It is important to remember that this ageism is part of a larger phenomenon. Though most of us don't have any adult memories of the Post-War period, it was not that long ago when having a shortage of science and technology workers actually meant a shortage. Companies like Texas Instruments were famous for being very flexible in their hiring and taking anyone who might be good at the job. Now when you hear employers in someplace like Silicon Valley complaining about a "shortage" of workers, what they mean is they can't find a large, ongoing supply of workers under the age of 30 with exactly the advanced degrees they need from top-ranked universities who are willing to work 60+ hours with no job security for good, but not great money until they burn out and have to be discarded.
It is also important to remember that those under-qualified and and over-protected workers of the Post-War era laid the technological foundation on which most of today's Silicon Valley fortunes are based.
In 2007, a fresh-faced Mark Zuckerberg famously ruffled feathers among some older colleagues when he suggested that tech companies should not hire people over 30. “Young people are just smarter,” the Facebook chief executive, then 22, told a crowd at Stanford University.
Nearly a decade after the public gaffe, some say little has changed in terms of how older workers are perceived in the tech industry. Despite making recent attempts to diversify their workforces through aggressive initiatives to attract more women and minorities, Silicon Valley firms still wear their disproportionately young ranks like a badge of honor, proudly flaunting a youth-focused culture in which 28 is seen as middle age and 35 over the hill.
While workers over 40 are protected by federal civil rights laws in the United States, the plight of older employees so rarely enters into conversations about workplace discrimination in tech that one would be forgiven for not realizing it’s an issue at all.
In fact, ageism is very prevalent. Just ask Dan Lyons, a technology journalist and writer for HBO’s “Silicon Valley.” As notably chronicled in his recent best-selling book “Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble,” Lyons lost his longtime position at Newsweek magazine when he was in his 50s and decided to switch gears by taking a marketing fellowship at the software company HubSpot. In his book, published earlier this year, Lyons describes the startup’s culture as a frat-like circus filled with Nerf gunfights and hookup dens.
To complement the book, Lyons also wrote a LinkedIn post in which he called out tech industry executives for their defiantly ageist rhetoric, including his old boss at HubSpot, who he said once called gray hair and experience “overrated.” The LinkedIn post went viral, and Lyons said it was at that moment that he realized how widespread the problem really is.
“I got this outpouring of emails from people,” Lyons told Dice Insights. “I don’t mean to toot my own horn—I don’t think it’s that the article was so good. It’s just that there are a s–tload of people out there who experienced this. It was upsetting really.”