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By Rebecca Crook, Chief Revenue Officer, Somo

In May it was revealed by the Ministry of Justice that it had seen a 30% increase in age discrimination claims taken to employment tribunals in the past year.

Stuart Lewis, founder of Rest Less, told the Guardian “that the pandemic has exacerbated age discrimination in both the workplace and the recruitment process”. And while ageism cases tend to be skewed towards older generations, in my experience the tech industry also has an issue with discrimination against younger workers, and especially young female talent.

As someone who has heard frequently throughout their career ‘you are a bit young’ for a certain role, it can be hard to stomach being treated in an unfavourable way just because of age. In my case, combining that with being a woman has often exacerbated feelings of unfair treatment. But it’s only made me more determined to achieve the career progression I wanted for myself, and not have to follow an arbitrary one modelled out for me based on where I “should” be for my age.

There have been many instances in my career where I have been the only female in senior meetings and been the youngest there by more than just a few years; for the Non Executive Director roles I’m striving for now, I’m a baby in comparison to the median age of 60! The good news is that things are starting to change albeit slowly.

Of course, one of the key challenges facing businesses at the moment is a shortage of talent. Career retention and succession planning is far more cost effective than re-hiring,yet many businesses often overlook junior people. The young talent you hire today will be the leaders of tomorrow so it’s a shortcited view to overlook them. Digital natives not only bring new and different perspectives to a business, they can help develop new ideas for success, as well as having a great understanding of what today’s customers want.

Businesses should be nurturing young people and thinking more about developing and supporting younger talent to help them not only grow in confidence but to also give them the opportunity to learn new skills and gain experience across new areas. I became a Business Mentor for The Prince’s Trust, mentoring young business owners. I myself was only in my mid-twenties when I started, but I felt my age gave me a stronger connection to the person I was supporting as I understood their challenges much better. Of course I didn’t know all the answers but in business a lot of it is about people, and people buy people and we shouldn’t forget that.

Seeing more young talent helps inspire other younger people. Globally we are certainly not short on inspiration when it comes to young, inspiring leaders. Hillary Yip, the youngest CEO in the world who runs an education technology platform; she has a seat at the table with some of the world’s renowned geniuses and leaders. Greta Thunberg, who is internationally known for her climate change activism, has mobilised an army of young followers who are passionate about the environment, and most importantly, willing to lobby and hold governments and corporations accountable. Even Marcus Rashford, the English footballer, who at just 23 years of age got the UK government to listen to him when he needed them to provide vouchers for free school meals.

I would like to see companies implementing formal structures to help young people learn and get more involved. Businesses could consider a more corporate approach and instate advisory boards and shadow boards who observe and learn but most importantly it gives confidence to those. This is a very balanced and structured way to help promote from within and give opportunities to a diverse range of people.

At Somo we try to support our young and new people to the industry, regardless of age, with a management academy to give people access to understanding all parts of the business as well as a support network of mentors. We also work with trade bodies such as BIMA who have a vast array of support on offer for young people and we proactively encourage all of staff to attend networking events and industry events.

It really is incredible young people like this are using their voice to better society and the world we live in and what’s really inspiring is they are incredible role models for everyone regardless of age. They demonstrate that if you are true to yourself, believe in something you can achieve whatever you set out to.

Of course as an industry we can do more and since Covid I’ve certainly seen more kindness in the workplace. If we can remember to be kind to each other that in itself will help create a better, more inclusive, diverse and opportunity led environment for all.

About the author

Rebecca Crook has twenty years of marketing experience specialising in the digital innovation sector over the last ten years. She has worked with some of the UK’s most recognisable brands including Lloyds Banking Group, British Airways, Haven Holidays, Tesco Clubcard and Invesco. Rebecca leads the new business and marketing strategy for Somo, working closely with new clients to understand their business challenges. Her focus is on defining how Somo can design, build and create customer-centric digital experiences that give brands a competitive edge and meet the rising expectations of today’s customers. Outside of work, Rebecca has a keen interest in heritage and sits on a number of Boards advising on restoring and bringing historical assets back to life. Most recently, she has sat on the National Trust Strategic Advisory Board and Saltdean Lido, the country’s only Grade II* listed lido.

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