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Ageism against women leading to talent drain

It is time for organisations to prioritise creating environments where older women can thrive, treating age as a critical diversity aspect and combating ageism with the same attention and focus as other biases, Lucy Kallin, Executive Director for EMEA at non-profit organisation Catalyst,  writes in a blogpost for LSE Business Review. Older women are a growing workforce segment that is vital for sustaining economic growth and innovation, she stresses. 

“Yet, nearly one-third of women workers anticipate leaving their jobs before retirement age, not by choice, but due to health or wellbeing issues, including the menopause.” 

“This worrying talent drain, compounded by societal pressures on women to meet unrealistic beauty standards and balance caregiving responsibilities, calls for a re-evaluation of workplace policies.”

She writes the current system fails to recognise the invaluable contributions of older women.

“Women do not have a sell-by date. Older women workers, including those who actively want to stay economically active, are having choice taken away from them. Age should never be a factor in hiring, making promotion decisions or bringing on new team members for a growth opportunity.”

She stresses that women need to work an extra 19 years compared to men to close the gender pension gap. 

Read Also:  Vast majority of women suffer from ageism at work

“This financial chasm forces many women to choose between continuing to work well past retirement age or face a retirement of financial insecurity. Women leaders are also exiting their roles at an alarming rate.”

A study made in 2022 revealed that for every woman promoted at the director level, two opt to leave their company. 

“It’s time we faced these challenges head on. And that requires cultural shifts inside and outside of workplaces.” 

“Too few organisations are prioritising the skills of older workers into their talent system. A global survey found that fewer than four per cent of firms were running such programmes and only a quarter said they are “very likely” to in the future.”

Kallin writes that the pandemic has exacerbated these challenges, with women over 65 finding it particularly difficult to recover from employment losses. 

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“The disparity is rooted in biases, including the gender pay gap and gendered ageism, which negatively impact women’s earnings and career progression, especially as they age. Societal attitudes further marginalise older women by devaluing their experience and capabilities.”

She writes that continuing to work can seem insurmountable for manyL “One-third of workers perceive a rise in negative attitudes towards older employees since the cost of living crisis and more than half  of those over 50 have experienced age discrimination in the past year.”

“Organisations must adapt and recognise the changing needs and priorities of older workers, with  flexible working top of the list.”

“As less of the younger generation are entering the market, It is time for organisations to become an attractive employer of choice for older workers. Flexible work arrangements, carer’s leave and supportive measures for health issues like the menopause are essential requirements.”

“We are at a crossroads in how to sustain future economies”, Kallin writes.

Read Also:  Ageism in the workplace: How it impacts women and how to end it


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