Friday, July 6, 2007

Age is a Touchy Subject with Everyone

I generally shy away from blogging about controversial subjects, however I can't help but bring up how age seems to be an issue for everyone. I have been following a series of posts on the San Francisco Bay Area Young Nonprofit Professionals Network listserv about age. The discussion started when someone posted that they wanted to have a networking event for young professionals and used poor language discluding older folks that was offensive by many on the list, including myself. This sparked numerous responses and then someone posted "the ONLY ages at which people do not face workplace discrimination are 35-40! 40+ -- what we've all heard. Below 35 -- "too young" for positions of responsibility and leadership, even when the skills and track record are there."

Then that sparked someone assuming that YNPN has an age limit. I piped in and attempted to rebuttal by quoting the YNPN website "YNPN outreaches to the next generation of leaders-led by and directly responsive to the needs of early career nonprofit professionals, "and I stated there are folks of many ages transitioning into the nonprofit sector who can be considered "early career nonprofit professionals."

It is amazing how one post can lead to such a variety of other posts about age discrimination. I don't have a solution to this issue, I wish I did. As much as we all try to avoid it, age discrimination exists. I've experienced it--we probably all have. We've also all heard the sayings, "you've had your time," or "your time will come." I like being a consultant because age doesn't seem to come up, people hire me based on my qualifications and my experience. However, as a senior manager and staff member in organizations, the majority of the organizational conflicts I have encountered all stemmed from the age issue. That is why the generational issue is such a hot topic of discussion--most nonprofits are facing this issue.

Here's a thought--what if we all could collaborate, accept our age differences and know that we each bring something great and unique to the table as a representative from each generation? Then maybe, just maybe, age wouldn't be such of an issue for all of us.

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