Sir Steve Webb, a former Pensions Minister has said that businesses need to “retain older workers” but that as a “man in his 50s” he admits he has lived a “privilege existence”.
This comes after a group of white, straight, male employees at advertising agency J Walter Thompson London have accused the agency of discrimination after being made redundant earlier this year.
They allegedly were made redundant days after expressing their concerns at comments made by JWT creative director Jo Wallace, who said she was going "obliterate" JWT’s reputation as an agency full of white, British, privileged, straight men.
Mr Webb, who was a Liberal Democrat MP, told talkRADIO’s Matthew Wright: “I think the big advantage that men have had in the past, is that where women take time out, even a short period to have kids, when they come back to workforce their male counterparts are that bit further along the career path.
“That is where you see the big differences between men and women.
“So, it is still the case that if you are a man in your 50s, you’ve probably got a big head start on women of the same age.
“So as a man in my 50s, I have had a privileged existence and there are groups that have had a harder time.”
Mr Webb said businesses would need more “older workers in the coming years”.
“One of the positive things for older workers is that because we are aging as a country, consumers are getting older,” he said.
“Businesses need to understand what older consumers want.
“To be honest, your average 21-year-old can’t get into the head of an average 60-year-old consumer.
“I think what is going to happen in the coming years is that businesses are going to need to retain and recruit older workers.
“Partly because we are having fewer babies so there are going to be fewer younger workers, but also so the workers understand what the consumers want.
“Although it is tough as long as you are fit and health and in part of the country that there are jobs, I think there are still good prospects.”
'Shake things up'
Ms Wallace’s comments came after the publication of the compulsory reports by UK companies on gender pay gaps. They revealed that JWT UK had the biggest gap in advertising, at 44.7% in favour of men.
Mr Webb said that diversity was needed in businesses “to shake things up”.
“Colour would not come into it – it can’t and shouldn’t come into it, but diversity should.
“In other words, what you don’t want is a bunch of people around the table who all think the same way.
“What you want is freshness, talent and people who think in different ways so that you get the best decisions.
“When you are recruiting you do want people who will shake things up a bit, and that could be old or young.”