Age diversity: breaking down barriers

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By Trent Ostrom
Contributor

In a day and age where diversity is being discussed and barriers are being broken down, many overlook the role of age in the context of equality.

The University of Nebraska at Omaha’s Gerontology Department is hosting the fifth biennial “Aging with Passion & Purpose Conference,” on Monday which will focus on the benefits of a diverse workplace when it comes to age, and how each employee in an organization can learn from other generations.

Students working toward their diploma with their peers and graduating into the workforce often don’t realize that they will most likely be working with not only their peers, but people of multiple generations. When younger generations enter the workforce, there are some that come with the mindset that younger is better.

At the same time, there are some in the workforce who feel generations such as Generation X and Millennials aren’t as hard of workers. Because of this polarization between generations, companies often don’t get the most out of each of their employees. Similarly, employees with a predetermined mind-set are unable to learn from each other.

Key note speak Libby Sartain
Key note speak Libby Sartain

Julie Masters, chair of the Department of Gerontology, explained that often people don’t look at each other as an individual person, but rather they make generalizations about an entire group of people.

“It’s common for people to make blanket generalizations about anything, including others,” said Masters. “People will make assumptions about groups of people whether young or old.”

Masters explained that often people see age as a barrier even though it’s actually an opportunity.

“Each generation is going to do things differently,” Masters said. “It’s important that each generation takes notice of how they differ, what they can do to improve and what they can do to help others.”

While many students are guilty of making assumptions of others, students are also quick to recognize that the potential damage of making broad generalizations.

Zach Beran, a senior studying music, explained how younger people could be limiting themselves with the wrong mindset.

“If students have the mindset that younger is better, they are limiting themselves from learning from those in the company with a lot of experience,” Beran said. “For example, if you are working on something for the company and you have a coworker who knows the company well after years of experience, it wouldn’t be smart not to use that person as a resource.”

The event’s keynote speaker is Libby Sartain, a human resources expert who has worked at Yahoo and Southwest Airlines, will speak on company culture and how employees can learn from each other and how employers can get the most out of their employees.

Students may apply for the scholarships at unomaha.formstack.com/forms/scholarship. Though the one-day conference is $100 to attend, 50 scholarships are available for students that are interested in attending.

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