Older Women Struggle in the Workplace

There is considerable evidence that older women face unique struggles in the workplace.

  • Older women appear to experience among the highest rates of workplace bullying.
  • Older women have the highest wage gap when compared to both men and women as a group.
  • The number of age discrimination complaints filed by older women with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has skyrocketed in recent years, raising questions about whether older women are being excluded from participation in the “new” economy.

One of the biggest problems facing older women is hiring discrimination, which involves both sex and age discrimination. This is particularly obvious in the high-tech sector. Google, for example, admitted in 2014 that women comprised only 30 percent of its workplace but the company was strangely silent about the age of its employees.  A class action lawsuit  earlier this year accused Google of gross age discrimination in hiring.

It seemswomen in the workplace obvious that older women are more adversely affected by the discriminatory hiring practices of America’s high tech industries.

Meanwhile,there has been a tremendous spike in age discrimination lawsuits filed by women in recent years. Cathy Vontrell-Monsees, senior counsel for the EEOC, told the National Press Foundation earlier this year that the percentage of age discrimination cases filed by women jumped from 32 percent in 2007 to 45 percent in 2013.

It should be noted that in the early years of the ADEA, which was passed in 1967, most workers who filed age discrimination lawsuits were white, male, middle managers or professionals over the age of 50. Only about 14 percent of claimants were women. Researchers theorized that female workers were less likely to file an ADEA lawsuit because they had lower wages and didn’t stand to gain as much. The increase in age discrimination complaints filed by women may also say something about how older men are faring in the workplace.


There is some conflicting evidence but it appears that older women experience among the highest rates of workplace bullying. A scientific survey conducted by the Harris Poll for the employment site, Careerbuilder showed that 34 percent of female workers reported being bullied in 2013 compared to 22 percent of male workers. Meanwhile, an earlier scientific Careerbuilder survey in 2011 found that two age groups reported the highest rate of bullying (29 percent)   – workers aged 55 and older and workers aged 24 or younger.

A gender equality group, Opportunity Now, in 2014 conducted the largest survey on workplace abuse ever conducted in the United Kingdom. Sixty-four percent of the 23,000 women surveyed – all aged 28 to 40 – reported they had felt abused in the workplace within the past three years. More than half of these women (52%) said they were bullied. Since age 28-40 is not the prime demographic for bullying, it seems likely the incidence is much higher for older women.

Wage Gap

Older women experience a higher gender wage gap than is experienced by women as a whole. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research’s (IWPR)  Status of Women in the States 2015,  female full-time workers earned only 78 cents for every dollar earned by men in 2013, a wage gap of 22 percent. The gender earnings ratio for women aged 65 and older who work full-time year round was 72.5 cents on the dollar.

As this blog has previously noted, the combined impact of age and sex discrimination consigns millions of older women to poverty or near poverty in their older  poverty. The Social Security Administration’s flawed benefit formula is based solely upon wages and thus reflects the higher rates of discrimination suffered by women throughout their lives. The situation is particularly acute for  African-American and Hispanic women.

With all of these problems, one might expect federal and state authorities to focus on older women in the workplace. This is not occurring. Which is yet another problem facing older women.

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