Turn on your local news station. A man and woman sit across from you on your television screen—guess how old each anchor is. More often than not, you will find that the man is graying, in his fifties, while the woman can rarely meet the age of forty before being swiftly replaced. Why does the appearance of the female anchor dictate her pertinence, while the male anchor encounters no age-related obstacle?
Is it that, since 1923, society still has not yet acclimated to women in the workplace? Or perhaps age-related wisdom can only reside in older men, not their over-the-hill female counterparts. Regardless of the antiquated motive behind the concept, women face age discrimination in their place of work to a greater extent than men do.
The issue ties to the familiar statistic that for every dollar a man makes, a woman makes eighty-three cents. If men receive higher compensation than women for the exact same job, they must be contributing something else, something worth justifying that extra seventeen cents.
Or maybe, their perceived greater value does not stem from a higher quality of work, but rather from ingrained, centuries-old sexist beliefs.
Despite our advancements in gender equality, the public’s beauty-based perception of women has not yet departed. Women face perpetual, ever-changing critiques in regards to their appearance. Men do not. Nearly every decade, the so-called “ideal” female body type transforms, and with each new rendition of the “perfect body,” a woman’s worth becomes increasingly tied to her looks.
Today, skin-care brands capitalize on “age-defying” serums and creams marketed towards women, all which promise to erase wrinkles and any other signs of youth’s absence. American society clearly values female youth—it’s no wonder this notion has made its way into our workplace.
Ellen Goodman of The Washington Post asks a question that encapsulates the gender struggle in the American workplace—“Are women always going to be too young or too old, too cute or too ugly, instead of competent and incompetent?” In society’s infatuation with female youth, a woman’s relevance is just that—her beauty as opposed to her intellect.