Friday, 29 May 2009

Don't treat me like a child

The Guardian has profiled two people about being ‘older women’ in the workplace. Is this an issue? It’s what you make of it.

There have been times, working among twenty- and thirty-somethings, when I’ve felt invisible. There have been other times when I’ve felt accepted. But that works both ways.

The generation gap is always going to seem wider if you’re looking downwards from a great height. The woman in the article describes her younger colleagues as ‘babies’ and ‘children’. The Guardian writer mentions ‘prejudice and discrimination’... Looks like it works both ways.

Yes, I have felt overlooked by ultra-fashionable types. Yes, I have felt marginalised by the preponderance of 80s pop music at works dos. And yes, it did hurt a bit to hear a colleague agonising over her ‘quarter century’, when my own half-century was approaching. But she wasn’t to know about my birthday: I was keeping it quiet.

Many of my colleagues don’t know anything about life before mobile phones, the internet, or student debt. That doesn’t make them stupid. It just means they see things differently.

It took a bit of getting used to, but after a while you stop noticing. Just because someone has different cultural references doesn’t mean they have nothing in common with you. There have been times in my working life when the people I’ve clicked with the most were the youngest ones in the office. Partly because they hadn’t been in the organisation long enough to get institutionalised. Partly because we shared the same values. For the women who want to dismiss others as ‘babies’, ever heard of ‘respect’? I believe it’s quite a buzz word among the young.

Monday, 11 May 2009