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Ageism takes toll on working women and national productivity

08 Mar 2013

Despite legislation outlawing age and gender related discrimination, a senior researcher at the University of Sydney Business School says that a combination of ageism and sexism continues to act as a barrier to older women who want to work.

In an International Women's Day address Associate Professor Leanne Cutcher said that current attitudes towards life and career cycles still dominate most workplaces and work to exclude older women from the labour market.

Dr Cutcher pointed out that only three per cent of companies listed on the ASX200 are headed by women over the age of 55.

"Age norms dictate appropriate times and ages for particular achievements, roles or transitions in life, such as leaving home, entering the workforce, getting married, becoming a parent and retiring," Dr Cutcher told members of the Older Women's Network. "When people do not conform in line with these age norms they are sanctioned."

Dr Cutcher believes that while ageism also affects men, it is especially corrosive for women who experience age discrimination at a younger age and are seen as 'older' at an earlier age. Dr Cutcher said that efforts by Australian women to hide their age underpin the country's booming cosmetics market.