Large Study Finds Systemic Age Discrimination in High Tech

Silicon ValleyThe only thing shocking about a new study showing that rampant age discrimination exists in the high tech industry is that anyone didn’t already know that.

However, Visier Insights Report: The Truth About Ageism in the Tech Industry, provides fascinating detail based upon a solid database of  330,000 employees from 43 large U.S. enterprises.

A Canada-based provider of workforce analytic services to companies around the world, Visier concludes “systemic ageism” exists in the high tech industry compared to the non-tech industry. The average tech worker is 38 years old, compared to 43 years old for non-tech workers. The average manager in the tech industry is 42 years old, compared to 47 for non-tech industries.

It has been known for years that age discrimination in rampant in Silicon Valley but the EEOC, which is charged with enforcing the Age Discrimination in Employment Act,  has almost completely ignored the problem, even as national magazines featured stories about 30-year-old tech workers flocking to plastic surgeons in an effort to appear young .

The Visier report  is more proof that the high tech workforce is marked by “significant” over-representation of millennials, between the ages of 20 and 33, and Gen X workers, between the ages of 34 and 51. Millennials comprise 42.6 percent of the high tech workforce  compared to 26.1 percent of the non-tech workforce, and Gen X workers comprise 42.6 percent of the high tech workforce compared to 46.4 percent of the non-tech workforce.

Baby Boomers, between the ages of 52 and 70, are severely underrepresented in Silicon Valley. They comprise a mere 11.7 percent of the high tech workforce compared to 26.7 percent of the non-tech workforce.

“We found that hiring decisions in Tech do indeed favor younger candidates…”

Here are some other findings:

  • Between 2008 and 2015, the Silicon Valley’s “150 biggest tech” companies faced 226 complaints of age discrimination filed with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, 28% more than complaints of racial bias and 9% more than those of gender bias.
  • From age 40 on, non-manager workers in tech are increasingly likely to receive a top performer rating as they age, mature, and gain experience. Conversely, the proportion of top performers decreases with age in non-tech industries.
  • The maximum promotion rate in Tech peaks for workers between the ages of 26 and 28; which is slightly higher than in Non-Tech. For workers in both tech and non-Tech, the promotion rates decrease with age in their mid-30s and are mostly the same.

The report urges tech employers to root out ageism so they can acquire the best talent, regardless of age. Visier tells employers to set objectives and develop a plan that will help them achieve an inclusive work environment. A key to such a plan, Visier states, is to recognize the need for change with respect to the workplace culture .

“[A]s with ethnic and gender equity, age equity is a cultural issue …”

Visier  encourages employers to stop screening out candidates based on the length of their unemployment, noting that “many individual stories suggest older unemployed workers struggle to get hired, and studies indicate recruiters screen out candidates that
have been unemployed for longer periods of time.”

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