Ageism Haunts Some Tech Workers in the Race to Get Hired

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The US economy is showing singular health, but successful nan tech industry, layoffs keep coming. For those retired of work, uncovering a caller position tin go a full-time job. And successful tech—a assemblage notoriously ever looking for nan adjacent hot, caller thing—some group whose days arsenic fresh-faced coders are agelong gone opportunity that having decades of acquisition tin consciousness for illustration a disadvantage.

Ageism is simply a longtime problem successful nan tech industry. Database startup RelevantDB went viral successful 2021 aft it posted a occupation listing bragging, “We prosecute aged people,” which played disconnected manufacture stereotypes. In 2020, nan US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recovered that IBM had engaged successful property discrimination, pushing retired older workers to make room for younger ones. (The institution has denied engaging successful “systemic property discrimination.”)

A caller LinkedIn ad that shows an older female unfamiliar pinch tech motto saying her boy sells invisible clouds triggered a backlash from group who opportunity it unfairly portrayed older group arsenic retired of touch. In response, Jim Habig, LinkedIn’s vice president of marketing, says: “This advertisement didn't meet our extremity to create experiences wherever each professionals consciousness welcomed and valued, and we are moving to switch nan spot.”

Ageism is “an unfastened concealed successful nan tech industry,” says Maureen Clough, big of It Gets Late Early, a podcast astir aging successful tech. Even erstwhile ageism isn’t arsenic blatant arsenic nan IBM case, she says, it lurks down communal ideas successful manufacture hiring, specified arsenic civilization fit. “If you person a institution that is predominantly young, white, and male, it’s going to beryllium harder to get successful there,” Clough says.

Vern Six, a 58-year-old programmer, says he precocious ran into definitive ageism connected his occupation hunt. A recruiter told him that he wouldn’t beryllium appealing to employers and opined that Six should beryllium main exertion serviceman astatine this constituent successful his career, not a package developer, Six says.

After Six’s LinkedIn post astir that brushwood went viral, he created a LinkedIn group for group to talk ageism successful tech. He says he has often thought his property mightiness play a domiciled successful occupation hunting, but “this was nan first clip I’ve ever had anybody opportunity it directly.”

Industry and authorities information shows that US tech workers skew younger than nan wider US workforce, but definitive information connected differences successful hiring patterns for older and younger tech workers has been difficult to gather. That’s because truthful galore much elder tech workers get jobs by networking aliases moving betwixt companies wherever they cognize group alternatively than by acold applying, and that’s tricky to study and quantify, says Joanna Lahey, a professor of nationalist argumentation astatine Texas A&M University who studies property discrimination.

Older workers whitethorn beryllium retired of activity for longer betwixt jobs because they’re much apt to activity higher salaries aliases beryllium selective, says Lahey. But if older workers are excluded from immoderate positions because recruiters presume they wouldn’t return a little connection aliases position aliases are perceived arsenic not fitting into nan institution culture, that’s a problem, she says. “There are a batch of group who person a batch of skills who are unemployed longer than they ought to be. It’s a nonaccomplishment for them, and it’s a nonaccomplishment for society.”

Déjà Vu

Tech companies person laid disconnected much than 400,000 workers complete nan past 2 years, according to Layoffs.fyi, which tracks occupation cuts successful nan industry. To older workers, nan purge is some a reminder of nan dotcom bust, and a caller frontier. The industry’s mostly accordant maturation successful caller decades arsenic nan system has go much tech-centric intends that galore much elder workers—which successful tech tin sometimes beryllium considered to mean complete 35 but includes group successful their precocious forties, fifties, aliases sixties—may person little acquisition pinch occupation hunting.

For decades, tech workers could easy hop betwixt jobs successful their networks, often poached by recruiters. And arsenic tech companies boomed during nan Covid-19 pandemic’s early days, accrued request for skills gave workers leverage. Now nan powerfulness has shifted to nan employers arsenic companies activity to go businesslike and correct that overhiring phase, and applicants are hitting walls. Workers person to network, enactment progressive connected LinkedIn, subordinate connection boards, and guidelines out. With four generations now clocking successful to work, things tin consciousness crowded.