Diversity IQ Blind Spots

Ask a company executive – CEO, marketing exec, HR person – how they’re doing when it comes to diversity, and the probable response is “we’ve got this,” or something like it.

But even smart people don’t see what they don’t see. And most have an expensive blind spot in ageism.

That might be you too, a diversity IQ gap that hurts people and repels customers. Given psychographic and demographic changes across society it could cost you your business future, too.

Americans who become more experienced over time learn more about how to spend money on things and experiences they enjoy, desire or need, also learn who it is that respects them.

Companies spend billions refining language and marketing that appeals to multinational, gender and race segments, but ignore people they apparently label as “old.” Doing so makes claims of corporate values and ethics somewhat hypocritical.

If values, and doing right by people doesn’t matter to you, maybe money does. Consider that people over the age of 55 own wealth that if combined would create the world’s third-largest economy.  And in a little more than 20 years more than a third of consumers will be 60 or older.

Consider too that people over the age of 40 hate, no loathe, being called old.  They won’t reward you with their hard-earned dollars.   They’ll take those dollars elsewhere.  I’m approaching 60, and still expect to ride a motorcycle, buy electronics, rent cars and hotel rooms, buy a few cars, buy fashionable clothing, attend events and do a lot of the consumer-oriented things most other people do, right up the day I drop dead.

Unfortunately, without even thinking about it — and that’s really the problem — most companies rest in the comfort of throwback thinking, and even dignify the idea that this is one demographic segment they can do without.   I take it personally, and so do millions of others.

Consider: a Boston University economics researcher and corporate consultant has has worried and spoken to the fear of Baby Boomers and “their long retirement years and the protracted delay in their departure to the next world.

Oh, but the generational insensitivity doesn’t stop there. Consider, a 2005 university study that decried “The Coming Death Shortage,” people over the age of 55 living too long for the needs of young society.

This thinking bleeds over into how companies treat or ignore people who could be their customers. it also bleeds over into how companies fail to hire the experienced people who could help companies avoid mistakes and mentor young professionals into people of vision who stay with your company and not absorb your training investment in them and leave.

This, Ms. and Mr. Marketer, may be your diversity IQ blind spot. We can’t make you change: you have to decide to do that yourself. But we can help you and your colleagues become more aware of the personal, professional and long-term business costs — and the opportunities that this aspect of diversity can bring.

Ageism hurts people and will cost you. Be aware, learn, act, and like any other need, change or die.  If you’re willing, we can help.

About John Castagna

John is a passionate expert in leadership communication, and oversight of internal and external relationship-building including PR and marketing functions. He's worked as national spokesman in major media. He's improved team communications and projects with major corporations and non-profits, as well as federal and state government. A former managing broadcast journalist, he can help polish your speaking and presenting skills. Off-the-clock he loves the outdoors, sports, cooking and travel, and playing guitar.
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