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As if aging isn’t hard enough on its own. Middle-aged women grapple more often with ageism in the workplace. (Credit: Timur Weber, Pexels)

As if aging isn’t hard enough on its own.

Studies out of several top universities show that, while ageism hurts all older employees, it’s the more experienced women in the office who are disproportionately impacted, according to a new Forbes analysis.

Negative treatment of all aging employees manifests as health problems that could ultimately cost our economy $63 billion per year, Yale researchers learned. But “perceptions of professional women change differently than those of men as they age,” says a team from the Haas School of Business at University of California Berkeley. 

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This is due largely to pressure to “show masculine agency to get ahead” that ultimately warps into a “perceived as [lack of] feminine warmth” later on in women’s careers, according to the November 2022 Haas study.

Many women try to strike the seemingly elusive balance between empathy and decisiveness in their leadership styles  – with mixed results and exhaustion to show for it, a team at the University of Michigan also found last May.

“A troubling outcome of our work is that women must never stop adapting to gendered expectations,” the authors wrote. “This reality might fuel women’s resistance to taking on advisory positions and explain the disproportionate levels of burnout that women experience from having to regulate their behavior constantly.”

So what’s to be done about it? The team at Haas asserts that acknowledgement of the problem is the first step, because “recognizing this age-based challenge [as] unique to women should … inform practical solutions as women of all ages strive to overcome the constraints to attaining the highest-echelon roles in professional settings.”

Nancy A. Shenker, founder of marketing company The ON Switch, agrees. “My top challenge is ageism,” she admitted to us in her 1,000+ Stories profile. “Making people aware about ageism, as I mentor the next generation of women entrepreneurs, is also important to me.”

It’s important for everyone, as Yale’s experts note. “A reduction of ageism would not only have a monetary benefit for society, but also have a health benefit for older persons.”

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