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Come Saturday Morning: US Tech’s Ageism and the Myth of the “Tech Worker Shortage”

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This New Republic piece by Noam Scheiber on the brutal ageism of the US tech industry is pretty good as it goes, but I found that the truly worthwhile stuff is in the comments section of the article.

This commenter points out that Scheiber’s focus on venture capitalists and the teenage tech whizzes they love ignores the role played by human resources departments — and a key reason for Silicon Valley ageism:

Even if older workers worked for the same wage as the twenty-somethings, they would still be more expensive because of benefits. A small group such as a startup will see a real increase in premiums when hiring a middle-aged worker, especially a man. If evens out a bit for women because younger women, unlike the middle-aged, get pregnant.

Of course, Scheiber would have to assume that the HR managers he interviewed would tell the truth, which I’ve found not always to be the case.

Or, as a sixtysomething tech worker once told me, tech companies want a 20-10-10: A twenty-year-old with ten years experience who’ll work for $10 an hour. Since those sort of workers are rather thin on the ground, Silicon Valley resorts to massive abuse of H-1B visas — that is, when they aren’t busy setting up factories in Bangalore or Chengdu.

There were a number of commenters who made the linkage between ageism in the US’ STEM industries (Science, Engineering, Technology and Mathematics) and the alleged “tech worker shortage”. Donna Conroy of Bright Future Jobs, a group dedicated to preserving what’s left of the American middle class by protecting the jobs of the American middle class, made these remarks:

Tech companies act as if EEO laws were never passed. They block qualified candidates not just based on age but also race, gender, national origin and even military status.

We now have “No Americans Need Apply” job ads posted across the internet. The Department of Justice caught IBM red-handed posting such ads. DOJ is now monitoring IBM’s hiring for the next 2 years.

A request for class action against Infosys, an Indian IT services company is now weaving its way thru the courts. Two of the American workers who are claiming national origin discrimination were forced to train their foreign replacements.

Tech a mosh pit of discrimination; I encourage tech workers of all stripes and flavors to seek legal advice if they feel they’ve been discriminated against. These lawsuits work.

Another commenter said: “Where’s the story about the little punks firing over-40 workers and replacing them with H1Bs?”

Yet another commenter posted this link to PBS’ debunking of the “tech worker shortage” myth.

Still other commenters pointed out that another reason venture capitalists preferred to throw their money at young kids was because the VCs wanted to take advantage of the kids’ ignorance of how the world works. For example, there’s this commenter:

The young entrepreneurs are fairly ruthlessly exploited as slave labor by the VCs they end up with. If the VCs want 1 success out of 10 and expect failures or middling results from the rest, what do you think happens to those 20-somethings in the 9-out-of-10 cases?


It’s good that speculative businesses that can make a business case can get funded, but only the very young and rather reckless want to sign their souls away to the VCs — it’s just not in the founder’s interest for the long term, for almost all of them. Angel investment is much more healthy.

Ageism is brutal towards the young, too.

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