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July 21, 2022

What Davos 22 Tells Us About the Future of Age Diversity and Inclusion

The World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland, took place in May with diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) as the central topic. Discussions among public sector,  private sector, and civil society experts focused on gender parity, disability inclusion, LGBTQI+ inclusion, and racial justice.

Though age was not one of the areas of potential inequality, there are some inferences we can draw from the insights revealed during the meeting.

Here are five observations we made that are relevant for organizations and mature employees and job-seekers

Diversity and Inclusion is Very Much A Work in Progress

Addressing a live session on The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Outlook, Editor-in-Chief of Quartz Media Inc. Katherine Bell pointed out that “When it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion, we are at a very frustrating state of affairs at the moment where we are moving forward and backward at the same time.”

She noted that companies had started giving more prominence to DEI initiatives, and investors were taking social governance more seriously. However, Bell pointed out that the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine had worsened inequalities and delayed progress in several areas.

Equity, Rather Than Mere Equality, Should Be The Goal

Belgium’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Enterprises, Public Administration, Telecommunications and Postal Services, Petra De Sutter, stressed the difference between equality and equity in the abovementioned discussion.

“It is very important that you give the right tools to people so that they can enjoy the equality that you want to propose. For instance, for people with disabilities, if we want to recruit them in the public service, we offer them reasonable accommodation, as we call it, so that they can really do the tasks which the same starting possibilities as other people without disabilities. You have to help them,” she said.

The same applies to older individuals in the workplace. While they can and do perform at a high level and contribute to the success of the organization, in some cases, they need assistance. This can be anything from accommodation for cognitive, sensory, or motor impairments to retraining and flexible work arrangements.

Women Need Special Attention

Both men and women face age bias and discrimination in the workplace and job market, but women face a double whammy of ageism and sexism. According to Age Platform Europe, ageism may be an even bigger problem than sexism, and women are more likely to encounter ageist attitudes than men.

In a world that places lots of value on youth and emphasizes the beauty in women, gendered ageism is a reality. Women who show signs of aging are seen as less capable or competent in the workplace. Those who have gaps in their resume because they took a break to care for children or elderly parents often have to settle for low-paying jobs. Furthermore, older women tend to be overlooked for training opportunities and promotions.

However, one of the key takeaways from Davos 2022 was the need to get more women working. Chairman and CEO of Manpower Group Jonas Prising said employers understand that they need to attract women, and he expressed optimism that there may be greater labor market participation by women going forward.

Meanwhile, Executive Director of Oxfam International, Gabriela Bucher, pointed out that most women in the Global South work in the informal sector and found themselves without an income during the pandemic. One suggestion was that informal workers receive the same rights as those in formal employment to provide greater job security.

Prising noted that increased flexibility in the workplace could make it easier for women to work. However, he cautioned that women could also be disadvantaged by flexibility, so it had to be carefully managed.

Reskilling is a Must

Almost everything became more digitized as a result of the pandemic. While some individuals and organizations were ready for a more digital environment, others weren’t, and the digital skills gap became even more apparent.

Therefore, CEO of Technology Consultancy Capgemini SE Aiman Ezzat highlighted the need for significant reskilling in the digital economy and suggested that companies aren’t doing enough. This shortfall, Ezzat said, was slowing down the transition to a digital economy while also hampering the green energy transition.

For the digital economy to expand and lead to increased prosperity for all, all workers need to engage in lifelong learning. This includes older workers who are often denied professional development opportunities and digital skills training.

Employers Need to Change the Way They Look at Talent

Ezzat also made the point that leaders need to change their approach to talent acquisition and retention.

“You have to think about how do I get the talent to get the work done? Not how do I hire good people to get the work done? How do I create a talent ecosystem that includes my employees, and other potential gig workers, people who have retired, students that will come work with me on a special assignment but will never be my employees,” he said.

Ezzat cited the need for a hybrid work environment that’s characterized by empathy and care for individuals.

This is important since mature individuals can vary significantly. While some may want to continue in full-time employment, others want to work part-time or on an as-needed basis. The workforce of the future will need to cater to these varying needs.

Need Help Future-Proofing Your Organization? We Can Help!

In times of uncertainty, it can be hard to know what to do next. Whether you’re a business owner or human resources professional, you’ll likely need some guidance when it comes to adapting to the present and preparing for the future. At WiseForce Advisors, we can assist you with attracting and retaining 50-plus employees and equipping your organization for the new reality. Schedule a consultation today by emailing info@wiseforceadvisors.com.