Ageism at work: ‘As a female presenter, I was replaced by younger models’
I am in my late 50s and have worked as a journalist for nearly 30 years, both on-screen as a reporter and off-screen as a news producer. I used to love my job and felt like a valued member of the team. Sadly, that has changed over the last 10 years.
I am denied opportunities given to younger members of staff and sidelined by managers, despite having the knowledge and experience to cover the story. I constantly volunteer for news projects but am not included in the team and made to feel invisible. I have to help far less experienced journalists do a job that I am being denied the opportunity to do, which is frustrating. This is especially the case when I have to save them from making legal or factual mistakes. This is all because the bosses prefer to have younger reporters on screen. They would not consider having a woman over 50 on camera. I still have knowledge, looks and talent but I do not fit the media stereotype.
In the morning news meetings if I offer my opinion on something I am often cut off mid sentence or completely dismissed. I have tried to ignore this, but it has chipped away at my confidence and now I don’t bother to voice my opinions or bring ideas to the table for fear of being made to look stupid.
For the last few years I have not been given the same training and promotional opportunities as younger members of staff. It is as if my career has stopped. This is crazy because now I have time to commit more to work and do longer shifts as my family are all grown up and have left home. With state pensions not being available until 67, I now have to work longer and I want to feel fulfilled at work. Something I seem unable to get across to management, despite numerous conversations.
When I try to highlight the issue of ageism with younger female members of staff, they say it is not a big problem. However, I have watched these same people change their minds 10 years down the line when they are taken off screen to be replaced by a younger model and their voices are not heard any more. What’s even more frustrating is that at the same time older, male journalists are being left to carry on reporting on screen.
Outside work, I am confident and articulate and have achieved many things. But in work I feel constantly degraded and humiliated by ageist comments. Mistakes I make are highlighted and the response to those mistakes is totally disproportionate, but when younger members of staff make the same mistakes it is brushed aside. I have to defend myself against fabricated allegations that are used to undermine my credibility in the workplace. I have seen this happen to older friends of mine who eventually could not carry on with the stress of the situation and took early retirement.
I am left with the feeling that my only option is to leave and find another job. But at 58 that is easier said than done. And there is the added feeling of anger: why should I be forced out of a job that I am good at just because I am seen as too old?
All this is starting to affect my mental and physical health. I am nervous, tearful and do not sleep properly. I am constantly rehearsing conversations I want to have with management to stop this ageist behaviour towards me. I get up in the morning with a feeling of dread because I know I will be subjected to ageist comments and have no way of defending myself.
When I see my boss in the office my heart is racing and I feel nervous as I await the next onslaught of criticism. I fear it will make me cry, which only goes to make me look more like an old woman who cannot cope with the stress of a busy newsroom.
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