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Age-discrimination lawsuit against Google highlights growing problem in tech sector

The reception area at Google's offices on December 2, 2008 in Washington, DC.
The reception area at Google's offices on December 2, 2008 in Washington, DC.
Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images

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A class-action lawsuit filed against Google claiming that the tech kingpin discriminated against older job candidates by intentionally not hiring them is one again shedding light on the seemingly rampant issue of ageism in the tech sector.

Age and experience are often correlated with one another in the workplace. An older potential employee, say in his or her 40s or 50s, would likely bring years of experience to a new job that a younger employee, who maybe fresh out of college and willing to work for peanuts, could bring. But in tech, people tell a different story. Programmers in their 40s leave their graduation years off resumes so as not to tip the employer off to their age. Engineers with 15 years of experience can’t get a response from potential employers. Hiring managers at companies in Silicon Valley have spoken openly about preferring younger candidates because they will work longer hours for less money and usually don't have certain family or home obligations that older employees with families might have.

Part of the problem could be that the industry itself is largely run by young people who like to surround themselves with other young people. The average American worker is aged 42. At Google, that age is 30. At Facebook, it’s 29.

But are employers leaving behind an entire pool of employees potentially rife with talent by immediately ruling out older job candidates? How can the issue of ageism in the tech sector begin to be fixed? If you work or have worked in tech, have you had experiences with ageism? If you’re a younger employee, what has your experience working with older employees?


Jeffrey Pfeffer, professor of organizational behavior at Stanford University