After participating on the #HAATBP panel where a few of us were able to express the challenge of Ageism and how to deal, I wanted to share a piece of what I’ve dealt with. Ageism is a real bias and it’s popping up in conversation everywhere. My experience with this type of prejudice is different than the most popular discussions, which is against either the older or the younger.
My social isolation of ageism addresses looking younger than my actual age. The government set a law against discrimination of persons age 40 and above. What happens if you are above 40 and look younger? Of the various Many may refer to looking younger, perceived younger as a positive bias. Which makes them say intelligent things like; “you still get carded – that’s a good thing or black don’t crack.”
While implicit or negative ageism bias can be considered unintended, consider those recipients hearing the comments as insulting and hurtful. Most of the time, the assumption are that I could not be experienced enough to drive success for a major corporation or strong enough to lead teams, let alone those dominated by white males.
I have a coping mechanism for this type of inequality and it’s the power of storytelling. I personally can’t think of a single situation where a story isn’t used to combat bias. This is especially helpful when on a job interview or in engaging in a chat with high-powered people. I have customized a “personal brand” elevator pitch and I deliver it early in conversations to level set and break the bias thoughts running through people’s heads while they are supposed to be listening. I’ve found that sharing where you work and how many years is simply not enough information to forge past unintentional judgements.
“My name is Dawn Fitch-Mitchell”- most will assume I have taken on a hyphen in my name for a reason. “I have two creative adult children, both graduated from SCAD University and now have careers to support themselves.” Responses include: “Gasp”- “WTF!”, “Shut Up!”, “No Way!” or the polite response, “You must be proud and look so young”.
Now I want you to imagine this follow up question to me, ” So, you were a teenage mom?!?”
With confusion I stare back…
If I must build my credibility further, I go on to say, “I owned a modeling agency, I’ve managed teams, I trained as a cosmetologist, model agent, acting coach, managed vendor systems for US and Global in large companies like BMS and AIG, I was and am a CEO, I am an advisor, implemented diversity programs at large agencies, I am an unconscious bias trainer and peer pressure counselor for teens.” This is not bragging, but these are a bunch of responses loaded into my “combat bias bag of tricks”.
What people can’t know just by looking at me is that my career path was layered with multiple tiers of learning, tears and bias interactions, successes, mentors, failures, mentoring and more. Dealing with situations, people, circumstances, legal and beyond is part of my adult experience makeup, which can make me just the person to fit the position of your search.
I said all this to say, don’t be put off by the non-believers, haters, bias norms, the questioners and those who judge you based on what they see versus what the know. Instead, arch your back, put your chin up, guard your loins with the fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23, love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance) and state your truth, all with a smile.
Thanks for listening.
AKA Pretty Til Dawn, AKA Carmel Barbie