This blog is about two different sorts of bias. The first was in the bowls I was using at the barefoot lawn bowls night organised in Brisbane last week by Hachette Australia, who are publishing my narrative non-fiction biography in August this year. No matter how carefully I aimed my bowls towards the little white ball at the other end of the grassy green sward, they invariably took off on a path of their own. On the one occasion I did roll my bowl so expertly that it ended up nestled lovingly against the white ball, it turned out to have strayed into the game on the next rink.
The only consolation was that no one else seemed much good at the game either, including Hachette’s Publishing Director, Fiona Hazard, and the new Sales and Marketing Director, Justin Ratcliffe. The informal occasion was a fun way to meet local booksellers and some of the other important Hachette people, including the reps. I was also glad to catch up with my former workshop tutor and prolific author, Kim Wilkins, and with Charlotte Nash, fellow-writer from the 2010 Queensland Writers Centre/Hachette Development workshop, whose book, Ryders Ridge, will be launched in Brisbane on 9 April.
The other case of bias is more serious. It is the discrimination shown by employers towards mature-age workers. Among older people seeking work in Australia, over a third of men and more than a quarter of women say they are considered too old by employers. The Human Rights Commission quotes research that found older people in advertisements are often portrayed as ‘bumbling, crotchety or senile’. In the workplace, generalising and stereotyping on the basis of age can see young people preferred because they are perceived to be more efficient (and possibly more compliant) than older people, who are regarded as less productive and high risk, even though more experienced. ‘The overriding message for older workers,’ says the Human Rights Commission, ‘is a one-way ticket to certain decline.’
Age discrimination is one of the topics in my E-book, Extending Your Use-By Date: Why Retirement Age is Only a Number, to be published in March by Xoum Publications.
One of the potential outcomes of such discrimination is that mature-age workers may begin to believe the myths, which therefore become self-fulfilling. Those who feel marginalised or unable to obtain a job because of their age may also suffer from stress, cognitive decline, depression, social isolation and sometimes a reluctance to get out and do things. Loss of self-esteem is a powerful demotivator.
We need to resist someone else telling us when we’ve reached our use-by date. As the Hachette bowling night demonstrated, ability mostly has nothing to do with age.