Experience and wisdom are valuable to companies. Yet workplace ageism persists, particularly against women who leave and then return to the workforce.
That was the big takeaway during a discussion that aired on Friday's “Morning Joe” with co-hosts Mika Brzezinski, Joe Scarborough and Willie Geist, alongside MSNBC contributor Mike Barnicle and co-author of Mika Brzezinski’s new book, Ginny Brzezinski.
Mika Brzezinski and her sister-in-law wrote “Comeback Careers,” which came out this week. The book provides a roadmap for women in their 40s and 50s who are returning to the workforce after a hiatus. The authors surveyed women across the country and discovered egregious cases of ageism.
“Ageism is out there. There's no question,” said Ginny Brzezinski. “We talked to so many women who didn't even get an interview because of their age. We've talked to women who found out later on that somebody had written ‘TO’ on their resume for ‘too old.’ I mean, it's incredible. So that needs to stop.”
The statistics are on this demographic’s side. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women over 55 are the fastest growing age and gender workforce category. And the American Institute for Economic Research found that 82 percent of workers who changed their careers after age 45 were ultimately successful.
In addition, a study by Visier found that Millennials were 50 percent more likely to be hired for Silicon Valley tech positions, but that older workers had more “top performer” ratings and had more experience.
“You can go down one study after another study after another study that shows if you have a chance to hire somebody who's 50 years old plus, and has a range of experiences, they're going to serve you better,” said Scarborough.
Discrimination is a huge issue, but a lack of confidence in women returning the workforce can compound the problem, according to Mika Brzezinski.
“[Women] are still in their own way because if they're caregiving, if they're raising kids and they've taken a huge break, it is so scary to them,” Mika Brzezinski said. “They fear failure every step of the way. They feel like, ‘I can't fail. If I do this, I can't fail.’”
Ginny Brzezinski said she “zigzagged” careers and faced confidence issues in her 50s.
“The first thing that we can do is stop the ageism narrative in our own heads,” said Ginny Brzezinski. “I mean, I was sitting there when I texted Mika thinking, ‘Here I am, 50 something. I don't know what I can do. How do you change careers at my age? How do you start something new?’ We all need to realize that we have more to offer at this age.”
Men need to support women in their career pivots, according to Geist, who noted that his wife, Christina, took time off to raise their kids, then launched branding and product ventures at age 40.
“From a man's point of view as a partner, be there for the woman who wants to make that leap,” Geist said.