It’s the Thursday “ask the readers” question. A reader writes:
I am a member of a prestigious society for my field, several thousand members strong. We include student practitioners, new practitioners, experienced practitioners, and people retired from our industry. So we have a very large age range — 20s to 90s. As you can imagine, the world has changed a lot from the initial founding of our society. Our industry is also changing. It is one of those things that was predominantly white and male, but is now becoming much more representative of the population. On top of this, we also have several different factions in the field, where parts of it are very reserved and proper, but other parts can be boisterous and bawdy.
We have a group of older members who will compliment the younger, female members by on their appearance. The most recent example came from a very gentle, kind man who I know was well-intentioned. He’s always been a welcoming presence at meetings and still spends time years after his retirement attending conferences and helping to teach people new to the field. I am mid-career and was told about this by another colleague. I have no supervisory authority over the member. I am at best a peer, but probably 30 years behind him.
I know that waiting for time to eliminate these members isn’t the best solution. I know that yelling at them is also not a good solution. I know that sometimes we need to understand that older people can’t always change entirely and that it is important to know when something is meant in a mean fashion and when it is meant kindly and you need to let it roll off your back. I’d like to turn this retired man into an advocate. How do I best do that? How do I take a person with great desire to mentor and support those newest to our field and teach him to do this better?
Readers, what’s your advice?