Profile Picture

An insight into tackling ageism



Hunter Leonard is a business owner, author and speaker, who founded Silver & Wise in 2016 with the aim of combating ageism and discrimination. He is achieving this through positive and practical solutions helping mature individuals with smart business ownership training and work transition programs. His aim is to change the world one mature age individual at a time.

Tell us about your background

I’m a scientist by training but have spent my entire working career in sales, marketing and business ownership. I’ve had a lot of fantastic mentors - both male and female of all ages throughout my life. I also grew up with a veritable “United Nations” of friends, and as a result can’t understand discriminating against someone on the basis of age, sex, race or any other attribute. 

Have you experienced any obstacles you feel were a direct result of your age?

Not personally but, in 2014, I started researching this space after talking to friends and business associates, many of whom had reported ageism in their lives. I also spent time with the Special Advisor to the Human Rights Commission at the time they launched research that showed a high level of ageism in the workplace.

Through this research, I found a wide-ranging and deep level of age-related discrimination that prompted me to start a profit for purpose business - Silver & Wise - to help mature people and contribute to an end to ageism. 

Over the past 8 years, I have surveyed tens of thousands of business owners and had over 500 personal conversations with mature people, all revealing similar stories. One of which was my first advisor who, in his mid-60s, was bluntly told he would not get another C-level position as CEO or CMO due to his age. He started with us at Silver & Wise, doing his own thing as a licensed advisor instead. 

Another conversation was with an Order of Australia recipient and senior HR industry leader who had sent out dozens of resumes - some with his age on them, and some without his age. He received ZERO offers of interview when his age was mentioned, and lots of interviews when age wasn’t mentioned.

Our recent Silver & Wise survey also revealed that 58.45% of mature workers have experienced ageism in relation to work, so I’m convinced there is a big issue that needs to be addressed.

There is an enormous library of research on these topics from the Human Rights Commission, EveryAge Counts, COTA and other organisations around the world if you would like to learn more.

What advice would you give to hiring managers looking to improve their DEI development, actions and progression?

I cover a lot of ideas in my books - including the latest, Maturity Blues. My main advice is as follows:

  1. Don’t use age in any pre-screening of individuals and ensure any AI programs being used don’t use it either.
  2. Look at a person’s skills and experience and currency - their ability to deliver the required outcomes of the job first and foremost.
  3. Actively feedback to clients - internal or external - that age related discrimination is not ok.
  4. Abolish any negative age language or behaviour from the workplace and call it out if it occurs. 
  5. Ensure DEI also continues in the workplace on management, training and development opportunities.

Are there any instances where positive DEI development and progression has particularly stood out to you in a workplace environment?

I came out of a pharmaceutical background and was always impressed with my company Merck Australia who had an inclusive culture where all were treated equally regardless of position, race, sex, age or other circumstances. Particularly the training in working in teams and cross-functional groups was incredibly strong. 

Which organisations / charities would you recommend in terms of DEI resources and education?

There are a number of active groups in this area in Australia. I’m going to recommend 5:

  1. EveryAge Counts - check out their ‘pledge’ on ending ageism, videos and advocacy work.
  2. Dr Kay Patterson - Age Discrimination Commissioner is always ready to engage with age-friendly organisations and projects.
  3. Council of the Ageing - In all states, but particularly Victoria - the team are keen to support mature workers, including those who are disadvantaged.
  4. SBS Inclusion - perhaps the most inclusive set of courses and resources on inclusion - I highly recommend a subscription to their system. I’ve done their Age Inclusion course and it is excellent. You can speak with the Director, Leon Coningham.
  5. Silver & Wise - my business - We have books, courses and coaching available for mature age people transitioning into self-employment or starting their own business. We also have organisational consulting available on designing age-related DEI programs and intergenerational team workshops amongst other services.