What is ageism?
The simplest explanation of the word is, prejudice or discrimination on the grounds of a person’s age. This may be casual or systematic.
Ageism is a matter not many take into consideration and discuss openly about but it impacts every single individual in some way or the other.
Implicit ageism is the term used to refer to the implicit or subconscious thoughts, feelings, and behaviours one has about older or younger people. These may be a mixture of positive and negative thoughts and feelings, but gerontologist Becca Levy report that they “tend to be mostly negative.”
It’s important that ageism, is addressed to ensure that nobody loses out because of their age. We may be aware that at some point we have been subject to ageism but it is not always so obvious.
Unlike many countries, India does not have codified law that specifically deals with matters relating to discrimination on the basis of age. In practice however, age discrimination may be prohibited at different levels, depending upon the job requirement, be it in the matters of recruitment or relating to retirement.
My main motive in writing this article is to highlight ageism in the Tech industry. It is necessary to highlight the lack in transparency of age discrimination.
Mark Zuckerberg infamously once stated “Young people are just smarter.”
Tech companies usually believe the notion that the older employees are not as tech savvy as the younger employees. This particular notion leads to people believing that the older age group of employees are less innovative, have outdated skills, avoid risks and are not as adaptable. This is false as both the age groups can be innovative in their own ways.
As majority of the employees are young in the Tech Companies the older members begin to feel left out and inferior. They try to stay relevant in this millennial which impacts them negatively as well.
Usually when the term ageism at workplace is utilized, the first thing that comes to mind is discrimination against the older employees in a company.
Here are some fragments of thought that have been generalized over the years:
- Young people invest more in developing new skills and feel more excited by their jobs.
This is false as both the age groups can be breaking new ground in their own ways. The older aged group of employees have explored and taken risks earlier in life which leads them to be more hesitant to taking risks and still a work in progress, this leads to their conventional wisdom and older genius whereas the younger aged employees have more reformative and radical ideas and concepts making them more enthusiastic and open to taking risks.
- Older people get exhausted by their work.
It is not fair to generalize that older employees are looking to slow down and coast toward retirement. Many are indeed active and have no thought to slow down.
Most of the tech companies today hire employees in their 20s as they can work longer hours, be paid less and make the most of their skills and competencies. Employees touching the age of 40 and above begin to become more vulnerable to become subject to ageism in tech companies. Ageism persists even though the employee might not be unhealthy, less productive or skillful or less educated than their counterparts.
- On a more positive note, If not in executive positions, companies would love to have older employees as consultants or advisers.
The older age group has more experience and understanding in the field and can tackle critical decision making problems. They can come up with more efficient solutions and ideas to overcome the flaws and correct them as they have a vast and deeper level of knowledge over the years of experience. The well versed older employees also make better entrepreneurs and founders of companies that are successful and more advanced as they have accumulated expertise in their technological fields. Older employees also have a charm and sophisticated way of talking and dealing with clients.
Even when a better professional is recommended in his 40s at the same salary as a 32 years old, tech companies are unwilling to entertain such a person. Age is a big factor now as tech companies prefer younger people and reskill them as they are cheaper. It is not surprising that majority of employees who have been asked to quit are between 35-50 years of age. The agenda is to let go of high – cost employees and increase the proportion of fresher and junior level. The disagreement over the number of people fired also has to do with many companies forcing people to resign voluntarily instead of issuing termination letters. It is apparent that there is a need to make the process of retrenchment more transparent in the Tech Industry.
Do check out the Tech Hiring Blog next month for part II of this article.
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With an overall experience of more than 2 years, Justina specializes in technical recruitment. Currently she is working as a recruitment specialist at Rezoomex.
Justina is passionate about football and in her spare time she likes to listen to various genres of music, reading fiction and is an avid traveller.