networker possible (a customer asked me the other day where to find me on linkedin, and i had to consciously stop myself from griping about what a scam that is, and how it's nothing but a--wait, I'm going on a tangent, hold on), I don't see that the above end-state follows at all from networking advice. In-cohort networking seems to operate against the various -isms, because people are valuing you for precisely what the employer is discriminating against, and have more incentive to give you the tricks and workarounds and leads you will need but not necessarily know you need, since it's not immediately apparent that the employer is playing a rigged game against you.

The discussion so far has not sounded like blaming people for having weak networks, but rather an exhortation not to blow off the networking.
posted by mittens at 7:05 PM on January 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


Also, I wanted to add, this discussion really hits home for me, not because I'm a 50+ woman, but because when I used to manage employees, one of things that really explicitly came up a lot between managers, was whether you wanted a younger woman or an older woman on the team. I look back in horror at those conversations, because they were so baldly ageist and so self-assured about it: Older women certainly came with more expertise, the thinking went, but it was hard to integrate them into the team, because they kept wanting to do things the way they had at their old job, wanted to tell you their opinions and experience, and essentially had too high a sense of their own value. Whereas younger women were more...well, pliable. Interestingly, questions of healthcare and eldercare and childcare didn't factor in, it was about attitude.

I am not sure, now that I am just a few years away from 50, which lesson I should have been learning from that, aside from hoping against hope I don't have to look for another job anytime soon. But jeez, business is creepy.
posted by mittens at 7:19 PM on January 2, 2016 [18 favorites]


Do you think there may be some protective factors at play? Are your coworkers securely employed, with access to good health insurance, for instance?

Sure. These were knowledge workers, with decent insurance by their standards-- located in several European and Asian countries (all of which do have more labor protection than the US around working time, for sure.). But both these things being equal, the older coworkers did not get sick more often than the younger coworkers. I'm sure that without good access to health care, the cumulative impact of illnesses as you age is likely to be more of a factor. And these were also not workers who were-- say-- working 6 days a week and 10 hour days. They were salaried professionals working in demanding jobs. And my experience was far from statistically valid-- just one woman's view.

I think the thing that strikes me is that even in that environment, I was questioned for hiring older workers with people asking "won't they get sick more often"? And that belief persisted even when I could document this was not the case. In fact, the largest absenteeism due to illness in my department was invariably people of both sexes who had children under 7. Natural, of course-- as their children get sick then so do they-- but nobody ever suggested we should not hire people in that cohort on the basis of health.
posted by frumiousb at 7:21 PM on January 2, 2016 [6 favorites]


Well you can add me as another datapoint. I wasn't 50 yet when I got laid off in 2010 but after the unemployment ran out, I took what I could get and I suspect it is the best I will ever do again. I have hit that benchmark and it shows. Interviews are brief and bleak, despite the resume, the dyed hair, and, yes, the networking. Now I like my job - but. I wasn't exactly planning to exchange 20+ years in museums for a fun life in retail. I make about what I made at 22. I don't get holidays or vacations or two days off in a row, ever, and I am on my feet for 8 hours a day. And I am one of the lucky ones: I have health insurance, a little PTO if I break my foot and my house is paid for. I don't really want to be hefting boxes of books for the next 20 years but - that's whats out there.
posted by mygothlaundry at 7:33 PM on January 2, 2016 [13 favorites]


As a person with disabilities, I counted myself lucky to have my last job. I also was quite good at it. That job went away when my then boss wanted to play Silly Stock Market games instead of sticking with insurance.
I advised him against Silly Stock Market Games and went to college for awhile. Then left I the country, and came back to even fewer prospects than I had overseas, because the recession hit and I did not want to roll the dice any further.
End result, I FINALLY was old enough to more easily get SSI.
I call my award letter and the legal documents leading to it my Free Papers. They arrived on Juneteenth.
What I went through in the world of trying to work was a nightmare.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 7:34 PM on January 2, 2016 [7 favorites]


Yup. That's what troubles me about so many of these "network" exhortations, particularly from younger women. I wouldn't say it's wrong-- networking is always a good idea. But a good network won't stop these cautionary tales from happening to you.

We need to address the myths and fallacies of agism across the board and address it in ourselves, in our hiring, and in our discourse. Agism impacts both men and women, but it has a uniquely hard impact on women since women are often the ones who take time off out of work force for care taking.

We must stop saying "but it's true that..." when it comes to older workers as a defense against discriminatory hiring practices. It isn't okay. Diversity in hiring works in the best interest of both the business and society.
posted by frumiousb at 7:40 PM on January 2, 2016 [15 favorites]


> Diversity in hiring works in the best interest of both the business and society.
posted by frumiousb at 7:40 PM on January 2 [+] [!]


And it would be a moral mandate even if it were terrible for business.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 7:53 PM on January 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


And it would be a moral mandate even if it were terrible for business.

But luckily, it is not. So it should be a no brainer to fix, right? All we have to do is overcome our instinctive fear of the ageing body.
posted by frumiousb at 8:05 PM on January 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


> In-cohort networking seems to operate against the various -isms, because people are valuing you for precisely what the employer is discriminating against, and have more incentive to give you the tricks and workarounds and leads you will need but not necessarily know you need, since it's not immediately apparent that the employer is playing a rigged game against you.

I refer again to tyranny of structurelessness. although we can (and must) set up small counter-conspiracies by building our own networks, capital-side networks are much stronger and much richer (in both literal and metaphorical terms) than our counter-networks are at present — those networks are, in practical terms, themselves how the game is rigged.

Basically, networking effectively means getting closer and closer to some sort of functional power. There are badass in-cohort counter-networks, and we need more badass in-cohort counter-networks, but in practical terms the difference between the type of counter-network you talk about above and the type of network that most reliably gets you good jobs that the good jobs network is on the whole white, male, rich, and managerial class.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 8:06 PM on January 2, 2016 [7 favorites]



And it would be a moral mandate even if it were terrible for business.

But luckily, it is not. So it should be a no brainer to fix, right? All we have to do is overcome our instinctive fear of the ageing body.
posted by frumiousb at 8:05 PM on January 2 [+] [!]


Nah, I think it's important to stick to the "it's mandatory even if it's bad for business" frame. Otherwise you get lost in the weeds with twerps who think that the way they should respond is through empirical analysis of what hiring styles are most profitable. And the hypothetical twerps might find empirical data against inclusive hiring being good for business — in that case, I don't want to give the impression I'm being hypocritical by not changing my mind, because, well, I wouldn't change my mind. I do not care whether or not inclusive hiring is good for business. I don't care whether anything is good for business. When you get down to it, I would prefer to go without business altogether.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 8:11 PM on January 2, 2016 [7 favorites]


I was 56 when I lost my news job in 2008, not because of the Great Recession, but found re-employment made far worse as a result.

I wish I had a nickel for every hour that I wasted on online applications that usually explicitly stated "young" or had the year of high school graduation the third item, after name and address. I never once heard back from an online application, ever. When networking and trying to pursue jobs I heard about, I often heard the "oh, you don't want this, you're overqualified. Or it's insulting to someone of your experience that we're paying so little, you don't want that." Only someone who has never been truly unemployed, frightened about supporting a child and fearing foreclosure, could tell someone that "oh, you don't want that."

When I finally found something in late 2010, I wound up working with people about half my age, or younger, and that was fine. Our first meeting of new employees was a little weird--by way of introducing ourselves, we had to stand up and name the musicians we'd added that week to our iPod or iPhones; I had no smartphone at that point--couldn't afford it!--so I made something up.

I think in my case, the new company actually wanted a couple of older hands to help steady the younger crew, but I don't know that for certain. That certainly was what happened until the company went belly up; luckily, I'd jumped to another new job a week before, because, experience told me the company was circling the drain. Some of the kids, despite our warnings, didn't believe it.
posted by etaoin at 9:43 PM on January 2, 2016 [12 favorites]


I think in my case, the new company actually wanted a couple of older hands to help steady the younger crew, but I don't know that for certain.

I know I've selected people over 50, and I consider that a good thing not a handicap. I don't have to worry about the kindergarten stuff like showing up to work on time, appropriate dress, professional behavior, etc. Plus, I don't have to worry (as much) about them being on the internet looking for their next job the second I show them where their desk is.

One candidate I remember was clearly self-conscious about it, so I brought it up myself. So, I see you're older. I don't consider that a bad thing, in fact it has its advantages to me. In any case, that's not a factor we consider. She visibly relaxed, did much better, and in fact was one of the selectees we hired.

Didn't stop me from getting a punch in the arm afterwards from the HR person sitting in on the interview, though. "You can't say that!" Yes I can, I can say anything or ask any question I want. I just can't use that as part of my selection basis, which I have no problem showing evidence I don't.
posted by ctmf at 10:55 PM on January 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


I literally don't get this. Every time a thread on agism comes up, someone says something like this. Substitute "women" for "older people" and then see how that sentence reads. Would anyone dare say the position is sympathetic?

I am trying to understand why the vast majority of companies in most developed countries prefer younger employees to older ones. Because 95-99% of businesses in any given country tend to be small ones, I find it particularly relevant to understand the psychology of small business owners. So yeah, I can sympathize with business owners by putting myself in their shoes in the same way I can sympathize with Mefites who have generously shared their experiences in this thread about ageism and their fears. Of course, the act of sympathizing doesn't mean approving or accepting ageism.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 11:25 PM on January 2, 2016


I'm not sure if sweetkid or others are aware of this (or, if aware, are considering it in this thread) but, in case not, the psychological disposition of an introvert is NOT a choice.

Furthermore, introverts don't avoid people because they find them distasteful. That's misanthropy.

Introverts (to overgeneralize) recharge by spending time alone and, given the way most of society is hooked up (i.e. 40+ hour workweeks), getting that time alone is very difficult and often comes at the expense of socializing.

As a gregarious introvert (very near 50, cis-gendered male), I am very social and have a relatively attenuated but incredibly reliable social network.

With that framing done… much of the verbiage above regarding social networks is to some extent victim-blaming, sure. It also seems partly an attempt to distinguish oneself (herself) from the unsuccessful job-seekers featured in the FPP'ed NYTimes article, the product of the just-world fallacy if you will.

While I hope all women past the age of 50 who seek gainful employment can find such, I don't think a lack of a strong network due to misanthropy is the problem. So, extending the social networks of even women misanthropes will not necessarily help these women find jobs.

The problem, I'm pretty sure, is a patriarchal society that penalizes women who, for many different reasons, have gaps in their work careers.

While, networking may help insofar as it gets the right job-seekers in front of the right enlightened hiring managers, the real solution is a complete top-to-bottom restructuring of the way in which women are integrated into the workforce and a change in the modes by which women's careers are advanced once they return to work.
posted by mistersquid at 12:00 AM on January 3, 2016 [28 favorites]


This post makes me think of the expression "So easy, your grandma could do it" - used a lot in tech. Most of the grandmas I know are engineers and computer scientists, and they feel so insulted by that expression. It must be so frustrating trying to find employment in that industry when you embody an actual common punchline/stereotype.

I've put hard effort into removing that saying from my vocab, right up there with saying that someone does a thing "like a girl."
posted by cadge at 12:07 AM on January 3, 2016 [10 favorites]


> I am trying to understand why the vast majority of companies in most developed countries prefer younger employees to older ones.

It is very likely the case that the vast majority of businesses prefer young employees to older ones, at least for positions outside of the small circle that controls and profits from the business, because young employees are easier to exploit than old ones are. They have little experience, so you can pay them less. Their social norms haven't yet been fully set, so you can convince them that it is appropriate for them to waste 14 hours a day working for you. they don't get persnickety if you ask them to falsify timecards in your favor, they don't realize that they're not actually salaried and should be receiving overtime for their long hours, they are willing to work through injuries without complaint. the ones that are fresh out of school are likely experiencing relative social isolation, which you can exploit by making them think of your company as a total organization like their school was. Beyond this, some of them are actually foolish enough to set aside their own interests and identify with the interests of the company instead.

You find the most extreme version in the creative fields: Steve Albini wrote up a great piece back in the prehistoric 90s about why record labels prefer youth and how they take advantage of youth.

tl;dr: it's because young people are profitable resources.

> Because 95-99% of businesses in any given country tend to be small ones, I find it particularly relevant to understand the psychology of small business owners.

This doesn't seem like a useful way to slice things up. The number of small business owners seems less relevant than the percentage of employees employed by differently scaled businesses.

If a majority of people are employed by larger businesses, figuring out the organizational dynamics beyond just the psychologies of individual players is more relevant; the question isn't "what does this person want," but more "what must this person do given their place within this particular organization, within both its formal and informal networks of power?"

As for small business owners, in my personal experience they've been the most erratic, strange, sad people I've ever met. Most of them I've known (mostly restaurant owners) came from moderate wealth and had never quite made anything of their middling position, which clearly frustrated them deeply in ways they couldn't quite understand or articulate. Polls with this degree of demographic fineness don't happen too often, but nevertheless I'd love to see a poll indicating support for Trump among the small business class; I'd expect they'd run very strongly Trumpist.

To be fair, I've also known people who technically qualify as small business owners, but in practice are just freelancers like everyone else. These people seem earnest, but frazzled. Watching them try to promote their bands or etsy sites or apps or skills as copy editors on facebook feels like watching the last piece of the old weird good internet get choked to death, along with all the friends I met there. These people run libertarian to liberal, but often don't vote.

I was in Thailand during the last coup, where the military, acting in the name of the "yellow shirt" movement, took down a democratically elected government. The politics of Thailand don't exactly map onto the politics of the US in any direct way, but there are interesting class dynamics at play which may nevertheless yield fruitful insight into how political formations work worldwide. In the case of Thailand, the two power blocs at the time of the last coup (neglecting for the purposes of this description the Muslim separatists in the south, who are sort of doing their own thing) ahem, the two power blocs were the redshirts, which were aligned behind the Shinawatra family, and the yellowshirts, who supported a military coup and the establishment of a "council of elders," largely run by the military, to govern a slow transition back toward something like democracy. The Shinawatra family, personally, are noveau-riche big bourgeoisie from the north of Thailand, and their supporters were a mix of the international-minded megarich, the rural peasants who benefited from social welfare measures (free health care, price supports for rice, etc.) that the Shinawatras had instituted, and the urban poor of Bangkok, who likewise benefited from social welfare measures. The chief backers of their opponents, the yellowshirts, were small Bangkok businessesowners who were literally and metaphorically up in arms about the marginal tax increases required to pay for social welfare measures for the poor. and, of course, the military itself was strongly yellowshirt. Yellowshirt supporters interpreted social welfare measures as rank vote-buying; why else would the government redistribute funds to dirty peasants?

If you think the reason why I'm relating this story is to suggest that I think that small businessowners worldwide are self-regarding fascists who'd gladly starve their neighbor for a tax cut, you may be right. Hopefully this proposed frame (whether you adopt it or not) will be useful for future games of "let's figure out what's in the interest of business owners." This might not even be a useless game — so long as we then proceed to take the next step and theory out how we can organize to achieve our interests based on our knowledge of the interests of the business owners. If we can achieve a better model of them than they can of us, we can, maybe, outmaneuver them, by exploiting our knowledge of their aims and their preferences.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 12:17 AM on January 3, 2016 [14 favorites]


I'm willing to cut small business owners a bit of slack. The ones I know have invested everything they personally have into their businesses. The main questions they have around hiring are "Can I rely on this person, and can I afford them?"

Maternity leave is expensive, so are medical leave and insurance. Finding temporary staff (who will not fuck up your business) on short notice is costly - agencies that screen candidates take a huge cut, and finding someone outside of an agency setting involves time and not a small amount of risk. But you need to be able to do that on a dime when people have kids who get sick (or have recitals their parents forgot about), or when people have illnesses that express themselves unpredictably, or have to take care of others with illnesses like that.

Making arrangements around part-time employees isn't easy, because you need to keep quality workers happy with either enough hours or enough pay. It is always more expensive to do that than hire a single full-timer, and scheduling and communicating across people is a hassle.

Larger employers can absorb more risk.

All this is reflected in the fact that small and large business are held to different legal obligations.

The thing with larger employers is that whole other level of creepiness (per mittens' and frumiousb's comments above).

I am 100% down with completely restructuring things top to bottom, and all the other good structural ideas that have been talked about, but until those happen, I'd like to hear about more immediately realizable ideas. EM's temp agency idea is great. I'd also like to see banks and governments invest in loan and mentorship programs for women interested in self-employment. (For both mature women, and those who are less time-pressured).
posted by cotton dress sock at 12:56 AM on January 3, 2016 [4 favorites]


I'm willing to cut small business owners a bit of slack.

To clarify: as far as being "self-regarding" capitalists goes. That's understandable, they're taking the big risk and assuming the liabilities. Most of the SB owners I know (and sometimes work for, in one case) actually are women (not conservative voting ones, either), and they hire women. Things get worked out more or less reasonably - but that is because everyone involved has been pretty lucky, so far.
posted by cotton dress sock at 2:15 AM on January 3, 2016


When I finally girded up and went job-hunting, I cut my long mostly white hair, as the long braid felt elderly. I have resisted coloring my hair since it started graying in my teens. I mentally composed an Ask.me about hair color more than a few times. I do know men who color their hair due to job discrimination. In the long run, I just couldn't be arsed. I'm probably paying for my fukitol addiction in lower pay, but the fukitol makes life almost bearable.
posted by theora55 at 6:44 AM on January 3, 2016 [4 favorites]


Wow. This is my life. I was out of the workforce for 9-10 years, caring for my special needs son and disabled mom, and trapped in an abusive marriage. When I finally got out, I left with two suitcases and nothing else. No money or savings, no job, and no where to live. At my age 38 and with a special needs kid, building a life has been INCREDIBLY hard. I'm 41 now and the only work I could get, even with a college degree, was contract work with Verizon Wireless, where we were flatly told there is no permanent offer for the position. I have email, mailed, and faxed my resume so many times over these last several years, I've lost count. I've used job sites. I've had my resume redone by a professional. I've had job counselling. I took certification course to update my job skills. None of it has helped. I am a middle aged woman with a large employment gap that asks for accommodations to raise a special needs son all by myself. I cover my bills but I have no savings. We survive, we don't live. I will always have to work until I die, and I can't die because someone needs to care for my son who can't even bathe himself properly.

So yeah, fuck the patriarchy.
posted by 80 Cats in a Dog Suit at 8:17 AM on January 3, 2016 [28 favorites]


So either make "aging out" against the law or lower the retirement age to 45

Funny how this wasnt ever a prob until the 1990s
posted by Fupped Duck at 10:54 AM on January 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


I just realized that my current company is an SF company 75 percent comprised of women.

We don't pay top rates for any employees but have generous sick leave and solid benefits, we are growing domestically and internationally, and, more relevantly,
we are incredibly flexible and understanding of employees who take time off from work.

We have jobs in multiple markets and accept people for part-time employment. (I don't know off the top of my head about benefits for non-FTEs.) I don't feel comfortable linking to our jobs page (which I was the lead developer for!) here so do me-mail me if you'd like a link.
posted by mistersquid at 11:08 AM on January 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


As for small business owners, in my personal experience they've been the most erratic, strange, sad people I've ever met. Most of them I've known (mostly restaurant owners)

You buried the lede. Restaurant owners are their own little special subclass of small business owners. Where I live there are no major employers, only small business owners, and they run the spectrum of personalities and skill-level
posted by saucysault at 11:34 AM on January 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


Without endorsing all of his points, Michael O. Church adds some reasoning.
posted by rhizome at 2:24 PM on January 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm so curious about this supposed pending wave of baby boomer retirements obliterating the workforce. In my city a bunch of large employers/local governments/etc. created a non-profit organization focused on talent recruitment because demographics have them scared about workforce viability. A recent newspaper article noted that 43% of one local county government's employees are eligible to retire by 2025. So these employers are worried that educated young people will leave Minnesota or refuse to consider jobs here, and they're making snazzy videos and convening economic development meetings and who knows what else.

Based on the NYT article and the clear unemployment issues of people over 50, it's clear that the demographic shift hasn't happened yet (and I see people delaying retirement for financial reasons, which must skew the employment projections somehow). But I wonder if, as a person in their 30s, I won't have to worry about the same issues as the current generation of 50+ year olds due to PENDING DEMOGRAPHIC DISASTER. Will employers be so grateful in the future to have experienced employees, period, that they won't care about my age? Or will they insist on holding out for ever scarcer recent college graduates like they do right now? This discrepancy between current state and supposed future workforce pending doom is so bizarre.
posted by Maarika at 8:57 AM on January 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


Also, they straight up ask you for your age in your CV. I asked a HR rep about this and they told me honestly (unlike their US counterparts that would lie about such a thing) that it was because older people expected to get compensated more (due to their experience), and thus they avoided hiring older people.

I'm sure the implications of this would give USA-based HR staff a heart attack, but I've been told that in Europe, it is standard practice to attach a current photograph (tasteful head shot) to a resume. I don't know if this is accurate as I've neither worked nor applied for a job in Europe - can Euros confirm or disconfirm?

If true, I'm sure this practice can facilitate all sorts of decision making on the part of hiring managers and HR staff that would not pass muster in the USA.
posted by theorique at 10:06 AM on January 4, 2016


I got a CV forwarded to me from an engineer in India and not only did it have his age but he also included his marital status and religion.
posted by octothorpe at 10:27 AM on January 4, 2016


It's high time we had a universal basic income. Ideally one indexed to inflation, with the deliberate intent to spark off wage-driven inflation that weakens the position of the creditor class and makes debts in current-value dollars easy to pay off.

cathy o'neill proposes a modified minimum wage with a cost of living adjustment -- indexed to inflation -- per locality(!) to make it a living wage; obviously there'd be some implementation/fungibility/arbitrage issues, perhaps making an UBI more practical, but as a thought experiment i think it helps clarify the issues...
I once figured out that if you take someone’s hourly wage in dollars, and you multiply by 2, then you get their yearly wages in thousands of dollars. That means an income of $100K per year is $50 per hour. That means an income of the current New York minimum wage, $8.75 per hour, is a measly $17.5K per year, which would be absolutely crazy to try to live on, according to my reckoning...

I say, figure out what a living wage is, and raise the minimum wage to that level. I actually don’t know what the magic number should be, exactly. Is 15 big enough? Maybe it is, in some places, but maybe in others it’s actually smaller. It doesn’t have to be the same throughout the country. But for as long as we live in a country where the model is that a job is supposed to support you, we should make sure it actually does.
I was in Thailand during the last coup, where the military, acting in the name of the "yellow shirt" movement, took down a democratically elected government.

if you'd like a weekly dose of 'surreal' i'd recommend general prayuth's 'returning happiness to the people'[1,2,3] national address every friday night on _all_ thai tv channels, where he covers everything from garbage disposal to the TPP :P
posted by kliuless at 11:42 AM on January 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm sure the implications of this would give USA-based HR staff a heart attack, but I've been told that in Europe, it is standard practice to attach a current photograph (tasteful head shot) to a resume. I don't know if this is accurate as I've neither worked nor applied for a job in Europe - can Euros confirm or disconfirm?

True, yes. It's often requested by employers in Europe too. I hate it.
posted by frumiousb at 6:43 PM on January 4, 2016


many years ago I held a fellowship that (much to my surprise) came with a requirement near the end of the fellowship term to write a letter to the (still living) funders of the fellowship — the sort of very rich family that has popular and lucrative subspecies of fruit named after them — telling them all about the wonderful things I've done with their fellowship money. For the letter, I copy-pasted in stuff from an old grad school application letter about how I hope through my work to find methods to democratize technology in ways that allow the poor to use it to seize power for themselves against and outside the power networks of the wealthy. The email requesting that I send this "look at how you have helped this starving grad student" letter to the fruit-name family said that I could optionally include a picture, but the actual web form to submit the letter would not accept any submission that did not include a picture. Rather than peeling the paranoia tape off my laptop's camera and taking a picture, I instead fired up the GIMP, typed "NO PICTURE" in futura (because if you're going to commit an act of useless, childish, and self-destructive rebellion, you might as well make it look like a Wes Anderson movie), saved it as a jpg, and uploaded that. I don't exactly bite the hand that feeds me, but apparently I can't quite conceal my resentment (ressentiment?) either.

Apparently if one takes the grateful-starving-grad-student letter seriously, one gets to meet the fruit-name family for a fancy dinner and it's a fantastic networking opportunity. I probably should regret having Holden Caulfielded the whole deal up, but, well, I don't. you're welcome, whoever else got to go instead.

But I bring this up because I realized why I'd never get a job in Europe: instead of putting my own picture on my resume, I'd instead ask one of my Palestinian acquaintances if I could use his picture instead.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 9:26 PM on January 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


I've been told that in Europe, it is standard practice to attach a current photograph (tasteful head shot) to a resume. I don't know if this is accurate as I've neither worked nor applied for a job in Europe - can Euros confirm or disconfirm?

not in the uk. fwiw in chile it used to be common, but it was made illegal to request, and so seems to be dying out (it was used mainly to filter people based on skin colour, which is a proxy for social status).
posted by andrewcooke at 3:00 AM on January 5, 2016


If true, I'm sure this practice can facilitate all sorts of decision making on the part of hiring managers and HR staff that would not pass muster in the USA.

At this point, this is merely a legal technicality for HR to deal with because if you are not required to provide your social media profiles your interviewer has certainly looked on their own. This is much worse than a simple photo. Let's say my photo reveals me to be a 30-is yo woman; my Facebook profile reveals so much more. Did I just get married? Future MatLeave Alert! Did I just have a baby? PTO Alert! Stalker ex? Drama Alert! Photos from last Hanukah? Uh, yeah.

That horse has left the barn and is never coming back, even if it's technically illegal to ask about any of these things.
posted by Room 641-A at 4:11 AM on January 5, 2016


I've been told that in Europe, it is standard practice to attach a current photograph (tasteful head shot) to a resume.

One of the first things the "employment transition and opportunity" service here in the U.S. did was ask me if I had unlocked my LinkedIn from bare minimum mode, had a good headshot on my LinkedIn profile, and what "personality" my social media accounts presented.
posted by tilde at 6:18 AM on January 5, 2016


At this point, this is merely a legal technicality for HR to deal with because if you are not required to provide your social media profiles your interviewer has certainly looked on their own.

Good point. One of the first things that I (and, I presume, everybody else) does when given a resume to review, is to google the person's name, check out their social media (if any), see if they have anything good online that helps me figure out whether they'd fit in at our company (e.g. personal web site, blog, etc).

And you can see if there are any obvious red flags that would preclude wasting time considering their candidacy ... ("did 5-8 in Folsom for 'workplace violence' ... uhhhhh, next). Even without 'obvious' deal breakers, lots of people are quite candid under their given names online nowadays, and from you can get a picture of how they think, how they work, and whether they would be a good match with your company.
posted by theorique at 6:24 AM on January 5, 2016


> And you can see if there are any obvious red flags that would preclude wasting time considering their candidacy ... ("did 5-8 in Folsom for 'workplace violence' ... uhhhhh, next). Even without 'obvious' deal breakers, lots of people are quite candid under their given names online nowadays, and from you can get a picture of how they think, how they work, and whether they would be a good match with your company.
posted by theorique at 6:24 AM on January 5 [+] [!]


And this is why the Internet was a fucking terrible idea.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 9:02 AM on January 5, 2016 [4 favorites]


Iirc one place I worked "banned the box" and when someone didn't work out there were threats of "coming back and shooting the place up".

I think they instuted at least cursory background checks after that. But If they couldn't catch the red flags in that persons behavior before it got that escalated ... Not sure what a background check would help. Maybe fired more carefully, knowing of their record, rehab time, and convictions plus court ordered classes for violent behavior?
posted by tilde at 9:08 AM on January 5, 2016


I'm increasingly not joking: ethical hiring practice means putting the resumes of all the qualified applicants in a stack, going through that stack and selecting the best half or so (with a preference given to people from disadvantaged categories — women, people of color, LGBTQ people, people with disabilities, felons), drawing a dot on the ground, then throwing all the resumes you selected in the air and hiring the person with the resume that lands closest to the dot. Afterward, if you must, make up a reason why that person was obviously the most qualified candidate.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 9:08 AM on January 5, 2016


I was trying to come up with the most obvious possible deal breaker for filtering someone out of a job interview - "documented history of having committed violent acts against other people in their workplace" - but apparently that's not a legitimate deal breaker?

I mean, no offense to convicted violent felons - I'm sure some of them are good people - but in what world does a pattern of violent behavior not raise some concerns.
posted by theorique at 9:44 AM on January 5, 2016


There are lots of violent people who aren't felons. There are lots of felons who aren't violent people. A record of felony convictions is, more than anything else, an indicator that the person in question can't afford a good lawyer and doesn't have connections to people who can help them start over by forging a new identity.

Until such time as it is possible for a person not born rich to live without working, you'll have to make some compromises if you want to go into the business of buying other peoples' labor time and still remain decent. "Don't hire felons" is a valid position for someone to take — but only in a post universal-basic-income world. If you don't think we're ready for a legitimate universal basic income for everyone, perhaps we could start by guaranteeing a universal basic income for felons.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 10:12 AM on January 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


and like on the one hand I'm spouting off here, but on the other hand it takes more than the fingers on one hand to count the number of (well-born, white) people I've met who've told me about all the times they committed (for example) grand theft auto as a kid and how much work it was for their parents' lawyers to get the conviction expunged from their record. (I'm loud on metafilter, but I'm quiet and nice out in the real world, and worked a bunch of temp jobs when I was a kid. I'm so sweet and harmless that everyone at temp jobs would confide in me... right up until the moment that they realized that I had the secrets of everyone in the office).

my favorite "well, you'd be marked for life as a felon if you weren't rich" story that I've heard was the one from a well-born white person — inheritor of a spread outside Memphis that had been in his family since back when his family owned slaves — who tells stories about the time he went out in the woods just shooting up in the air with his Mauser, hit a water tower, and flooded out what he characterized as "the rental house." If he weren't rich and white he would have been tried, convicted as a felon, spent time in jail, and then would have been systematically excluded from all employment for the rest of his life under the mechanism that you describe. In reality, though, he paid a small fine.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 10:24 AM on January 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


tilde: "Iirc one place I worked "banned the box" and when someone didn't work out there were threats of "coming back and shooting the place up". "

One place my husband worked had TWO people do that and NEITHER of them had histories of violent offenses! And the felons they employed had no access to legal firearms, unlike the upstanding citizens who snapped and threatened their entire workplaces!

I have a friendly acquaintance who committed grand theft auto when he was 17 and was tried as an adult. Served his time. Went to college. Graduated. Couldn't get employed because of his felony so started his own business. Has been a community leader, who mentors young black men from his old neighborhood specifically to keep them from making the same mistake he did, for FORTY YEARS. STILL can't get a job working for anyone but himself because the majority of local employers operate on the same theory you have: Once a violent felon, always a violent felon.

It's always stuck out as particularly notable to me because the same week at a school board meeting that some community people came up and complained that they objected to his mentoring program because they didn't want violent felons talking to kids, some of the same people came up and complained that it was SUPER UNFAIR that we had gotten a restraining order against a (white) professional gentleman who was visiting one of our schools, didn't like the language he heard a 16-year-old girl using, and so BEAT THE SHIT OUT OF HER, and that was really unfair because he was a really good guy! Who was really well-known in the community! Who had always had the charges against him dropped during his multiple prior public fistfights with random people who pissed him off! He wasn't VIOLENT! I mean, look, the prosecutor had known him since they were 6 years old and they were good friends and the prosecutor didn't think it was worth prosecuting him, and didn't we think he of all people knew the guy's character?

So, 40 years of a clear record and community service after one felony at 17: YOU CAN NEVER WORK AGAIN
Professional in a position of trust who's buddies with the state's attorney and routinely gets in fistfights with strangers: WHY ARE YOU SO MEAN TO HIM WHEN ALL HE DID WAS BEAT UP A MOUTHY 16-YEAR-OLD WHO PROBABLY DESERVED IT???? HE HAS NO HISTORY OF CRIMINAL ACTIVITY!

People's prior criminal records typically tell you more about the problems with the criminal justice system in the US than about who they are. If someone has paid their debt to society, served their time and their probation, kept their nose clean, then it's really nobody's fucking business unless you're giving them access to a position of trust or authority where their prior crimes are directly relevant (like a doctor who stole meds, or a lawyer who embezzled client funds). Even then it shouldn't disqualify them from returning to their work (and mostly with professionals, IT DOESN'T, because they're professionals and therefore "trustworthy" and worthy of second chances); it should just be cause for greater supervision.

The box can't be banned soon enough.

My acquaintance has appealed to several governors to have his record expunged so he isn't excluded from a variety of community functions, including jobs and running for office and getting certain professional licenses. They have all refused, basically because they don't want to appear soft on crime.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:41 AM on January 5, 2016 [11 favorites]


theorique: "One of the first things that I (and, I presume, everybody else) does when given a resume to review, is to google the person's name, check out their social media (if any), see if they have anything good online that helps me figure out whether they'd fit in at our company (e.g. personal web site, blog, etc)."

If you are in the US, and your company's legal department doesn't know you're doing this, you should probably inform them, because you are opening them up to so. many. lawsuits. if your company doesn't have procedures in place for extracurricular research on applicants, and doesn't inform potential hires they're going to do it.

The most obvious one is that people use information gleaned from online profiles to discriminate based on family status (children/no children, married/not married, gay/straight) but religion is another big one.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:45 AM on January 5, 2016 [4 favorites]


I've always worked on the assumption that all companies do the illegal stuff that theorique talks about, because our legal system doesn't really have mechanisms to enforce laws against it. This is why all of my visible-online political activity (and internet rantery) is under pseudonyms, and why all posts on the facebook account that has my real name on it are completely anodyne and totally fictional. (I stopped using my real facebook account — by which I mean the one that doesn't have my real name on it — a while back, because of personal dislike for the owners of the site.)

Can I point out, though, that the practice theorique describes is a bar to public political activity from working class people? If your name can be linked to political activism, any political activism (aside from maybe harmless white people stuff like species preservationism), that alone makes you suspect to employers doing illegal research on applicants. Good citizens make untrustworthy employees.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 10:56 AM on January 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm sorry for the derail about felony convictions. The point I was intending to make was that there might be some kind of obvious, automatic deal breaker for a given job (which will vary, job by job). For example, a person with a history of child sexual abuse applying for a position in which he would have unsupervised contact with young children. I hope most people would agree that this is a clear deal breaker. (I certainly would not want my children supervised by someone who had done that, no matter how allegedly "rehabilitated" he was.)

I'm certainly not saying the criminal justice system is the only standard of good conduct or is even fair. But a history or pattern of contact with the penal system is certainly the kind of thing that comes out in a background check, and is not an unreasonable thing to suggest "hmm, we should look into this further". If for no other reason than due diligence.

The most obvious one is that people use information gleaned from online profiles to discriminate based on family status (children/no children, married/not married, gay/straight) but religion is another big one.

Is 'knowing' this information from a public search a problem in itself, or is it only a problem if you treat someone differently during the interview process based on the information you glean? (e.g. back on the main topic of the thread, performing some kind of illegal discrimination like "Uh oh, this woman graduated from college in 1980, so she's in her 50s and we shouldn't hire her")
posted by theorique at 10:58 AM on January 5, 2016


The odds of the law ever coming after you or your company are vanishingly small, because you can always manufacture another reason why you hired someone else. So don't worry about it — frankly, you'd be more justified worrying about lightning strikes or shark attacks.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 11:10 AM on January 5, 2016


theorique: "For example, a person with a history of child sexual abuse applying for a position in which he would have unsupervised contact with young children"

It's a good thing, then, that most states require state-run background checks for employment AND volunteer positions that have unsupervised contact with young children and the employer's responsibility extends only to GETTING THE APPROPRIATE BACKGROUND CHECK FROM THE PROPER AUTHORITIES and not ATTEMPTING TO RESEARCH THIS VERY DIFFICULT ISSUE BY THEMSELVES (or, God forbid, by using private background check companies to check for child sexual-abuse history -- this is a job for state law enforcement authorities and DCFS, not hacky for-profit background check companies that mostly provide credit checks and have half-populated and error-riddled arrest records, and no access to DCFS records. I saw a case where a school attempted to hire a man who was convicted of rape of a student in a neighboring state because the hacky for-profit background check company they used to "speed up the process" only did criminal background checking in the SAME STATE. Luckily the legally-mandated state background check run by the state police, while slower, is more thorough and less stupid and his offer of employment was rescinded.). Your concern is already well-covered by the law.

theorique: "Is 'knowing' this information from a public search a problem in itself, or is it only a problem if you treat someone differently during the interview process based on the information you glean? ("

It's a problem when the applicant you didn't hire sues. And you get deposed and have to say, "Uh, yeah, I did google her, and I did see her college graduation year, and that she has three kids, the oldest of whom is in her 20s ..." Whether or not you THINK you treated her differently, and whether or not you had a more-qualified 25-year-old male applicant, you're pretty fucked in that lawsuit and you've put your employer in a very bad position. Intent is hard to suss out, and in cases of discrimination intent often doesn't matter, because the law recognizes people have subconscious bias and, in some cases, only cares about discriminatory effect, not discriminatory intent. (Also you've opened up your internet search history to legal discovery which is also frequently unpleasant, even though work computers are already being gone through by your employer.)

The other thing is, your extracurricular googling may turn a $30,000-in-lawyers-fees dismissal very early in the process of a clearly meritless case with zero evidence, into a $150,000 case where they have to produce a bunch of evidence related to your conduct and argue about whether it meets the standards for discrimination in your state. Even dumb lawsuits cost money to defend.

If you would like to see a lawyer illustrate the verb "blanch," announce in a meeting with a hiring committee that you googled an applicant's graduation year.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:20 AM on January 5, 2016 [6 favorites]


Quite honestly, the questions I'm asking when I Google someone's name are pretty innocent things like "hmm, does he have a Github profile?" or "Is she on LinkedIn?" or "I wonder if he has a personal web site". I've never actually interviewed anybody who turned up in a sex-offender registry or had a great number of news hits for some kind of terrible crime (nor have I ever had to decline interviewing anybody for such reasons).

This is the first I've heard that it's illegal to look up someone's name online during the course of a job interview process. It's my understanding that college admissions staff do things like this all the time (though the legal framework of college admissions versus employment law is obviously not identical, the hiring process and the admissions process have some structural common ground).
posted by theorique at 11:22 AM on January 5, 2016


It's not ILLEGAL per se, it's just "the kind of thing that can get you very sued" and "the kind of thing that loses lawsuits." It's illegal to discriminate on various axes in hiring; your actions may provide evidence that your employer is discriminating on various axes in hiring. People who are not in HR and dealing with the consequences of hiring discrimination are often very poorly informed about what is and isn't acceptable to ask an applicant, or to research about an applicant, and they open their employer to unnecessary liability through thoughtless behavior.

I've sat through very tedious depositions where I was asked, over and over, in all possible ways, if I knew how many kids a guy had or if I knew that his kids were in college or if I'd read any of his internet screeds or if I was aware of his salary band when I fired him, and I was like NO DUDE BECAUSE I'M NOT A MORON*. He was fired for fraud, but his lawyer was determined to make it age discrimination, and was desperately fishing for evidence that someone on the team who had made the firing decision knew the guy was near retirement and very expensive and would have a very large pension, trying to make the case that he'd been falsely targeted with fraud charges to cut costs because he was a high-cost employee. (*Actually I guess the real answer is "no because I didn't have a fucking clue who he was before his fraud was reported and after that I really didn't give a shit, I just cared about the fraud." But also, NOT A MORON, and lawyers don't like it when you do extracurricular research on someone you're evaluating fraud charges against.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:38 AM on January 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


Also common practice in an industry is not AT ALL indicative of what is legal or what is good practice. I've had lawyers with employment law lawfirms ask me if I was married, if I was going to have kids, if I was Christian, and if I approved of "those gay people." (Don't worry, I got the last guy banned from OCI.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:42 AM on January 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


My LinkedIn profile picture is currently the same as my Metafilter profile picture. I suppose that it's not exactly a professional head shot but I don't care.
posted by octothorpe at 2:27 PM on January 5, 2016


@You Can't Tip a Buick: "it's WHO you know" is a concept diametrically opposed to Christian ethics ... more about knowing beggars and dealers and underpaid sex workers...

That doesn't fit the ethics of most of the 'Christian Clubbers' I've known. You must be talking about the ethics of those who actually -know- the teachings of Jesus and try to live them. If so, I wholeheartedly agree with your sentiment, but the number of people in the world-at-large who understand, let alone practice, simple instructions like 'Love your neighbor' and 'Thou shalt not kill' ... both pretty straightforward revisions of tribal fundamentalism ... is vanishingly small.
posted by Twang at 3:40 PM on January 7, 2016


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