April DE&I Learnings: The movie The Intern

By Cheree Bernard on April 30, 2021

The DE&I Committee recently created a Discuss & Discover Group where each month we discuss a movie, a book, a podcast episode, or anything in-between that raises awareness about diversity, equity, and inclusion. This month we explored the 2015 movie, The Intern, starring Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway. 

The premise of the movie is based on a 70-year-old widower, Ben (Robert De Niro) getting back into the workforce as a senior intern. He soon becomes popular with his younger co-workers, including Jules (Anne Hathaway), the boss and founder of the company. Ben’s charm, wisdom, and sense of humor help him develop a special bond and growing friendship with Jules. 

The number of misconceptions about older employees is endless: they are less agile, less productive, and have more problems learning new tasks, to name a few. These preconceived ideas are the main reason why people over 50 are less likely to get hired. Our ultimate goal after watching the film was to hopefully gain a different perception about older employees. 

Although the film might be fiction, many of the topics it touches upon are based on facts. Research by the University of Mannheim shows that mature members of staff rarely make any severe errors due to their experience, have a higher ability to work in teams, and are better at coping with strategies when things go wrong.

Despite the obvious ageism bias being reviewed, the film focused on several other biases and stereotypes that resonated with each person in the group differently.

We had a great chat and reviewed some questions to not only provoke thought and discussion but to see where the movie’s message took each person and what connected with each of us and why.

Throughout the movie, there were numerous scenes where “normal” or “common” gender roles were reversed (i.e. female CEO, stay-at-home-dad, etc.) sparking a sense of – wait a minute, why is this bothering me? Or why does this seem unusual to me? 

For instance, when we see a stay-at-home dad, we are quick to raise our eyebrows as caring for kids has historically been more female-oriented. 

The stigmas and stereotypes they face include judgments about their masculinity, work ethic, etc. The stay-at-home dad may get less support from extended family versus the stay-at-home mom. 

As mothers are typically seen as the caregiver of the family, now we are seeing more and more fathers owning the role of the home.

Consciously or not, we have all probably treated someone that did not look like us differently – they may have had a different skin color, were taller, thinner, or heavier, had braces or glasses, used a cane to walk, had wrinkles, were older, younger, deaf, or blind. What we took away from the movie as a group was that if we approach every person with empathy and an open mind it will allow us to have an inclusive perspective. 

There were several lines from the movie that we enjoyed and wanted to share:

  • “You’re never wrong for doing the right thing…but I’m sure Mark Twain said that once before.”
  • “A gentleman carries a handkerchief, not for himself, but in case a lady needs one.”
  • “Experience never gets old.”
  • “You should feel nothing but great about what you’ve done, and I’d hate to see you let anyone take that away from you.”
  • “It’s 2015, are we still critical of working moms?”
  • “The key is to keep moving.”
  • “Let’s make it happen.”

Light and motivating at the same time, this movie opened up an honest dialogue about our own biases and it enabled us to learn about one another. We look forward to sharing our learnings from the next DE&I Discuss & Discover Group!