It’s not a secret that the IT industry can be quite unbalanced when it comes to things like age, gender, and ethnicity. Diversity and inclusion are some of the biggest challenges that IT companies are dealing with today.
Age discrimination is the focus of our article, because ‘older’ tech workers face several age-related problems at work and during the recruitment process. (And when we say ‘older workers’ we mean professionals who are just over 30 years old.)
So, what is ageism in the tech field, and what can we do to prevent it? Read on to find out more.
Ageism in the tech industry
Age discrimination can take many different forms: from offensive comments and exclusion from social activities, to being overlooked for a promotion.
Problems like these are very troubling for some individuals, and sometimes these issues can be completely overlooked by members of a team, or are excused as jokes. But these issues are very real and need to be removed from the tech workspace.
Check out some of the studies below to see what's happening in tech today.
The Dice Diversity and Inclusion Report from 2018 shows that ageism is a widespread issue in tech. Around 76% of respondents believe that ageism exists in the tech industry. Plus, 43% of professionals aged between 36-39, think that their age would be an issue if they tried to get a new job in tech. And that percentage nearly doubles once professionals turn 46-49 years of age.
Other statistics further the findings above. For example, PayScale looked into the median ages of employees who work at well-known tech corporations, like Amazon, Apple, Facebook, SpaceX, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, and Oracle.
They found that Facebook, LinkedIn, and SpaceX have a median employee age of 29. And only a few companies like HP, Oracle, and IBM, have a median employee age of 35. For a point of reference, at the time of the study the median age of all labor forces in America was 42.
So, why is there such a difference in the median ages?
- There is a widespread thought that ‘only young people get into tech’ and that thinking is still present today.
- Younger workers are often willing to work longer hours for lower pay.
- Recruiters try to find candidates who will fit into an already formed young team.
However, there are actually many benefits to hiring people of different ages! Have a look at the benefits below.
Benefits of having different aged workers
It’s sometimes easy to overlook the benefits of having different ages working in one place. But the fact is, older employees are usually better problem-solvers, have better communication skills, and are better at time-management. They’re also more likely to stay in one job for a long period of time.
And the truth is ageism in IT doesn’t just impact employees and candidates, but it also damages businesses as well. Businesses, who actively choose younger employees miss out on so many opportunities that older and wiser candidates could bring to the business.
Hiring ‘older’ candidates can improve a team’s performance and you get a better selection of experiences to choose from. Researchers claim that companies with greater diversity in race, gender, and age are more innovative than those who do not practice in the same way.
So, what can you do if you’re an ‘older’ employee who might be worrying about their job security, and/or trying to find a new tech-related job? Keep on reading to get some advice.
Advice for seasoned professionals
More and more businesses are realizing that they need to prevent ageism in their workspace. To do this they adjust their recruitment processes, set up an employment discrimination policy, and establish regular diversity reporting.
But breaking the age bias in the tech industry is only going to be possible if both businesses and employees work towards the common goal together. So, what can be done to prevent ageism in the tech field?
It all starts with having the right mindset. If you’re an ‘older’ tech worker your years of professional development and experience give you the advantage over someone younger in many ways. You have a deeper understanding of the processes used in IT companies, you’ve developed better soft skills, and you know how teams work, for example.
But when you’re searching for a new job, a promotion, or you're looking to break down the stereotypes in your workspace, you have to be proactive. You’ve got to know your value, and you cannot be afraid to show this to your coworkers and employer.
Here are some tips:
- Never stop learning. Your employer doesn’t want to replace you with someone who is younger than you. But, they might want to replace you with someone who can use newer tools and techniques to do your tasks faster and with fewer mistakes. Do your best to keep up to date with new trends.
- Choose what you learn wisely. Keep in mind that technology is constantly evolving, and undoubtedly, it’s quite hard to keep up with it. But be strategic. Rather than trying to learn everything that is popular at the moment, decide what interests you the most, know what you’re good at, and stick to it. Become an expert in that particular field and your expertise will speak for itself.
- Become a mentor. If your company has a formal mentoring program for new employees, participate in it and share your knowledge with younger colleagues. If not, do it informally. Such initiative will improve your relationships with coworkers and it’ll help you to establish yourself as a valued and trustworthy team member.
Follow these tips and your efforts will not go unnoticed.
There is a place for everyone in IT!
Although there is still a lot to be done to eliminate age discrimination in the tech industry, things are changing for the better.
Businesses see that today people in their 40s and 50s make up a large proportion of the IT workforce, and they have to be inclusive when hiring. So, whether you are a seasoned professional or only just starting out in your IT career, remember that your age, background, gender, and race should never be a barrier to you finding the right job.