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The obsolete workforce: Ageism and lookism in Silicon Valley

by on March 25, 2014

Silicon Valley is said to be one of the most ageist work places in America. In the UK, research suggests that staff in the IT industry are perceived to be ‘old’ when still chronologically young (30 or 35).

In this article in the New Statesman , we hear how it has fallen to cosmetic surgery to ‘make older workers look like they still belong at the office.’ Not just how old they are, but how they look is seen as critical to continued work.

One cosmetic surgeon notes that the age at which people seek him out is dropping, reporting that he routinely turns away tech workers in their twenties. Men are also making up a larger portion of his business.

The author of the piece reflects on the dark irony of this state of affairs: ‘in the one corner of the American economy defined by its relentless optimism, where the spirit of invention and reinvention reigns supreme, we now have a large and growing class of highly trained, objectively talented, surpassingly ambitious workers who are shunted to the margins, doomed to haunt corporate parking lots and medical waiting rooms, for reasons no one can rationally explain’.

The article then tries (at some length) to unpack why this might be the case. One possible explanation lies with the ‘relentless optimism’ of the tech business. A young untried tech worker is seen as a better bet for investment than someone with experience.

The article concludes with links to various surveys that apparently bear out the trend towards hiring and funding younger workers over their older counterparts in this industry.

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