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Age Bias in Tech

Updated: Aug 29, 2019

Are we too old? It's not the same everywhere.

Age Discrimination in the USA

The US tech news often has articles about how age may count against one when applying for a tech job. To be clear, it is illegal in the US to discriminate on such grounds. But, a few days ago Google settled an age discrimination lawsuit for $11 million. All 227 plaintiffs will get $35,000 (that's almost R500k each). The lawsuit alleged that Google hired younger workers based on "cultural fit".

The discrimination in the US is perhaps even more pervasive when looking at startups. A new survey showed that age bias is more prevalent when looking at founders. Investors looked at tech founders that were over 36 years old differently.

Is Age Discrimination Rational?

Not at all. Studies have shown that age diversity leads to increased productivity. They also show that older techies take fewer sick days and demonstrate better problem solving skills (presumably as a result of more experience).

What about other forms of discrimination?

Gender, race and other types of diversity are also beneficial. Resisting homophily, the desire to associate with similar people, brought social benefits and shared culture, as well as other benefits. Rock and Grant found that diverse teams are more innovative, focus more on the facts and process them more carefully. Díaz-García found that companies with greater gender diversity were more likely to produce innovative products. Yelp realised that in the US, a labour force that excludes women and minorities misses 60% of the labour pool including some of the top candidates.

What about South Africa?

As it is elsewhere, it is illegal. In Parvana's anecdotal experience, the discrimination exists but it is less prevalent especially amongst the tech specialists. This could partially be because there is a chronic shortage of tech skills forcing employers to look past age. Parvana has placed plenty of older tech workers and seldom detects push-back based on age.

If you need any help finding a new position or you just need some career advise please don't hesitate to drop me an email and we can schedule an informal chat.

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