Tags: Bias | for | Youth

Bias for Youth

Friday, 17 December 2004 12:00 AM

There isn't a soul I know over 45 who hasn't suddenly or not-so-suddenly started worrying that they may be about to be too old to get ahead, be ahead, get to the top, ever succeed, avoid being fired, get rehired again, at whatever it is that they do, or assumed they might do.

In some jobs, that number has dropped to 40, which is just unbelievable. It is certainly the case that no one is hot after 40. But very few people even have a clue of what they're doing before they're into their 30s. And if they're women, you HAVE to be having babies then. Have to. No two ways about it.

The mistake of my generation, the mistake that is not being made again, was to put it off too long, which resulted in an increase in fertility problems caused by the number of women over 35 trying to have children.

And then you're too old. Not hot. Everybody's age is put next to his or her name everywhere. We are how old we are. No one wants old. OLD spells tired, out of gas, somehow not hip.

During the last presidential election, I watched with some horror as many in Hollywood and the independent groups moved way out to the left, full of hate-George-Bush meetings and soldiers drowning in swampland ads, attacking Fox News, where I am a contributor, and wasting millions of dollars in the process.

Fox's ratings went up. But when I said that, I was derided as not really a Democrat, someone who just played one on television, until things got tough and they finally woke up.

Now the sad truth is that I worked on six presidential campaigns at top levels, including running one. Every one of those candidates ran on the left and ultimately lost.

It was Bill Clinton, who I talked to every day in the 1988 campaign, who convinced me that the only way a Democrat would ever win was from the middle, which is one of the reasons I value the challenge of Fox more than the rewards of preaching to the choir. I'm also lucky to work at Fox because the liberals would probably never hire me - they're out looking for tomorrow's stars.

Everyone is looking around the corner to find whoever is fresh, hot, new. The law prohibits Age Discrimination, but you have to find a lawyer who thinks the case is worth enough to take it, or you're talking about financing it yourself, which most people can't afford to do. Besides, the higher you go, the more subjective and thus more difficult to dispute these judgments are.

Young people tend to be cheap. The fact that it has been a number of very young men who have been stricken with serious illnesses, most recently at McDonalds, only to be replaced by an older executive, shouldn't translate into a bias in favor of youth. But it does. Vigorous means young. Energetic means young.

If you're a woman, for goodness sake, cover the gray. This is not religious advice. It is not dating advice. I'm talking about work, unless you're very lucky, or have decided to sit still and have tenure at a wealthy private university.

Even there, be careful.

Job definitions are being changed. People want comers. I'm too old to be a dean, a colleague who always wanted to be one told me recently. He is in his 50s. Forties, it seems now, is the maximum age for a job that used to be the crowning glory of a career.

Now, it is seen as the stepping stone for a possible future president on the fast track, a much more demanding, fast-paced challenge to fund-raise five nights a week and hit the road. Who's better at that: a young person, or one with more experience dealing with the older people who give all the money?

A generation of men who never got what women were talking about may finally start to figure out how defining qualifications can turn a neutral decision into discrimination.

Plastic surgery, healthy diet, good exercise, good living - any number of things can give the more mature man or woman the look of youth. We can look just like them. But can anything give some fresh-faced boy or girl the wisdom that age and experience brings? I'm sure a lot smarter than I was at 35. Now, what was that, 10 years ago???

COPYRIGHT 2004 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.

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There isn't a soul I know over 45 who hasn't suddenly or not-so-suddenly started worrying that they may be about to be too old to get ahead, be ahead, get to the top, ever succeed, avoid being fired, get rehired again, at whatever it is that they do, or assumed they might...
Bias,for,Youth
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2004-00-17
Friday, 17 December 2004 12:00 AM
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