The Last Frontier of Discrimination: Age
I was looking for a job not that long ago. I had a bunch of interviews. I excel at interviews because of a combination of social skills and experience in my field of grant writing. I also have gray hair…and while that has nothing to do with grant writing, it has a lot to do with discrimination.
There isn’t a question about grant writing I haven’t answered. I sometimes “prod” the interviewer in the direction of an intelligent question. Even so, I saw one interviewer look at my graying hair when she asked me, “Where do you see yourself in five years?”
When I looked beyond the inanity of that question, I saw the disturbing sign: She thought I was too old. It wasn’t the first time I felt that way. I wondered if she heard anything I said at the interview. I never heard from her again.
People say you have an advantage when you’re an older, experienced worker. You have a short learning curve; you can “hit the ground” running; you excel at working as part of a team; you have social “wisdom” that you can impart to your much younger team and help diffuse the dysfunctional dynamics of an office. It’s all true.
But the world judges us superficially, at least at first. And when you interview for a job, the first thing people see is what you look like. Having gray hair is like having a missing front tooth. You’re in an immediate hole, and you have to be firing on all of your interview cylinders to dig out of that hole.
Well I dug out of that hole and finally got a job.
But for those who are still digging, you can only persevere. File a discrimination claim? Forget it. None of the present five commissioners on the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission has gray hair.
Age. It’s the last frontier of discrimination.