Ageism within pharma

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WHAT”S HAPPENING? As more and more pharma companies merge and the industry consolidates good jobs are going to shrink, Unfortunately, what I’m hearing and seeing is that the industry is passing on older candidates with experience in favor of younger candidates who may be perceived as more technology literate.

Kathy was someone who impressed me from the first time I met her. Her knowledge of all aspects of pharma marketing was like an encyclopedia. She also knew her target audiences better than they knew themselves.

When she decided to take a package when her company was acquired she thought she would have no problem getting a new one within the industry. That was seven months ago. As she told me “first, my contacts within the industry stopped returning phone calls then when I did get an interview and was highly qualified for a position, others, who were younger, would get offers”. Her conclusion was that being in your 50’s and looking for a job is really tough.

By 2024, workers age 55 and older will represent 25% of the nation’s workforce, with the fastest annual growth rates among those aged 65-and-older. But in 2018, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission — the nation’s workforce watchdog — issued a damning special report on age discrimination against older Americans. It concluded that even though 50 years had passed since Congress outlawed the practice, “age discrimination remains a significant and costly problem for workers, their families, and our economy.”

76 percent of older workers see age discrimination as a hurdle to finding a new job; another report found that more than half of these older workers are prematurely pushed out of longtime jobs and 90 percent of them never earn as much again.

People walk out of companies now with an enormous amount of intellectual property in their heads.

Although older workers are protected against age discrimination in the workplace by federal and state laws, only 40% of respondents who experienced age discrimination filed a charge or complaint with the relevant government agencies or their employers.

Women too are getting the short end of the stick. In addition to the gender bias women face in the business world, older women may face an additional variant of bias—ageism. That said, our survey found that more men than women feel that their advancing age has adversely impacted their careers.

Older Worker Stereotypes

Stereotypes about any group of people are unfair and often offensive. They are frequently rooted in ignorance about people who happen to have different social or cultural backgrounds from those individuals holding such biases.

Sadly, the myths about older workers are grounded in ill-founded generalizations that diminish the value they can bring to their employers and co-workers. Our survey found that older workers felt the sting of stereotypes, resulting in slower professional advancement and reduced job satisfaction.

Among workers aged 40 and over, there is a perception that they are somehow “washed up” professionally, and that they are seen by their younger co-workers as being set in their ways, are not tech savvy and unmotivated. Whether these beliefs are held by younger colleagues or not, they affect older workers on the job.

It Costs Employers Too

Age discrimination in the workplace can result in substantial costs to employers, including:

  • Demotivated employees, which can hurt productivity, customer service, and product quality.
  • A Loss of talent and institutional knowledge when experienced workers leave due to a stalled career or hostile environment.
  • The missed opportunity costs of not hiring and retaining workers who possess unrivaled knowledge, experience, good judgment, and commitment to the job.

Pharma needs the experience that older employees bring to the workplace. They need their management skills as well as the key skill on how to navigate matrix work environments to get things done. Yet I’m hearing that older people are afraid that they’re at risk for that meeting with HR. If you’re 50+ like me you need to be worried at a time when the industry needs our voices.