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Federal Reserve: Women Employees Especially Vulnerable to Age Discrimination

A recent report released by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco found systematic discrimination against older job applicants, particularly women. Researchers sent some 40,000 applications and resumes in response to 13,000 job postings in 12 cities spread across 11 states and found that "older applicants -- those near the age of retirement -- experience more age discrimination."

The news was even worse for older female applicants, who experienced more age discrimination than their male counterparts.

Numbers Crunched

The Fed study measured the callback rates for applicants to various employment opportunities, including "administrative assistants and secretaries (to which [researchers] sent female applicants), janitors and security guards (male applicants), and retail sales (both genders)." The numbers were not good, as callbacks were higher for younger applicants and lower for older applicants, which the report considered "consistent with age discrimination in hiring."

And the gap between callbacks between older and younger job applicants was even more pronounced for women:

In retail sales, where we could directly compare results for both genders, we found a sharper drop-off in callback rates with age for women than for men. And for the solely male applicants to janitor and security jobs, the pattern of lower callback rates for older applicants was less clear than for the older versus younger solely female applicants to administrative or retail jobs.

Lessons Learned

Researchers pointed to three primary messages that could be gleaned from the study:

  1. There is evidence of age discrimination in hiring, for both women and men;
  2. While both middle-aged and older applicants experience discrimination relative to younger applicants, older applicants -- those near the age of retirement -- experience more age discrimination; and
  3. Women experience more age discrimination than men do.

The authors speculated that older women may be more vulnerable to age discrimination because physical appearance matters in the generally low-skilled jobs used in the study, and "the effects of aging on physical appearance are evaluated more harshly for women than for men."

Both age and sex discrimination are illegal, so to make sure your small business is compliant with federal, state, and city anti-discrimination laws, contact a local employment attorney today.

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