SUMMARY: Those working in pharma know that ageism exists, especially in the sales force. Pharma has been purging older employees for some time, and when you reach the magic age of 50+, you’re going to be pushed to take “early retirement.”
My workstation while at Lilly was right next to the sales training center. Some of the trainees looked like they were right out of school, but they all had one thing in common; they were young and great-looking. Good-looking pharma sales people get appointments with physicians was the belief when they were hired, and the practice is still pretty much in place today.
In the office, pharma kills the careers of older employees by telling them they have reached a dead-end to their careers. Since I left Lilly, I have seen many very experienced and talented people leave because they had nowhere to go within the organization. If you don’t hold onto your best people, you’re going to hurt the organization. Even though older employees are often the most knowledgeable and experienced workforce members, they’re all too often overlooked in favor of younger, less experienced workers.
Workers over the age of 65 are the fastest-growing workforce segment. People are working later in life both because they live longer and healthier and out of necessity due to changes to retirement benefits and low retirement savings.
As of February 2019, over 20% of Americans aged 65 or older are working or looking for work, double the 10% in the labor force in 1985.
By 2024, workers aged 55 and older will represent 25% of the nation’s workforce, with the fastest annual growth rates among those aged 65-and-older.
67% of surveyed workers aged 40-65 plan to continue to work after they turn 66.
29% of Boomers ages 65 to 72 were working or looking for work, outpacing the labor market engagement of the Silent Generation (21%) and the Greatest Generation (19%) when they were the same age.
Those with higher education are more likely to remain in the workforce longer. The share of adults that are 65 years or older and working that have at least a college degree increased from 25 percent in 1985 to 53 percent in 2019.
How Often Does Age Discrimination Happen?
Between 1997 and 2018, approximately 423,000 U.S. workers filed age discrimination claims with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, making up 22% of all workplace discrimination claims.
More than 21% of surveyed workers over 40 have faced age discrimination, and 36% believe their age has prevented them from getting a job since they turned 40.
More men than women believe age to have been a factor in finding a new job or advancing their career.
Nearly 1 in 4 workers age 45 and older have been subjected to negative comments about their age from supervisors or coworkers.
3 in 5 older workers have seen or experienced age discrimination in the workplace.
In June, a senior director was in line for a VP job and was passed over because of her age. After the decision was made not to give her the job, she was told her current position was being eliminated even though someone on her brand team would be taking over her responsibilities. She hired an attorney and is now in litigation with the top 10 pharma companies.
Pharma is one area where experience counts, and believe me, experience is needed. Sure some retreads bounce from pharma company to pharma company, but for the most part, companies need experienced people and need to stop age discrimination.