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Published on: Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Does Gray Matter in the C-Suite@f88


I'm teaching grad students how to write their Master's thesis projects, and one woman wrote very passionately about her topic — but without substantiation. When I questioned her research, she argued that millions were experiencing her personal viewpoint, and suffering the effects she outlined.

But, this isn't a "feelings paper," I pointed out; it's research. Unless she could cite credible sources, I couldn't accept her argument in the way she wrote it.

I experienced something similar to my student when compiling the data and the story for our latest infographic on age discrimination: Segments of the executives who responded to the survey believed their age would be a detriment to job search, yet recruiters reported that advancing age was less an issue than years past.

Anecdotally, I also knew countless executives feel, experience and perceive age bias during their job search. No data points or statistics could ever dispute that.

So, how to reconcile executives' feelings with recruiters' facts? You can't truly. Executives believe they experience age bias because it's still a reality; recruiters say it's less an issue because the skills they seek come from an older talent pool. Search firm recruiters are even reporting that they are expecting a flood of 60+ candidates for leadership roles.

Companies may seem more initially resistant, but they see the benefits to hiring the 50+ executive. To get in the door, one ExecuNet member, a president of a high-tech company, said the solution is to "identify a short list of target companies and devise a strategy for each one," and networking is critical to get to the right people inside those organizations. "Maybe offer consulting to solve a short-term problem they are facing. No matter the age, the hiring managers have to get to know you and like you."

Time can't be stopped but while some executives can hide their advancing years, others use their age as a point of empowerment. As this president of a medical devices company noted, "Do I really want to work in a place that I have to overcome such blatant or subtle discrimination? If the hiring manager is biased, what must the senior executives be like? Is it simply a case of the person conducting the interview acting on their own bias, or were they instructed on what to look for and how to ferret out certain people? Maybe this technique is out of style, but when I talked to potential employers, I made certain they know I am assessing them, just as much as they are assessing me — fit is critical, and the culture the company portrays has to sync."

Have you encountered age discrimination, and how are you overcoming it?

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Robyn Greenspan's avatarRobyn Greenspan
Robyn Greenspan is ExecuNet's Chief Content Officer, where she is responsible for setting and driving the editorial content engagement strategy across the private business network's publications and expert-led programming. She is also a Huffington Post blogger. You can follow her on Twitter @RobynGreenspan

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