Now that I’m older and my resume
is too long for you
Will you still be sending me a meeting invite?
Strategy session with a quick bite?
If I’ve been out on caregiver leave
Would you lock the door?
Will you still need me, will you still hire me
Now that I am 54?
Kerry Gates is the Director, MCB Community Professional Development and Communities Executive Event Producer at Microsoft. She has been a prominent voice in the space of Diversity and Inclusion and has been instrumental in building diverse teams and organizations resulting in high-impact, result-oriented workplaces. We first came across Kerry’s poem on Ageism, When I’m 54, on Linkedin. These are her views on ageism in tech.
1. People have different definitions for ageism. Some define it based on stereotypes, some on prejudice and some on age. How would you define it?
Well, the dictionary says and I am paraphrasing a bit, the discrimination of a person based on their age. In this instance I’d say anyone over 45 /50 is headed into the ageism in tech.
2. Is ageism a myth or does it actually pose a serious threat to the tech industry?
Yes it does pose a threat. Why? The industry will miss out on a great deal of the market if they are not looking at the over 50 demographic and to do that effectively you need to have the over 50 demographic working on the solutions.
It is pretty simple; almost all new technology is designed for use by younger people. Designers and manufacturers are deliberately ignoring the over-50s when creating new products and services. Quite logically, older people choose not to use products that have nothing to offer them. By not targeting products to an older demographic, the industry is reducing the customer base by half, not to mention dollars.
This data is old, like 4 or 5 years but the 50+ population has an estimated $2.4 trillion in annual income. Don’t know about you but I am not keen to leave that kind of cash on the table. So why is tech? If you don’t understand me I am not buying from you.
3. Wow! ageism in tech is a real problem which needs to be tackled right away. Kerry, do you know of any instances where candidates were biased due to their age?
Yes but not people who are willing to go on record. That’s the issue, so many people are embarrassed. Many people remove jobs from resume’s to not look like they have been in the workforce for as long as they have. You won’t even get a phone interview.
Every year since the early days of the dotcom bomb, when I lived and worked in San Francisco, I interview regularly-at least once a year. Not that I want another job, but to keep my skills fresh and my interviewing up to date, it changes. I should mentioned my search tends to be outside of Microsoft as I am not really looking to leave and want to have a tougher experience in the interview. Internal can be tough but it is still internal, so a bit more open.
What got me going was this last year I could not get a bite at all-The recent experience, well it sucked. Once I removed 10 years off of my resume and downplayed my longevity in the industry, I was able to get a phone interview and some feelers, but no in person. I mean what do I do, take off 20? That’s just so screwed up.
4. How can candidates overcome age discrimination in a job interview?
I think sharing how you are keeping your skills up to date, the way you view learning. Give examples of how you are always learning and experience does not breed complacency.
5. What are some ways companies can tackle ageism in tech?
Set up reverse mentoring. Be honest and highlight it. Recently our CMO did just that and invited an older worker to share their experience with the rest of the org. it was great and eye opening for others. Just like any kind of discrimination, meet it head on with honesty and address it. I also think make the case for those dollars not coming to your business. It is the ethical thing to do, including others and not being judgmental on someone’s age, but also geez the group 55-64 outspends all adults in nearly EVERY category. * US Consumer Expenditure report/ survey
It is about time companies took measures to combat ageism in tech. Tech’s youth driven culture and workforce could make some developers and engineers feel obsolete. The best way for developers to combat ageism is to never stop learning and when you’re hiring senior engineers, it’s always good to consider the whole story and incorporate a bias-free screening process. Let our go-getter’s guide to diversity hiring in tech lead the way.