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What does the UK Government cabinet re-shuffle tell us about age stereotypes?

by on July 18, 2014

David Cameron’s cabinet reshuffle was reported live on the press and even the PM himself tweeted key events!  The BBC here provide a summary of the key changes which also includes some interesting filters so that you can see just the women (5), the Oxbridge educated (14)  or those under 50 (13).  So the diversity issue here appears linked to these three ‘characteristics’, lets call them (some other glaring problems with diversity in the cabinet will be very obvious to those scanning the images on the BBC website).

During the live coverage and in subsequent reports much was made of the emphasis given to women and youth in this reshuffle, with concern that this was a public image exercise which might actually raise issues for the particular young and/or female MPs ‘promoted’.  The Guardian however go one step further in challenging the assumptions of age stereotypes that are dominant in the reporting, with Anne Karpf saying “welcome to middle-ageism” and highlighting that “Ageism has been described as prejudice against your future self“.  Somewhat ironic given this is the week the government appointed an Older Workers champion.

Age stereotypes do not however just impact our perceptions of ‘older workers’, it is our understandings of age that are problematic here and the generalisations we make once we assign an individual to a particular age or chronological category such as older, younger or, say, generational category.  But hey, its Friday so I won’t start another rant against the concept of generations before the weekend!

Age at Work are off on their summer hols next week – back again soon!


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