I’m biased against old people. And so are you.

Age-Bias-in-Law

You probably wouldn’t expect to hear this from someone leading a workshop on combatting age discrimination in the legal sector.  

But it’s true.

In preparation for my Women in Law Summit session on the benefits of hiring older candidates and career changers, I took the age Implicit Association Test (IAT) developed by leading psychologists Mahzarin Banaji and Anthony Greenwald.

The IAT measures the strength of associations between concepts (e.g., black people, gay people) and evaluations (e.g., good, bad) or stereotypes (e.g., athletic, clumsy).  My score revealed a “slight automatic preference” for young people over old.  Dissatisfied, I took the test again.  Same result.

In their best-selling book Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People, Mahzarin and Tony explain the thinking behind the test and reveal that bias around age is more widespread than that of race, class or gender.  It’s so pervasive, in fact, that even older people are biased against older people!  

If you don’t believe me, visit the Project Implicit website and take the test. The results are likely to surprise, and quite possibly disturb you.  Particularly when you learn that the IAT is predictive of discriminatory behaviour in hiring and promotion, medical treatment and decisions related to criminal justice.

Will you overlook a bright and capable applicant because, as a result of their age, your unconscious mind has labelled them unmotivated, resistant to change and vulnerable to work-family conflicts? More importantly, what can you do about it?

Join me at the Women in Law Summit for a dynamic, interactive and thought-provoking discussion of these issues and take away some useful techniques for overcoming unconscious bias and ensuring you don’t miss out on talent and opportunity.  

The Women in Law Summit returns for 2019, make sure to follow our LinkedIn page for updates ahead of the event.