It’s a common for people in the acting, modelling and music industries to feel pressure to maintain a young appearance. Actors and actresses over 30 and 40 complain they cannot get roles. Now, all that anxiety is coming to Silicon Valley.
In The New Republic, Noam Scheiber illustrates just how severely ageism plagues parts of the tech business in California.
“Silicon Valley has become one of the most ageist places in America,” Scheiber writes.
Dr. Seth Matarasso, a plastic surgeon that administers Botox treatments in the Bay Area, told Scheiber that he frequently treats middle-aged Silicon Valley workers, saying the following:
It’s really morphed into, ‘Hey, I’m forty years old and I have to get in front of a board of fresh-faced kids. I can’t look like I have a wife and two-point-five kids and mortgage.
But what’s more troubling is the fact that even younger workers are approaching Matarasso for cosmetic youth-preserving procedures. According to Scheiber, Matarasso turned away a 26-year-old seeking hair transplants.
But it’s not just about appearance. Older engineers in Silicon Valley are under pressure to compete with younger hackers, proving that they’re skills aren’t outdated and that they have still got quick and creative programming chops. As one 40-plus developer whose department largely consists of 20-something-year-olds told Scheiber:
People presume an older developer learned some trade skill five to ten years ago and has been coasting on it ever since.
There’s also an assumption that because a worker is older, he or she won’t fit in with the energetic startup culture of Silicon Valley. Consultant Freada Klein told Scheiber the following:
A number of times, people said or wrote in survey comments something like, ‘We don’t want anybody’s parents in here.’ ‘It’s too weird to have someone as old as my parents reporting to me.’
This type of ageism in the workplace is illegal, and has been for a long time. It is just as illegal to discriminate against someone over 40 as it is to discriminate against someone who is black or female. It’s not clear, however, whether the tech world “gets” that.
The New Republic story is part of an ongoing discussion that’s been present in the developer community for quite some time: What happens to older developers? In a rather lengthy Hacker News thread that surfaced earlier this month, numerous software developers voiced their concerns about what happens once they hit age 30.
One prominent concern, according to the discussion, is that companies will continue to hire younger, inexperienced workers willing to take on the same assignments for a cheaper salary.
The issue of ageism isn’t exactly new to the developer community either — back in 2010 entrepreneur Vivvek Wadwha wrote that tech companies prefer to hire younger programmers with less experience.
Unlike many other fields, it’s entirely possible for youngsters to become programming experts without years of formal work experience. As Marc Andreesson, the co-founder of Netscape and one of Silicon Valley’s biggest venture capitalists told Schreiber:
“By the time they’re twenty-two, they’re already an expert. They have put in the ten thousand hours. But it doesn’t happen in other fields … You can’t start designing bridges at age ten.”
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