An alarming four out of five women over 50 claim to have been overlooked in job or pro­motion interviews in favour of younger candidates.

The revelation follows last month’s court victory by former Countryfile presenter Miriam O’Reilly, 53, who accused the BBC of age discrimination after being axed from the show.

New research has found it is not just female TV presenters who are facing bias at work.

In total, a worrying 77 per cent of mature women claim they were either passed over for a new job or for a promotion due to their age, with 52 per cent fearing it is unlikely they will progress any further in their career.

Only a meagre 35 per cent felt they currently had a successful job. The survey, by over-50s online retailer, questioned 1,246 women, half of them over 50.

Actress Lynda Bellingham, 62, the newly appointed face of, said: “This research tells us what we’ve all known for some time, that reaching 50 means society starts treating you differently. But times are changing and women are standing up to be counted. With a third of the population now aged over 50 we are a voice that society cannot afford to ignore.

“Reaching 50 is the start of a new, often liberating, chapter in our lives. Many of us feel more body confident than ever before, we take pride in our appearance and have a great sense of style and are feeling more empowered than ever. Age is a state of mind and it is high time that outdated opinions in the business world and society in general catch up.”

In the survey, women were asked to rank the worst-offending industries. Fashion and beauty topped the bill, followed by the car industry, TV and media, and tourism and leisure.

Three-quarters of those under 50 said they respected and looked up to their seniors, who they agreed had more confidence and were more independent than younger women.

Last month’s landmark trib­unal ruling in favour of Miss O’Reilly revealed the “social engineering” going on at the BBC, where senior executives were said to be obsessed with “ethnic diversity”, “rejuvenation” and chasing younger audiences. Miss O’Reilly, who was 51 at the time she was dropped from the show, said she had been told to be “careful about those wrinkles” before she and three other women were replaced by younger staff, two from ethnic minorities.

After the ruling, MPs attacked the BBC for being obsessed with youth, claiming it was about time it started to reflect the fact that Britain was an ageing society.

Education Secretary Michael Gove said: “I hope that everyone at the BBC gets the message. I would rather see Selina Scott and Joanna Lumley on my TV screens than Holly Willoughby and Fearne Cotton.”

Former Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy said: “We are an ageing society and that majority is going to increasingly not put up with some of the stupidity we have seen at the BBC.”

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