When Anna Scholes, Charlotte Read and I launched 40 Over Forty back in January 2020 ageism in the media, marketing and advertising industry wasn’t being talked about, tackled, or even acknowledged. Like a number of diversity and inclusion areas, no one had a plan of action in place. So we decided to take action to make real change and launched our platform.
Now two years on, and with over 6,000 votes cast to select our 2021 40 Over Forty list, we’re starting to see some positive progress being made across the industry. Of course, the whole world has changed dramatically, and to an extent this has refocused many employers and employees’ priorities to look at inclusion in a different way.
Business culture is a key aspect of this, and is paramount to attracting and retaining talent of all ages.
Feeling valued, welcome and comfortable at work, whether in the office or at home, is a huge part. But culture isn’t something that can be determined by handbooks and best practice guides. It’s something that lives and breathes in the day-to-day operations of your business. It’s in the language between colleagues, and in how you allow everyone in a meeting a chance to have their say. It’s being aware of everyone around you.
Small acts have a big impact.
The value of difficult conversations
The greatest thing I’ve learnt from being in diversity and inclusion for over a decade is that we need to be honest with each other and have ‘difficult conversations’, to be able to really understand where barriers are in our organisations. Only by doing this will we learn, rather than make assumptions or create policies that don’t address the challenge.
One example I came across recently was a person who’d never attended agency social events. No one knew why. When asked, it was because they didn’t drink alcohol for religious reasons. Knowing this meant the team could do social activities at breakfast or lunch, so that everyone had the opportunity to be involved and feel included.
Having open lines of communication really helps.
Understanding the different forms ageism can take is a major factor in addressing it. Ageism isn’t always done intentionally. It can happen through misunderstanding or lack of awareness. We are working, alongside other diversity and inclusion organisations, with the Advertising Association’s ‘All In’ Inclusion group — to help create simple and actionable changes that can be adopted by agencies of all sizes.
Aging isn’t the problem, ageism is.
As the great David Bowie said “Aging is an extraordinary process whereby you become the person you always should have been.” And we want to ensure all those amazing, creative and clever people stay working within our industry for many years to come.
Featured image: Unsplash