By Bradley de Souza
July 6, 2017
Whilst developing some ideas and concepts for a book about people involved in technology and transformation, I began thinking about age discrimination in the technology workplace.
There are many articles which list examples of bias, but none offer a real explanation. I began to wonder if people brought this upon themselves. Was there a deeper and more meaningful set of reasons which could tie all of this together instead of a general bias against older people?
Ageism is prevalent, largely ignored and widely accepted but researchers have a difficult task to quantify it. In an Economic Letter by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco from February 27, 2017, when studying age discrimination it says, “In general, economists find it challenging to establish evidence of labor market discrimination.”
The letter further details complex and abstract testing procedures to verify age discrimination. It concludes with what we already know, that age discrimination is rife.
The book Disrupted, by Dan Lyons, raised issues around culture, behaviour, and ageism, being the older guy in a technology startup.
The book’s publication caused a stir especially after the FBI got involved due to hacking by the company Dan was trying to expose.
Once the media furore died down, the conversations around ageism turned into whispers again. I began to question why and realised that there were some difficult, but possible explanations for the issue of age discrimination in the technology workplace.
Get ready for the new age of retirement 50 or thereabouts...
I've frequently heard and read about people in technology being effectively retired at around 50, or even earlier in some countries. What is so significant about this age? One thing from Dan's book stood out, his appearance. He looked older than almost everyone at his new company. It marked him out as the old guy and set him apart from everyone else.
What is so bad about being 50 or thereabouts? I believe that people start to resemble their parents and more importantly, some behave like the parents they love to hate.
Parents are not often the best role models when it come to technology. Some need a lot of of help and persuasion getting onboard with the latest trends. If we couple this with parenting styles of ‘don’t do this, don’t do that, be careful, I told you so’, it doesn't go down well in the modern, social, ideas driven workplace. These attitudes restrict rather than enable or support the flow of possibilities. People wouldn't choose to work with others who behaved like this, let alone their parents. Is this one reason behind age discrimination in the technology workplace?