Older Academics: A question of equity and age:

A black and white portrait of Albert Einstein.The university sector has an ageing workforce. But are older academics encouraged to stay on, and if so, are they treated with equity? This is an important question in the context of a higher education institutions in a competitive global market.

A qualitative study of older academics revealed that older academics are not treated equitably by management. There is an emphasis on “performance” but no investment in it. The main human resource strategy for older academics seems to be pre-retirement planning. So there are two issues: performance evaluation and age management.

The study was carried out by Catherine Earl, Philip Taylor and Fabian Cannizzo who discuss the role of corporate objectives in the employment of older academics. They conclude that the ad hoc nature of retirement planning has perpetuated stereotypes of older academics. It puts pressure on individuals to avoid discrimination by making sure they “perform” well. Both the institutions and the academics are vulnerable in this global climate and an equitable solution needs to be found.

The title of the paper is, “Regardless of Age”: Australian University Managers’ Attitudes and Practices Towards Older Academics

Abstract: As with other industrialized nations Australia’s population is aging and older workers are encouraged to work for longer. At the same time, Australia’s university sector, which is aging, is being reconfigured through changes that potentially marginalize its older workers as higher education institutions try to become more competitive in a global market. In this context, youthfulness appears to embody competitiveness and academic institutions are increasingly aspiring to a young workforce profile. This qualitative article builds on previous research to explore to what extent ageist assumptions shape attitudes to older workers and human resource management (HRM) practices within Australian universities even when HRM practitioners are well versed in antidiscrimination legislation that (unlike the Age Discrimination in Employment Act in the United States) applies to workers of all ages. Semistructured interviews conducted with 22 HRM practitioners in Australian universities reveal that university HRM practices generally overlook the value of retaining an older workforce by conflating “potential” with “youthfulness,” assuming that staff potential and performance share a negative correlation with age. While mostly lower-ranked institutions have attempted to retain older academics to maintain an adequate labor supply, this study finds that university policies targeting the ongoing utilization of older workers generally are underdeveloped. Consequently, the availability of late career employment arrangements is dependent upon institutions’ strategic goals, with favorable ad hoc solutions offered to academics with outstanding performance records, while a rhetoric of performance decline threatens to marginalize older academic researchers and teachers more generally.

Editor’s note: Professor Philip Taylor is a CUDA board member.

Are you Diverse or Diversish?

A mosaic of many different faces and nationalitiesSometimes wry humour and satire is the way to get the message across. Sheri Byrne-Haber’s article You might be #Diversish if… explains what Diversish means. It’s a satirical term for businesses and organisations that call themselves diverse because they have a diversity policy. However, when you look at what they actually do, the policy is just collecting dust. So their claims lack authenticity. The article includes a British satirical video that really represents many of the business conversations around diversity. Funny but serious.

Designing inclusively with emotional intelligence

Patricia Moore sits on a park bench looking in her handbag. She has a walking cane and is wearing a black hat an blue overcoat. She looks like she is 80 years old but she is 27.Patricia Moore is well-known to those who have followed the fortunes of universal design for some time. She was the researcher who dressed and behaved as an 80 year old woman and found first hand the discriminatory treatment older people face every day in the built environment and socially. Her latest article with Jörn Bühring asks designers and business leaders to use social and emotional intelligence in their designs. They claim the philosophic challenge is to ask “Why not?” rather than “Why?” 

“Designers don’t speak of limitations, instead they tend to focus on possibilities. The emergence of ’inclusivity’ in design supports the conviction that where there is a ’deficit’, we will present a solution. “Where there is ignorance, we will strive for enlightenment. Where there is a roadblock, we will create a pathway”.

Cite paper as: Bühring, J., Moore, P., (2018). Emotional and Social Intelligence as ’Magic Key’ in Innovation: A Designer’s call toward inclusivity for all – Letter From Academia, Journal of Innovation Management, www.openjim.org, 
6(2), 6-12.

Diversity and inclusion: why don’t they care?

A bearded man in a white shirt leans back from his desk and computer. He is laughing and has a sticker on his forehead that reads, be happy.When the terms ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’ fall on certain ears, it raises hackles and is considered a big problem. The Fifth Estate has published a very interesting article titled, Why people hate on diversity and inclusion (and how to get them not to). It’s by the CEO of Diversity Council Australia, Lisa Annese. She quotes David Gaider, “Privilege is when you think something is not a problem because it’s not a problem to you personally.”

Annese discusses the research that shows the more diverse a company’s workforce, the more satisfied the whole workplace is. And that leads to improved productivity. It should also lead to better service for their customers. They are a diverse lot too!

Accessible Recruitment Guide

Front cover of the guide showing two men and two women at a table. The men are wearing blue shirts and standing. The women are sittingThe introduction to the Accessible Recruitment Guide created by Media Access Australia, says it is  “… to provide practical ‘real world’ guidance on how best to address accessibility-related issues in recruitment and human resources management. This handy summary covers everything from checking that you have an accessible Position Description; to making sure that online forms for reference checks or self-application are accessible to people with cognitive, vision or mobility disability; along with handy tips for improving accessible recruitment processes that you can implement immediately.” Another great resource from Media Access Australia.

Go to the Media Access Australia website to download your free copy of this great resource for HR professionals and recruiter.

Diversity and inclusion: not the same thing

The feet of two dancers. The woman is wearing red and white shoes and the man regular black shoes“Diversity is being asked to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance.” This is a great quote from Verna Myers. Her context is the workplace and the employment and advancement of women and people of colour. But of course, it is relevant to all other groups that are seeking inclusion. The Harvard Business Review in its article, Diversity doesn’t stick without inclusion discusses this issue. It is one thing to have a diverse population, but that doesn’t mean equity or inclusion will automatically follow. The HBR puts it in the employment context, “Part of the problem is that “diversity” and “inclusion” are so often lumped together that they’re assumed to be the same thing. But that’s just not the case. In the context of the workplace, diversity equals representation. Without inclusion, however, the crucial connections that attract diverse talent, encourage their participation, foster innovation, and lead to business growth won’t happen.”

Editor’s note: I co-wrote a paper on inclusion being something where you have to wait for the “mainstream” group to invite you in. Inclusiveness is something that is present, it is happening now. You can see the slideshow version too which has some explanatory graphics.