Month: January 2017

Age discrimination… of the young variety.

I had a really interesting discussion with a fellow researcher today about age. She had remarked that my age had featured in a discussion she had recently had with someone else. In someways I should feel proud that the context in which this had arose was in an inspirational sense – that the other person had challenged their own barriers relating to their age after reflecting on my successes. Whilst a lot of discussion on age has focused on discrimination against older people/employees, the age discussion we had today was underpinned by my young age (and some might say looks!)

Over the years, my relatively young age has emerged frequently in my career story and I have had to learn to deal with that, progress with confidence in my own ability, and in a way learn to secretly enjoy surprising others. Although, I will admit it has stolen the focus of a few mentoring opportunities in the past, ‘how did you deal with people perceiving you as too young?‘ I asked one mentor (Doh! So much more valuable things I would ask now!).

Personally, I don’t see myself as particularly young (32), or see that this should be a barrier. If I consider the ages that I achieved certain milestones, then:

  • At the age of 16 I had set up, sought and won full sponsorship for and was running the first ladies team for my hometown;
  • At the age of 26 I gained my PhD;
  • At the age of 28, I had written and made a Unit of Assessment submission to the Research Excellence Framework that punched above its weight (I am sure there will be other sub-30 year old REF coordinators but I am yet to meet one – hello if this is you!);
  • At the age of 31, I became a Head of Research for a University department (College of Business, Law and Social Sciences).
  • At the age of 32, I can count at least 30 noteworthy instance where age has overtly featured in work-related discussions/decisions/reactions.

I do still occasionally have to show ‘I.D.’ when a bottle of wine is in order!

I still don’t consider that I have been ‘successful’. My journal output productivity has given way to my passion for fixing any rogue process that I possibly can, and being a ‘yes’ person doesn’t help (my gym kit is gathering dust too).

So, why am I telling you all this? 

  1. Because ‘being young’ can be an issue in the workplace, yet I don’t believe is being discussed enough or challenged.
  2. Because if I can inspire just one person to overcome their insecurities at being ‘younger’ than their colleagues, or being ‘too young’ to apply for that job then that is good enough for me.
  3. Because I believe our younger workforce have a lot to offer beyond the entry-level roles they often find themselves in (pop them in the boardroom for 30 minutes and see what happens!)
  4. Finally, I think some of the tales (below) I have of my experiences might entertain or educate.

Tales through my Career

The Job Interview

Towards the end of my first degree I began with the usual activity of job-seeking. In one particular interview, for a HR role for a national construction retailer, I was met with an unusual remark, ‘as you will have noticed we have quite a lot of older ladies working in this office and you are young, I am concerned that you won’t settle because you are younger than them obviously’. In the politest way possible, I explained my past experiences of working with ‘older’ colleagues, that this had been healthy and productive. In case it was a trick (it was for a HR role), I then went onto comment jovially that this, ‘of course, shouldn’t influence a recruitment decision‘. I didn’t get the job.

The Meeting

Arriving for a meeting in a cafe with someone I had never met but who I was to work on a project with, I spotted the gentleman I was meeting (the product of a quick Google search). He was looking out for ‘Dr Wond’ and looked past me several times. I began to introduce myself, ‘Hi, ****’, I began. He cut me short, ‘Oh, can Dr Wond not make it?’ . He assumed I was an assistant, remarked about not expecting ‘someone so young’ and we continued our meeting.

The ‘Give it a Few Years’ discussion 

Developing a challenging programme and delivering it with some great examples of business engagement globally didn’t come particularly easy. I had to fight central process embedded throughout the organisation, change it, and eventually amassed several ‘wins’. When a more senior central opportunity arose, I was excited. It meant managing the central processes, and I invited the Director of that particular department for coffee to discuss whether he would welcome my application. That hour was painful! From the outset he described a more mature, male being the ideal candidate: ‘I know you could do the job, but I had a more mature professor in mind, a guy who could impress with lots of papers and a great C.V….give it a few years’. The Director later debriefed my manager on our discussion, explicitly stating I was too young.

The Director later approached me to second into this position when his first choice let him down.

The Last Word

I identified a huge quality issue that went against internal procedures (and that many universities had fallen foul of during their reviews), on attempting to discuss this with the colleague to whom it concerned she was quite defensive. Her final words as I attempted to share these concerns? ‘I am older and have been at this game longer than you’.

Working with others we addressed this quality gap. There was nothing accurate or correct in what my colleague was stating, it was a way to move past the conversation.

Lessons

So what lessons can I share with anyone finding themselves in this position?

Lesson 1: Picking the Right Fight

At times, I wish I had fought a little more against the assumptions that others had. They have impacted on the doors that opened and the doors that closed (in job and opportunity terms). Yet, I am not entirely sure what this will have done, perhaps their mind was already made? Looking back, I wish I had challenged discrimination against the young since I didn’t have much to lose, spoken out a little perhaps and made a fuss (for the benefit of the next person that interviewer meets!).

Lesson 2: Let this motivate you

Show them what you are made of – perform your best, achieve, succeed! I was driven to address my experience gaps so much more by every ‘age-related oversight’. What those discriminating against me had actually meant to say was probably actually, ‘perhaps due to age you are inexperienced and therefore not up to this’. I made it my mission to get this experience. I analysed the job descriptions of my bosses and my bosses’ bosses. I demanded extra responsibility (line management, budgets, projects) and where I couldn’t get it I sought it in other ways – through volunteer opportunities with community organisations for instance.

Lesson 3: Not much has changed over the past decade

Despite being 10 years older, age still ‘crops up’ now (when will the world look on me as old/less young?!). This suggests to me that either (a) I have failed to age; (b) society has not changed, more specifically workplaces; (c) not enough action has happened to address this barrier.

Lesson 4: Don’t let age stop you being great!

As I have already mentioned, I have let this get in the way at times, I have worn the problem and let it weigh me down. It didn’t help. It did not resolve the biases others have, it didn’t help me conduct my role with confidence. OK, it did provide me with lesson 2 above…but please, don’t let it negatively affect you.

Lesson 5: When you get there don’t feel guilty.

I have made sacrifices to get to where I am. I rarely turn-off my computer before midnight, I have two children but have only managed several weeks maternity leave for both – so when someone comments that I am ‘too young‘, as though I have been privileged, given a boost, or anything else that suggests that this is odd, then it is a bit of an insult. So my final lesson is not to feel apologetic or guilty about where you work hard to get to – because if you want to get there you will.

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Call for Papers

I am chairing the following conference in August/September of this year with the SRR Network. The conference website is currently being developed but please find the Call for Papers below. Feel free to share within your networks.

16th International Conference on Corporate Social Responsibility and 7th Organisational Governance Conference

Responsibility and Governance: The Twin Pillars of Sustainability

Buxton, University of Derby, UK

30 August – 1 September 2017

Call for Papers

For the 2017 conference we return to the UK. This year the conference will be hosted by the University of Derby at their Buxton campus in the historic spa town of Buxton, Derbyshire – the highest town in England. The conference will be organised jointly by the University of Derby and the Social Responsibility Research Network.

There is considerable evidence that the field of social responsibility is changing and maturing – and increasingly becoming synonymous with the field of governance. This can be seen from the issues which are of concern to people currently researching in the field. The concept of CSR has gradually spilled over to the other fields of inquiry so much so that today we can speak about the inclusion of social responsibility in any type of human activity (business, politics, justice, etc.). At the same time governance failures have been shown to be at the root of many economic and social problems besetting corporations and other organisation. In fact increasingly the terms social responsibility, corporate responsibility, sustainability and governance have become intertwined and are often treated as aspects of the same issue.

With this in mind we have decided to adopt a theme of sustainability and to consider responsibility and governance as its twin pillars for our forthcoming conference – which of course includes all the other terms within the theme. This raises the questions of what do we mean by sustainability, how do we achieve this and what is the relationship between responsibility, governance and sustainability. These are questions which we will raise and address during this conference.

This conference is designed to act as a forum for the debate and analysis of contemporary issues in this broad area. It is intended to attract people from a wide variety of disciplines and geographic regions for an exchange of views.

The conference is intended to be interdisciplinary and welcomes contributions from anyone who has a perspective on this important issue. Papers are welcome on any topic related to this broad issue and suggested themes for papers include:

  • Defining sustainable development
  • The Triple Bottom Line and its critics
  • Environmental performance and auditing
  • Ethics and corporate behaviour
  • Globalisation and corporate activity
  • Governmental influences on corporate behaviour
  • Protests concerning corporate activity
  • Regulation of corporate social behaviour
  • Sustainability and marketing
  • The role of accounting in corporate accountability
  • The role of corporate governance
  • Governance and regulation
  • National vs. supra-national governance
  • Free markets and governance
  • Multi-national Accountability
  • Sustainability and free markets
  • Social entrepreneurship
  • Socially responsible business activities
  • Globalisation and sustainable development
  • Regulation of corporate social and environmental behaviour
  • Governmental influences on sustainable development
  • Sanctions for non-compliance in a global market
  • Regulating the regulators
  • Organisational governance in the public / NGO sector
  • Audit and organisational governance
  • Models of organisational governance

 

Offers to run workshops, symposia, poster sessions, themed tracks or alternative events are especially welcome. Please contact either Shahla (shahlaseifi@yahoo.com) or David (davideacrowther@aol.com) with suggestions.

Although preference will be given to full papers, abstracts of 200-500 words will also be considered. All papers and abstracts should be sent by 1st June 2017 by email to davideacrowther@aol.com. No more than 2 papers will be accepted from any author.

This year we will also be running a doctoral stream within the conference. In this stream presenters will get extra time for presentation and discussion and will receive personalised feedback from an expert in their area. Initially an abstract should be submitted stating that it is for the doctoral stream.

Poster presentation are also accepted. Again an abstract is required in the normal way.

Final versions of accepted papers will be required by 1st August 2017.

Conference fees – to be announced later

 

Please check if you need a visa for your travel to the UK. To get an official invitation for the conference please contact the conference chair.

We will publish proceedings but we encourage all delegates to further seek to get their paper published in an appropriate outlet. Advice will be given during the conference. It is also expected that a book of selected papers will be published. Full details concerning other publishing opportunities for the papers presented at the conference will be provided during the conference.

Venue of the Conference

The conference will be held at the Buxton campus of the University of Derby.

The conference fee will include meals and conference materials. There is plenty of good hotel accommodation nearby to suit all budgets and details will be given with registration details.

An optional sightseeing tour will be arranged for after the conference and details will be announced later.

Full and updated details can be found at the conference website:

We look forward to welcoming you to Buxton in 2017 for what promises to be an exciting conference.

 

Dr Tracey Wond                                                                        Professor David Crowther

Conference Chair                                                                      Chair of Scientific Committee

University of Derby                                                                   President, SRRNet

UK                                                                                           www.socialresponsibility.biz

email: t.wond@derby.ac.uk                                                        davideacrowther@aol.com