Once the clock strikes on a technology worker’s youth, they turn into Silicon Valley’s version of a pumpkin. In an analysis of more than 330,000 U.S. employee and candidate survey data, new research from analytics platform Visier found that Silicon Valley appears to be ageist in its hiring practices.
For Silicon Valley, the hiring spree to fill the jobs of the future ends when you reach a certain age. “The tech industry is hiring a disproportionately higher ratio of workers than non-tech up until the age of 48—indicating bias does exist that favors younger candidates,” the report states. Even accounting for differences in the labor force, the researchers found that millennials were being hired at much higher rates than people ages 34 to 48, while Generation X-ers in tech were being hired 33% less than their existing workforce representation.
With older workers being more likely to be passed over than their younger counterparts, it makes sense then that the average tech worker is full of youthful glow. Visier found that the average tech worker is 38 years old, a number that’s five years younger than the average workers in other industries.
Ageist practices were mainly in hiring, however. Although older tech workers may face discrimination in getting the job, Visier found that once they’re there, their salaries and tenure, at least, don’t suffer. Visier found that older tech workers had comparable salaries and retirement rates to non-tech workers. And even though promotion rates for tech workers decreased with their age, that finding was consistent across the board for all the industries.
How older workers and employers can stop ageism
Among the most interesting recommendations Visier had for fixing the worker age gap? Don’t screen out job candidates based on their length of unemployment.
Research has found that unemployment begets more unemployment. One depressing study found that regardless of age, gender, race, or industry, if you’ve been unemployed for longer than six months, your chances of getting a job go down significantly.
And older workers who are already getting discriminated against for their age get trapped in a cycle where their age makes them undesirable to hiring managers, and the unemployment that their age is causing also makes them undesirable to managers.
Age discrimination is against the law
Of course, ageist hiring practices in the United States are not just unfair, they’re illegal. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act makes it illegal to discriminate older workers and job seekers over age 40. Some older tech workers are taking advantage of their legal protections, and are taking tech companies to court. Between 2008 and 2015, Silicon Valley’s 150 biggest companies faced 226 complaints of age discrimination filed with the California Department of Fair Employment, according to Bloomberg.
Facebook, a company whose CEO once said that “young people are just smarter,” is especially feeling the heat this month with two age discrimination lawsuits. One former Facebook employee Gary Glouner, 52, filed a recent suit alleging that he was fired in 2015 over his age and disability, and for the crime of “not moving fast enough” in Facebook’s work culture.
And a Facebook job seeker, 61-year-old Stephen Cohen, said that when he sent over his resume, which listed his graduation date as 1978, he was told that the position had suddenly been filled. Cohen’s now suing Facebook in federal court.
To keep working, older tech workers will have to keep jumping over these legal, demoralizing hurdles — all for the chance of being given the same job opportunities as everyone else.