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Ageism and the tech industry (again)

by on October 20, 2017

Once again there have been headlines this week regarding issues of ageism in the tech industry. Thanks to my colleage Almuth McDowall for drawing my attention to this article in The Register which reports a survey by job website Indeed.com of tech workers. It found that in the US almost half ‘live in constant fear that age will end their careers’. It likens tech workers to Hollywood stars (in terms of their vulnerability to being seen as ‘too old’).

The article links to a blogpost by Raj Mukherjee which gives further details. Unfortunately, the piece uses all the generational labels (Millennials, Baby Boomers) that we find unhelpful and which research shows don’t usually represent groups between whom there are meaningful or significant differences. Still, I guess it’s interesting to see the attitudes and experience of people of different age groups in this industry. A couple of points to note: those who were once the ‘young guns’ in tech are themselves getting older. There seem to be some differences in the types of tech job that different age groups apply for (and where).

Mukherjee also very rightly calls out the importance of language, arguing that organizations can improve workforce diversity by using age-inclusive language in their communications and job postings. “Removing terms like ‘recent graduate’ and ‘digital native‘ can go a long way toward encouraging older professionals apply for these positions,” he said.

All of this is right up the street of Katrina’s PhD student Christine Brown who’s conducting her doctoral studies at Birkbeck on the professional identity of the older ‘digital worker’. This is her Twitter response to the tweet about the survey, in which she makes the point that those working in the industry may also reinforce age stereotypes.

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