Boomer Think Tank: Ageism, Sexism and Racism in the Workplace

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On our Think Tanks this month we are tackling HR Challenges, in particular: ageism, sexism, racism, and their impact on the workplace. We are looking at the topic from each generation’s viewpoint in order to measure how much progress has been made, and what challenges still exist.

This past week it was our Boomer Think Tank’s turn to weigh in, after talking to our Millennial Think Tank the week prior. Before I give you the overall insights, here are a few relevant statistics to be aware of…

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) had 93,727 discrimination charges in 2013, with the primary areas of complaint being:

  • 35% Race
  • 3% Sex
  • 6 % Gender
  • 2% Age

Our panelists this week included:

Bev Lesnick – coffee house owner, investee, and single mother of two

Joseph Grier – LearnGrow llc and long-time Californian environmentalist

Jim Washington – father, general manager

Jewel Fryer– business owner, property investor

Bob Jones – serial start up entrepreneur, father


Primary Insights:

Each of our Boomer panelists have experienced or witnessed ageism, racism, sexism, or a combination of the three in the workplace. Below are the insights that our panel provided us from their own experiences:



The Startup scene was viewed differently from Corporate, and perhaps in unexpected ways.

On first meeting Start Ups, Boomers feel that they have to prove that they are just as tech savvy as younger workers.

If you are objective and results driven, you are given respect.

Ageism is huge in start ups, but the ‘wise mentor’ does have a place. It is also prevalent in the Corporate world.

Push back against ageism is stronger in the corporate than in start ups.

Startups will verbally state that they are looking for people under 30

Corporate Hiring Practice

It is built into corporate culture that people retire at 65; if you don’t want to, you sense the pressure that you should.

Our panel perceived that at mid 50s, corporations try to kick people out.


Sexism, often coupled with ageism, is perceived as a considerable obstacle. Our panels views were as follows:

Women over 40 are considered to be un-hireable because the company would be “stuck” with them.

Women are also considered to be un-hireable if they are in their “baby making” years.

Women are more likely not to pursue a lawsuit due to the fear of being blacklisted.

Although the gender pay gap is undeniable and backed up by statistics, there seems to be little actual change or motivation to change in the corporate world.


Jim, an African American man, told us of a lawsuit he filed against a school district which actively changed the job description of the position he applied for so that it would fit the white applicants, who were then hired.

Jewel, an African American women, was a speaker on a panel and one of her fellow panelists ordered coffee from her, believing her to be a waitress, while they were waiting to on go on stage.

The primary question we wanted to answer in this discussion was:

 “In the last 30 years, what big changes have you seen or not seen in regards to ageism, sexism, and racism in the workplace?”

Joseph: My big realization is that not much has changed. There has been a litany of social movements, and, if anything, just lifting the veil on what has always been there. I see some changes, but not enough.

Jim: I’m hopeful. My wife is white, my child is mixed race; there is a lot of hope. The incidences of racism are right out there for us to see. What it was like in the 50s, 70s, 90s, 00s, to now – it is clear we are improving. (I could be naïve.)

Bev: I’ve seen a lot of changes. People are feeling safe enough to report these things; I feel way more comfortable now.

Bob: Startups don’t necessarily have the amount of time for the amount of foolishness that come up in corporate culture. Hopefully we’ll move away from protecting ourselves and looking to extend the talents of others. I’m terribly optimistic.


You can listen to the view the hangout in its entirety or listen to the podcast below:

At ARCOMPANY we  analyze data gathered from social media, websites, forums and search. This research helps inform and guide the communication efforts of many brands. If you want to learn more about implementing meaningful insights, we’re here to help.

Photo credit: Time Travel Issues via photopin (license).

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