Tech workers worry about age discrimination at age 40: Study

On the heels of research that found your chances of getting hired in Silicon Valley plummet after the age of 48, a new study has found that nearly half of those already working in the industry fear to get the ax because of their advancing age.

A whopping 43% of 1,011 U.S. tech workers surveyed by job search site Indeed said they are worried about losing their position because of how old they are — and 18% say they are concerned about the issue “all the time.”

In addition, while millennials are becoming an outsized proportion of all generations in the tech workplace — representing an estimated 46% of workers — just 23% of respondents think millennials are “overrepresented at their workplaces.”

Here are some other points that stood out in Indeed’s research, as well as how to combat age discrimination.

Age concerns in the office

Indeed found that 17% of survey respondents said the average employee age at their company is between 20 and 30 years old, while 29% of survey respondents said the average employee age is between 31 and 35. An additional 27% of respondents said the average age at their company was 36-40 years old.

That leaves just 26% of the workplace roles for staffers over 40, Indeed found.

While 78% of all participants said they believe that tech workers age 40 and up are “highly qualified,” 36% of all surveyed also said they had at least one experience where they “weren’t taken seriously by colleagues and managers” because of how old they are.

People tend to make certain assumptions about workers of older generations.

Steven Levy wrote about working towards age diversity in Silicon Valley in Wired in 2015 (he disclosed that was 64 years old at the time).

After mentioning an instance where Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg reportedly said that young people are more intelligent while speaking to a group of entrepreneurs (which Levy said the mogul “quickly retracted”), he illustrates how this relates to the bigger picture.

“Nonetheless, he was reflecting a view that is widely held but seldom explicitly expressed in Silicon Valley. Older people are seen as dimmer and less energetic than those under 30. There’s a worry that having worked elsewhere, older people have ingrained habits that prevent them from adopting the fast-moving pace of innovation necessary at tech companies and especially startups. I guess in some cases that might be true — but in any age group some people will be more adaptable than others,” Levy continues.

Despite the fact that age discrimination against workers 40 years and up is illegal, Levy reveals how the discrimination persists.

“I suspect that more often than not, tech companies, particularly smaller ones, shy away from older folks, often with the flimsy justification that they’re not ‘culture fits.’ Critics rightfully point out how that vague term often leads to excluding other underrepresented groups,” Levy writes.

Tech jobs Baby Boomers are interested in

Baby Boomers were two times more likely to click on supervisory and management roles than those in the younger group, Indeed found. That included roles like IT project manager, technical support engineer, OPS engineer and engineering project manager.

Baby Boomers were three times more likely to click on engineering roles including storage engineer, telecommunications engineer, and principal software engineer.

Where older employees want to work

Interestingly enough, San Jose, CA topped Indeed’s list of where Baby Boomers are looking for tech employment in metro areas. San Francisco, CA followed in second place, Huntsville, AL was in third, Seattle, WA was in fourth and Boston, MA was in fifth.

Notice something different about some of these data points?

“[I]nterestingly, despite reports that ageism is forcing many older workers to look outside Silicon Valley, we see that the Bay Area is the main draw for workers of all ages, as San Jose and San Francisco hold the top two spots for each generation. It’s when we look a little bit lower down that we start to see differences,” Indeed writes.

So how can workers make sure they’re not participating — consciously or unconsciously — in age discrimination?

Here are a few steps:

In job postings, watch your language

“Removing terms like ‘recent graduate’ and ‘digital native’ could help encourage older professionals to apply for these positions,” Indeed writes.

In addition, hiring recruiters should be sure to rely on “age-inclusive language and practices into those existing initiatives.”

That might mean valuing related but not directly similar background experience or looking for people who are interested in continuing to learn on the job.

Show why your age can help you hit the ground running

Kerry Hannon, a speaker, author, and columnist, writes in Forbes that you should “market your age as a plus” if you’re an older job seeker who is concerned about it.

“Workers 50+ tend to be self-starters, know how to get the job done, and don’t need as much handholding as those with less experience. A great benefit to being older is that you have a good deal of knowledge and leadership ability,” she says.

Show that you have the right skills for the job

Make sure you’re skilled in the latest technology, and are prepared for where your field could be heading. The best way to combat stereotypes about older workers being unfamiliar with technology is to be an older worker extremely familiar with that technology.

Read up and talk to people about their work experiences to gain perspective. Go on YouTube to watch tutorials about subjects you’d like to learn more about. If you don’t know the answer, Google it!

Companies currently hiring in Silicon Valley include ByteDance, Apple, Silicon Valley Bank, Adobe, eBay, and Netflix.