Ageism and Maternal bias key issues In Irish Workplaces,

1st February 2023

Posted In: Be In The Frame

Ageism in the workplace is on the rise in Ireland, according to Matrix Recruitment’s latest Workplace Equality Survey.

The annual survey found that three quarters (77%) of respondents believe workplace ageism is a problem, an increase of 13% on last year’s findings.

Ageism and the workplace

Now in its fifth year, the survey of more than 2,700 adults found that most respondents (71%) have experienced discrimination in the workplace in some form. Of those, almost a quarter (21%) reported being excluded from activities because of their age.

Almost half of respondents (48%) said that workers over the age of 50 have fewer promotional opportunities compared to their younger colleagues and when asked at what age it might be difficult to move job, a quarter (26%) said that over-50s would struggle.

On a more positive note, four out of five (79%) agree that people over the age of 50 have as much to contribute to the workplace as those under the age of 40. Of those:

•51% said that mature workers are more reliable than younger people

•46% said mature workers are loyal and stay working in the company for longer

•39% said over 50s have many years of experience

•35% said that over 50s have more life skills

Of the 21% who said that over 50s have less to contribute to the workplace compared to colleagues under 40, half believe that those in the 50+ age bracket do not understand new ways of communicating and 47% claim younger people have more energy to bring to a job.

“It’s disappointing to see that ageism continues to be an issue in Irish workplaces, particularly when it comes to those over 50 and at a time when the retirement age in Ireland is ever increasing.

While agism seems to be on the rise, it’s encouraging to see that people also understand the many advantage of having a mature worker as a colleague or employee, including many years of gained experience and knowledge,” said Breda Dooley of Matrix Recruitment.

Motherhood and career progression

On the issue of working parents, two thirds (67%) of people surveyed said that having children impacts a woman’s career progress.

Of those:

•More than half (57%) said maternity leave can impede progression professionally

•43% said women are still considered the primary carers

•Over a third were of the opinion that employers still question a mother’s ability to meet the demands of her professional role (36%)

•And 35% said employers still have an unconscious bias towards women who may be considering starting a family

Despite these findings, positive change can be seen when comparing the survey data to the 2021 Workplace Equality Survey.

In fact, this year’s survey indicates a 44% fall in the number of respondents who said that women were still considered the primary carers (77% in 2021).   There was also a decline in the percentage of respondents who said that employers have an unconscious bias towards women intending on starting a family (68% in 2021 v 35% in 2022).

Longer hours for those without children?

The survey found that discrimination wasn’t confined to those with children. In fact,

22% of respondents said that they were expected to work out of hours because they have no children.

Those who identified this type of discrimination were an even split of men (45%) and women (48%).

Equality and diversity training In the workplace

The majority of workers surveyed (83%) said that employers have a responsibility to their staff to offer training on issues relating to equality, discrimination, and diversity. The survey indicates that employers are living up to this expectation, with 77% of respondents claiming they have received training at work on this topic. This is a significant improvement on 2021 results when just 38% of workers said they received such training in their place of work.

“Ireland’s workforce has changed considerably over the last 20 years, and today, we have a wonderfully diverse workforce filled of people from all nationalities and walks of life. But as our survey findings indicate, unconscious bias and discrimination is still a problem in Irish workplaces and not all companies have evolved at the same pace. As the data indicates, people expect employers to take the lead when it comes to education on this topic, it is not something companies can put on hold any longer.

Diversity needs to be an intrinsic part of every company’s ethos and culture.” says Breda.