Summer holiday listening (part one) – ageist stereotypes

Sheila Fahy

One of the things I love about summer holidays is being able to catch up on podcasts. I am not sure why it feels like an indulgence; perhaps it is because I grew up in a generation where box-sets and on-demand anything meant something entirely different.

sunset shutterstock_119419087As I lazed in the Ibiza shade while all about me baked, bronzed and burned, I let the soothing voices of Jenni Murray and Jane Garvey educate me on the women’s issues of the hour. One of my favourites was an interview with Annie Nightingale, the BBC Radio 1 DJ celebrating 50 years in the business. Annie is a remarkable woman by any standards. She is, and remains, at the cutting edge of underground and original music, giving it air play and the exposure it needs to bring it above ground. She was the first female DJ on the BBC. She is the longest serving broadcaster on the BBC. Even more remarkable is that Annie is 75. And if that’s not impressive enough, her weekly show is broadcast not on Radio 2 but on the youth channels of Radio 1 and 1Xtra. And she still DJs in clubs and at festivals all over the world, including Glastonbury. Respect!

As an employment lawyer, I view Annie as the perfect case study of why age stereotypes, or any stereotype for that matter, are dangerous. Performance can decline with advancing age but it needs to be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Some 20-year-olds don’t deliver. This is why the removal of the default retirement age was, in my view, a good thing. So too is the Equality Act, which protects workers of all ages from discrimination. I was also heartened to see in the government’s recent consultation on the Gender Pay Gap that it will be working with business to achieve better recruitment and retention rates for older workers.

The beauty of anti-discrimination legislation is that although protected characteristics like age and gender are the main drivers, the aim is to remove these characteristics from any decision-making so they become irrelevant. At 75, Annie is at the top of her game. Her age and her gender are irrelevant. Long may she continue to bang out the bass.

 

Comments published on Employment Talk do not necessarily reflect the views of Allen & Overy.

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