Age is Not Just a Number.

On Monday mornings, my dad doesn’t go to work. He checks his inbox for an email that never comes, writes resumes for recruiters that don’t give a second glance, and exercises his body and mind for an obligation he doesn’t have. He was swept up in Intel’s mass lay-off this June not because he under performed, but because of his age.

Data from The Oregonian shows Intel employees aged 40+ faced a two and a half times increased risk of being laid off than their younger peers. To add insult to injury, prospective employers are often reluctant to hire those who have been laid off and older workers as a result of preexisting negative stereotypes (Rogoway, 2016.)

Silicon Valley is known to be “one of the most ageist places in America,” (Guynn, 2016.) Many companies who claim to be EEO employers — Adobe, Apple, Google, and Qualcomm to name a few — don’t list age under their protected groups and/or within their diversity statistics. “New-grad” has become a commonly used search term with respect to job listings and numerous Silicon Valley CEO’s have voiced the sentiment that older workers are inferior (Wuerthele, 2016.) Meanwhile, Google and Hewlett-Packard (HP) both face lawsuits citing age discrimination within their hiring practices (Baron, 2016.) The consensus is that creativity is subject to entropy and, as a crafter, I’ve never been so offended.

My earliest memory of my dad’s DIY projects is of him assembling a motherboard over the dining table for his desktop. He spent the entire afternoon toiling away with my brother before placing the monstrous box into the cabinet where it would serve as a desktop computer for the next seven years. I never understood how or why he did it let alone how computers could ever possibly achieve deep learning in my lifetime. Yet, somehow, my dad was convinced even then that computers would be able to think and speak like human beings one day. Age doesn’t hamper creativity any more than it hampers taxes.

To continue, age is a record of experience: of failures and triumphs, problems and solutions, confusion and understanding. How can one contribute new experiences without experiences of their own? It’s no wonder that internships fill a substantial role in higher education; progress can only be sought out in the classroom, but in the field it’s made.

On another note, technology executives who favor younger employees overlook the fact that an exclusively young workforce would require far more extensive training. That doesn’t count the real-world skills, connections within the company, and seasoning necessary to successfully complete one’s job. My dad used to joke that the new hires at Intel needed a PowerPoint presentation on using the bathroom because they were so new to everything. It’s a matter of prudence to invest in tenured professionals because they understand client needs and wants better than anyone having lived through the inception, not just the climax, of the very companies who reject them. Additionally, the consequences of ageism are far greater than missing out on a few corporate discounts.

“Looking for a job is almost like a full-time job in itself,” I remember the career transition consultant telling my dad. A portion of those who are unemployed are those who lost their job and gave up on finding another, he continued. What if dad gave up? He always wanted to retire early. He would just be another statistic. I stared at my dad trying to detect some weakness in his form, some predisposition that he would head down that path. Of course, I found none but the question still lingered in my head.

Meanwhile, my mum has forfeited her voice in the workplace out of fear of losing her job. Better one unemployed parent than two. At one point, she almost had the opportunity to transfer out of her current department, but the new management position was not stable. That didn’t mean she wasn’t upset when the director of the Emergency Department stepped down to be replaced by the manager. My dad calmly reminded her that she chose not to take the job. She reminded him that she did not take it because she would not be able to quit, if she disliked the job, since he lost his.    

There are already more than enough stigmas and stereotypes blocking Americans from achieving unity without Fortune 500 executives adding to the cesspool. We can’t allow this to continue happening for the sake of my dad and the thousands of other displaced workers like him. Spread the word, lovelies, let’s burn the technology world together!

~Live boundless.

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9 thoughts on “Age is Not Just a Number.

  1. I found this post really interesting. I work in a FinTech company in the UK that has links to Switzerland and Germany. But the age range is vast. Our oldest employee is 65+ and I’m 23 (not the youngest). There is no bias to age here (which might be a novelty). Even with our recruitment process that I’m increasingly more involved in, we look at CV’s from old and young, and it’s probably taken into consideration moreso if someone is younger because they may not have the right experience – which, let’s face it, is because they haven’t had enough time in the field and we’re quite specialist – but this doesn’t hinder their chances, they’re still invited to interview and it’s based on their on-hand knowledge. Older recruits are more likely to get an interview because they’ve seen the shaping of the digital world and are actually more adept to troubleshooting. It saddens and angers me that your dad is faced with this process because of his age. Wishing him lots of luck with a company that’ll value him as a person, and not just a number!

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  2. This post is really interesting, and opened my eyes to an issue which I thought wasn’t as great in the 21st century. It’s pretty hypocritical that we’re fighting for human rights, butter judging people by their age,rather than their character…Thank you ever so much for writing, this really needs to be spread.

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  3. Unfortunately due to human psychology stereotypes will never go away, they will only change. Human beings are built to find patterns, it is a survival mechanism and it applies outside of the woods too. A common pattern in the tech world is that older employees are simply not as good an investment for a company, and there are a lot of reasons they are right. Not to say that Intel’s layoffs were necessarily right, but big companies survive on statistics and strategy, not emotion. It would cost a ridiculous amount of money to personally interview all potential layoffs and then decide, so they don’t. They look at various stats, they compare, they contrast, they make a strategic decision based solely around their own success without regard to the lives of the employees dismissed. It’s nothing personal, its just good business.

    The same statistical analysis goes on subconsciously in our minds. We weigh the balance, the risks, the likeliness of events and actions based on our previous experiences and what we know. As a tech myself, I know that if I ran a company and needed a new employee in the tech dept, I would probably consider new grads before old cards unless they had an impressive record and could make that impression.

    I’m not trying to sound depressive here, but I am trying to make a point. Intel doesn’t care. GM doesn’t care. Whatever company or person you work for their first priority will always be them, not you. In their shoes you would probably do the same thing. (Most of us say we wouldn’t but we never actually can know because we’ve not been in that position.)

    Your dad will be fine. All the layoff means is he has to work harder, play smarter, and present better than all the rest. If he follows his heart he will be fine. Thanks for the read. 🙂

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    • I understand that these are businesses at the end of the day so an emotional appeal is somewhat ineffective but, again, new grads are going to need training. I mean if they want to lay off older people, fine, but turning around and never hiring then either is just plain narrow-minded. As for the survival mechanism thing, I’m aware of that, but I don’t think that excuses holding stereotypes. I think we should really try to avoid using stereotypes when it comes to people because it’s not like it provides any additional safety or anything.

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