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Old and in the way

Preston Gralla | Oct. 12, 2016
In Silicon Valley, 40 is the new 80, and ageism is rampant. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Perhaps the best insider’s view of ageism in the tech world comes from Dan Lyons, tech journalist and writer for HBO’s Silicon Valley. Lyons worked for 20 months at the tech company HubSpot, starting when he was 52 and the average age of his HubSpot co-workers was 26. He found that ageism was in the company’s DNA and wrote a book about his unhappy experience there, Disrupted: My Misadventures in the Start-Up Bubble. Here’s what he had to say about it in a recent article: “The lesson I learned is that when it comes to race and gender bias, the people running Silicon Valley at least pay lip service to wanting to do better — but with age discrimination they don’t even bother to lie.”

All this needs to be fixed. But before that can happen, tech companies need to admit there’s a problem, which they’re reluctant to do. For example, Slack this year updated the data it publishes to show the company’s diversity and included for the first time the percentage of LGBTQ employees in its workforce. (It was 13% as of December 2015). That kind of transparency about LGBTQ is good. But why is there no information about the age of its employees?

It’s time for the tech industry to face up to its ageism, and then fix the problem. Until it does, it can’t call itself truly inclusive, no matter how much it pays public attention to its race and gender biases.


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