Does Age Discrimination in Tech Start at 40?

Illustration of a woman in a hand, being pushed out by the other hand, indicating ageism
Illustration: Mark Airs

Tech workers of all ages think older engineers are highly qualified, have good experience, and can share wisdom. But many older engineers are worried about losing their jobs as the tech workforce skews heavily towards Millennials.

That’s the conclusion of a survey of 1011 currently employed U.S. tech workers conducted by job site Indeed.com. The study had a number of startling—and some not so surprising—takeaways.

First surprise: an “old” tech worker is defined as “over 40.” That lumps a bit of Gen X (born between the mid-60s and early-80s) in with us Baby Boomers. And if there’s age discrimination for workers who are over 40, I’d hate to read the results of a study of workers who are over 50.

Indeed’s analysis showed that these “old” tech workers could be getting lonely, at least if they are looking for peers their own age. According to the survey, 82 percent of workers at the companies represented by survey respondents reported an average tech employee age of 40 or under; almost half (46 percent) reported that the average employee is age 35 or younger—that is, a member of the millennial generation. A solid chunk of respondents—17 percent—reported that they work at companies whose average tech employee is 30 or younger. Only 23 percent of the respondents thought there was anything disproportional about the mix.

Given these numbers, it’s probably no surprise that the Indeed survey found that many of the Baby Boomers are seriously worried about age discrimination. Some 13 percent of workers aged 45 to 54 say that they worry “all the time” about losing their jobs due to their age, while 14 percent of workers 55 and older reported the same worries. And 43 percent of the respondents overall reported at least occasionally worrying about losing their jobs due to their age.

These concerns can influence behavior. When hunting for a new job, 19 percent of the respondents indicated that they would consider minimizing the experience listed on their resumes as they age.

Indeed also reported that 29 percent of the respondents age 55 and older feel at times that they aren’t being taken seriously because of their age; 19 percent of those between 45 and 54 felt the same way. But the generation gap cuts both ways. Younger tech workers say they also feel discounted because of their age: 58 percent of those between ages 25 and 34, and 41 percent of those between 35 and 44 expressed concern about not being seen by others the way they see themselves.

The 1011 tech workers who answered the survey were fairly evenly distributed agewise, with 207 respondents aged 25 to 34, 256 aged 35 to 44, 241 aged 45 to 54, and 295 over 55.

Separately, Indeed looked at its job search data to see if it could find a correlation between where tech workers want to find jobs and their age. It found that the Bay Area is at the top of the list for Millennials, Gen Xers, and Baby Boomers, with the San Jose region as number one hotspot across the board and San Francisco as number two. But while Silicon Valley is a favored destination for tech workers of all ages, the generations differ on other regions of interest. Huntsville, Ala., takes the number three spot for Baby Boomers, but doesn’t make the top 10 at all for Millennials or Gen Xers. Meanwhile, the Baby Boomers are expressing little interest in Salt Lake City, but Millennials and Gen Xers seem interested in tech jobs in this region. The full top ten below:

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