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Is People Management’s ’50 over 50′ list a good idea?

by on May 20, 2015

People Management, the magazine of the CIPD, have launched a search to find ’50 over 50‘ claiming they want to ‘take a more realistic snapshot of the UK workforce, as we look for the greatest over-50s at work in the UK‘.  You can nominate yourself or someone else and the form simply provides a free format box to answer the question: Why does this person deserve to be included in People Management’s 50 over 50 list?

To some extent I agree that there are too many ‘under’ lists.  Here are just some of the other age related lists that I found from a relatively short google this morning:

So perhaps People Management have a point that most of these lists focus on ‘under’ a certain age barrier creating the impression that achievement at an age older is not worthy of recognition or even perhaps unlikely.  It does appear that these lists reinforce stereotypical associations of youth and vigor, energy etc, descriptors that then become unavailable for those who do not fit these age categorizations.  There are some compilations of ‘over’ age categories but not nearly so many.  For example, there was a book published back in 2007 by Rowe and Larcombe called ’50 Over 50: Extraordinary Women, Extraordinary Lives’.

However I disagree that a list compiled in this way and with an alternative age restriction can provide ‘a more realistic snapshot’.  How can replacing one age barrier with another achieve that goal?  This seems to me to be as problematic as the ‘under’ lists.  There is also a danger that in setting up an ‘alternative’ list, we might end up similarly reinforcing age-related stereotypes for both older and younger workers.

We will follow the outcomes of the list with interest.

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2 Comments
  1. Thanks Katrina. I’m glad our list has caught your eye, and I would agree that hopefully one day any such initiatives will be unnecessary. Overall, I’d say the proliferation of lists from newspapers, magazines and organisations regarding high-performing women or people from ethnic minorities have had a positive effect by focusing people’s attention on these issues (and the under-representation of certain groups elsewhere). We were surprised how little specific attention older workers have received in mainstream media.

  2. Thanks for your comment Robert and for taking the time to read our blog! We often report on media coverage of older workers, and don’t find a shortage of news stories ourselves. Though we agree that age and age discrimination (for both older and younger) is a less prominent area of discussion in the broad area of diversity. I guess our concern is the age division of ‘over 50’ adopts the same approach as those using other younger age categorizations that have no basis other than a catchy title alliteration but as we say, we will watch with interest!

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