Short Cuts

Do We Really Have to Talk About Age?

Is disclosing age really necessary – for example in profiles? F10's Editor-in-chief Natascha Zeljko initially accepted this practice but has since changed her mind

In my previous job at a German women’s magazine I was often annoyed by women who didn’t want to disclose their age to us. It seemed silly, undignified, and yes, vain. For us, age – like the place of residence or nationality – was standard information. That was part of every bio and every interview. That’s just what we learned at some point and that’s how journalists have handled it for decades. We never questioned this practice.

The year of birth has an expiration date

In the meantime, and after countless conversations with women from the senior level, I have come to see things differently. Age is a highly sensitive issue in the job context. The problem is that the year of birth has an expiration date. From, let’s say, the end of your 40s, it can become critical with regard to career. Also for men, but even more so for women.

Which is where we can swear to and celebrate diversity. So long the headhunters meticulously filter their files and all those over 50 are mercilessly deleted. So long you hardly see people in their 50s being promoted, but rather know cases of colleagues being let go in their 50s, age can make one look pretty old.

Reduced to a kind of working robot

Anonymous applications should help and are well meant. Nevertheless, it is no wonder that they have not yet been fully accepted, at least in the private sector. If the name, the image, the nationality are left out, what remains beyond the skills, i.e. the pure functional description of a person? The applicant is reduced to a kind of working robot.

With age, however, things are different. The age is, first of all, nominal. What does it say about a person? There are lethargic, narrow-minded young people and agile, unconventional older people. The attitude to life is much more decisive than the year of birth. How do you approach new things and cultural changes? Sure, Generation Y tends to deal better, faster, and more intuitively with Slack and TikTok, but that is technology. Technology can be learned or at least integrated. You also need attitude. And experience. 

This means: People are what they do. People are what they are capable of. Depending on experience, but regardless of age.

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