You may understand that the law protects certain classes of people from discrimination based only on their membership to that class. Most everyone belongs or will belong to at least one protected class, and you may even belong to several. In fact, if you are a woman, your chances of dealing with intersectional discrimination in the workplace increase with every passing year.
In general, intersectional discrimination occurs when you experience discrimination based on multiple factors. For example, someone who faces discrimination because of a disability may also deal with mistreatment based on sexual orientation. A person of color may suffer discrimination for that reason as well as for his or her religious beliefs. Intersectional discrimination may hit women hardest of all.
Older women on the job
Women are already at a disadvantage in the workplace, with a pay differential as high as 30% less than what men earn doing the same job. Women of color struggle even more, and older women have good reason to fear for their financial security. In fact, if you are a woman over age 40, you are among the most common class of people facing intersectional discrimination, including in the following ways:
- Potential employers tend to overlook older women who apply for open positions.
- Older women who obtain a first interview are less likely to get callbacks for a second interview.
- Physical appearance plays a more important role in hiring women than in men.
- Interview questions for older female applicants tend to focus on how long they have worked and their previous salaries.
- Older employees may be shuffled into the least desirable assignments and offered few opportunities for advancement.
While employers may direct some of these and other actions toward any older employee, if you are a woman, you may feel the brunt of it, particularly if you are a woman of color. Some believe this is because of the woman’s traditional role as a caregiver, which often means she must leave work to raise children and then again later in life to care for her parents.
The bitter consequences
You will probably have to work hard to overcome the stereotype of an older woman at your workplace. This may include removing dates from your resume, continuing to grow and learn about your industry, and avoiding using your age as an excuse for negative experiences, such as memory lapses or aches and pains.
Among those over age 65 who are living at poverty level, two-thirds are women. Women of color are twice as likely to struggle with poverty. If you are the victim of intersectional discrimination on the job, you will likely have quite a challenge pursuing justice. Nevertheless, you may find it is worth the effort.