Majority of Women Face Ageism in the Workplace

Nearly eight in 10 women have experienced age-related discrimination, survey data shows.
Angela Hanson
Older woman in office meeting

TORONTO — Ageism is overwhelmingly present in workplaces worldwide, and nearly eight in 10 surveyed women (77.8%) have encountered age-related discrimination in their careers. 

This underscores ageism as a critical yet often overlooked barrier to professional growth, according to Women of Influence+, a global organization committed to advancing gender equity in the workplace.

Ageism often leads to stereotyping and generalizing people based on their chronological age, regardless of their individual capabilities, experiences or personal attributes, and can negatively impact people at all stages of their careers, the organization stated.

[Read more: Working Women Cite Salary & Promotions Among Chief Concerns]

Advertisement - article continues below

"Nearly 80% of women encountering ageism in the workplace is not just a statistic; it's a clear indication that we are facing a pervasive and systemic issue," said Dr. Rumeet Billan, CEO of Women of Influence+. "Our survey sheds light on the hidden barriers many self-identifying women face, that not only hinder their career progression but also impact their confidence and well-being."

The organization's recent survey, "Exploring the Impact of Ageism on Women in the Workplace," found that 80.7% of respondents have witnessed women in the workplace being treated differently because of their age, and 46.2% report it as an ongoing issue.

"I have never heard comments about male colleagues being too young or too old for their work," said one survey participant. "Women are either too young, too old, or may be in the age range of having children. All are viewed as negative."

The survey also revealed notable peaks in the initial decade of work and later years, with 40.7% of respondents experiencing age-based discrimination within the first decade of their professional journey and 55.9% encountering ageism after surpassing 21 years in their career.

[Read more: Three Trends Shaping Employee Retention in 2024]

Survey participants shared that age is frequently inappropriately correlated with perceived performance and success, and women are disproportionately affected by this bias. "Women are never the right age. We are either 'going to get pregnant' or 'too old,'" one participant noted. At the same time, respondents said that older men are often viewed as "distinguished" or "very experienced."

Overall, 74.8% of surveyed women reported experiencing age-based stereotypes and/or assumptions; 50.1% said they were shown a lack of respect from colleagues; and 49% reported unfair treatment in promotion processes.

The survey found key commonalities in women's experiences:

  • 62.2% reported increased stress as a result of experiencing ageism;
  • 61.8% report second-guessing of their capabilities;
  • 59.3% said they overcompensated or worked harder to prove their worth; and
  • 55% said they experienced lower self-confidence as a result of age-based discrimination.

Women also observed significant career impacts due to ageism, with 57.7% reporting impaired career progression; 51.1% reporting a lack of sense of belonging at work; and 50.9% reporting experiencing dissatisfaction with their employer.

The full survey and recommendations to combat ageism via organizational change are available here.

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds