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Ageism and sexism often overlap for female professionals

In theory, modern employers cannot discriminate against workers for protected characteristics, including personal traits over which an individual has no control. You cannot choose whether you are born as a woman or a man, nor do you choose when your parents bring you into this world. As such, you should not have to worry about dealing with sexism or ageism on the job.

Sadly, both sex-based and age-based discrimination are serious concerns in the modern workplace. For female professionals in many industries, these two forms of discrimination overlap with one another to create a perfect storm of lost opportunity.

Sexism often affects youthful female workers

When a young woman wants to move into a competitive field, she may have a hard time convincing employers to take her seriously. The cultural idea that young women are flighty and irresponsible may make it hard for a woman early in her career to receive the same consideration as a man the same age as her.

Companies should not make employment decisions based on a woman’s pregnancy or possible future pregnancy, but a woman’s reproductive abilities often influence her job opportunities. Women may have a hard time commanding competitive salaries, excellent promotions and new contracts during their childbearing years.

Public companies should not ask questions about a woman’s reproductive decisions or plans, but they might still make decisions based on what they assume, such as the idea that you will have children in the next decade. When that risk ends, another one quickly rises to replace it.

Society is often cruel to older women

The federal government defines age discrimination as the practice of considering someone’s age for job-related decisions if they are over the age of 40. Employers sometimes mistreat older workers or overlook them.

While this phenomenon is a known issue for both genders, it can be particularly damaging for women. Appearance is a big part of everyone’s job success, but the standards of beauty for women are much more unforgiving than the standard to which people hold men. Most people find women visibly over the age of 40 to be unattractive and therefore they have more negative emotional reactions to these individuals.

Successful, educated and competent women may find themselves receiving far less respect and less reasonable consideration of their abilities than their male counterparts simply because of their age and appearance. If you suspect that ageism, sexism or a combination of the two has held you back in your career, it may be time to take action. Holding companies accountable for discrimination may be the only way to stop them from continuing to mistreat workers based on protected characteristics.

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