If you manage to get out of the office during the work day to run a few errands, take a look around as you stand in line.
One group you might notice are stressed-out mothers of young children. They'll probably draw your attention pretty quickly as they work hard (and it is work!) to keep their kids in line -- sometimes quite literally in line. But take another look around. Notice anything else?
If not, I'll give you a hint: The startling number of women you'll see who seem to have reached, ahem, a certain age.
You'll see them out and about in weekend clothes during the work day. They're shopping, running errands, maybe having coffee with a friend. Maybe it's their day off from work after putting in a ton of hours over the past week? Perhaps they work part-time, are self-employed, or took early retirement? Perhaps they don't work a job outside the home, which is just fine, too?
However, how many of them wish they had a full-time job, but they have given up trying to find one?
It turns out older women are having the darndest time of any age group looking for a job. In fact, older women comprise half the total number of long-term unemployed people in the United States.
Think about that for a second:1 in 2 long-term unemployed Americans is an older woman.
Wow. Of course, older men don't have it easy either in an increasingly Millennial economy, but they're doing better, overall. The real question is, what are the future socio-economic ramifications of a U.S. workforce that won't hire anyone, especially women, who have reached a certain age? What will happen to these older professionals who still have a lot to offer employers, but can't seem to find anyone willing to take a chance on them?
Seeing the writing on the wall, some unemployed older workers are starting their own businesses, or turning to consulting. Others have simply given up the search for employment, and are passing the time with non-paid activities.
The question is, do we really want to create a work culture that pushes out employees once they hit mid-life? Or do we want to take advantage of older workers' wisdom, work ethic, and work experience?
And how will we make sure older workers who want full-time employment have real job placement opportunities, because wandering the clearance racks during the work day gets old after awhile.
Young managers (as in, any manager under age 35) have an opportunity to impact this issue by re-examining, and re-framing, their basic impressions of older job seekers. Trust me, Millennials. The last thing you want to do is to interview for a job 15 years from now with a 27-year-old Gen Z hiring manager who sees you as too old for the job.
The marginalization of the older job seeker is a huge problem that should be front-and-center in this year's presidential election. Let's hope the candidates of both parties will start talking about it, for real. Older Americans may not be able to find a good job, but they can still vote.