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Calling All Cool Companies: Why Do You Discriminate?

August 14th, 2019

JibberJobber Age DiscriminationLast year I applied for a product management job at a local SaaS company. It was one of those “best places to work” companies… one that had Silicon Valley wages (which is a big deal where I live), and got all kinds of recognition for their cool software.

As I was doing company research I found a picture of their team. There were maybe about a hundred people in the picture. After scanning the picture for about a minute I realized: I would never get hired there.

Why?

Because I’m 45, not 25.

If you are in your 50’s or 60’s you are shaking your head saying “45? That’s young!”

It’s not young to recruiters, or hiring managers, or company owners. It’s old.

That company picture showed a team of about 100 people, all of which looked like they were in their 20’s.

Look, I don’t hate young people. But I do hate discrimination. The most blatant and widespread discrimination I see for job seekers is age discrimination. It could be because most of my audiences are first Baby Boomers, then Gen X, and I might get one or two Millennials. I hear about the problem when I speak… loud and clear!

Last night I was checking twitter and this issue came up. I wrote this:

Truth. My age was brought up THREE times by an executive. That is three times too many.

My age was once called during a meeting with about eight people for being much older than everyone else in the meeting. I was “one of the old guys.” The insinuation was that I was not up to speed on how things were done. I was too shocked to know how to respond to that, and kept quiet.

Another time I was told that my resume needed to be different, and better, than what younger people could have. I was too old to have a regular resume. Would I like another set of eyeballs to look at my old man resume?

How do you respond to that?

Maybe I could go to HR… right? Yeah, right.

There’s a lot of talk in the tech space about females in technology (as developers) and in management (at the executive level and on boards).

I would like to piggyback on the discrimination conversation. Not to hijack it or take anything away from the topic of discrimination against females, but I want to hear what companies, especially tech companies, say about “old people.” Old, as in thirty to seventy.

Age discrimination is REAL. I feel sorry for all of the hip and cool youngsters who are happily employed now… they have no idea the hell they’ll face when they are in their forties and beyond, looking for a job. They’ll be outdated and washed up.

So where are you, leaders? What do you have to say? What are you doing about age discrimination? From where I sit, you are doing nothing. You are complicit. Please, prove me wrong.

I imagine I’m going to hear one thing from you: #crickets

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One response to “Calling All Cool Companies: Why Do You Discriminate?”

  1. The result is discrimination, though it usually starts as an unconscious bias issue, and where this gets egregious is, we’re all blind to it when we are in it. YOU and I are, right now doing it somehow or another.

    Do you think that executive thought they were being discriminatory when they said those things to you? Obviously not or they would not have said them. (Although it’s 2019 and saying terrible things seems to be the new normal in the US anymore)

    Of course, it starts with who is leading. I’ve found repeatedly that people who are more experienced tend to hire people who are more experienced. Likewise, leaders who are black or female or come from an otherwise under-represented minority group have a tendency to bring more people like that into the team. Interestingly, in my armchair experience, people from non-white backgrounds, and especially US immigrants, tend to be much more fair to both younger, older and middle-aged candidates as well as allowing for a broad range of candidates (including white men) from a very diverse pool. They have been through and had to fight against that bias that can be pervasive, so they put measures in place to fight them–such as structured interviews, “blind” panels or assessments that do no reveal the gender, identity or background of the candidate (written assessments or coding challenges can help with this).

    Sadly, for most companies, until there’s a financial incentive to change (ahem, losing money or your investors hate you) there’s NO real change. If the people at the top are primarily privileged, young and particularly born/bred American white men, you are likely going to have some challenges. This is not true everywhere, but we are rarely hearing about companies with diverse leadership are having problems like this. How long did it take Uber to oust king-of-the-better-than-you-pretty-boys Travis Kalanick even after it was exceedingly well known that about everything he did was probably terrible, discriminatory, perhaps illegal or worse. I’m just saying, if the executive staff looks like yearbook photos from a Yale Frat house, buyer beware.

    I recently saw a linkedin post for another Utah company’s “new hire” class. A whole gang of white, male 20-somethings, and I thought, “too bad. I would have expected better” and kept scrolling.

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