Are Information Technology Careers Only for the Young?
Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, once stated: “I want to stress the importance of being young and technical. Young people are just smarter.” This leads me to an article in Information Week that asks a question expressing Zuckerberg’s sentiment, albeit phrased a little nicer: “Are you too old for IT?”
As workers get older, they often wonder how their age is being perceived and if they are being viewed as old and out of date. The Information Week article looks at one person in his fifties and his struggles in the “young person’s game.” Let’s dig deeper into this very uncomfortable topic.
We need to first establish if age discrimination is more prevalent in IT than other professions. I found a series of recent articles that suggests it is alive and well, especially in Silicon Valley, the hub of IT. CIO.com published an article covering this very topic. The article cites a Reuters story looking at a sixty-year-old male trying to get a job in Silicon Valley as evidence that age discrimination exists.
The man kept getting turned down until he shaved his gray beard, his head, and put on Converse sneakers to appear younger, after which he got hired. While this is not a scientific measurement by any standard, it is kind of funny and telling. Just look at the average age of exployees at some of the top tech companies. An article on investors.com points out that the average age of Facebook employees is twenty eight, Google is twenty nine, and Apple is thirty two.
As I dug deeper into this topic, I found even more evidence that IT has an age problem. On a blog for Orange County CA employment lawyers, the authors point out that while in most fields age and experience are an asset, in information technology it can be a hindrance. The San Francisco Chronicle looks at one particular Silicon Valley developer who is forty nine and has been laid off for ten months. The author points out that companies are looking for younger and cheaper employees.
Additionally, a recent Princeton University study takes an in-depth look at age discrimination. The study “unpacks the stereotypes toward older adults and show how these stereotypes vary in their causes and effects."
The topic of age discrimination is uncomfortable and, at times, even hard to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt. However, recent cases of age discrimination in the US and abroad have proven that there is at least a perception that age matters in employment, especially in the IT field. While I don’t see myself as a litigious person, Forbes.com does offer us a peek into what it takes to win an age-discrimination suit.
Do you think have you been the victim of age discrimination? I would love to hear your story.