Age Discrimination

Today’s lesson on age discrimination is based on an article posted on LinkedIn Pulse last week entitled When it Comes To Age Bias, Tech Companies Don’t Even Bother to Lie by Dan Lyons.

Future Age Discrimination victim -

This story provides a disturbing account of one company’s reprehensible system of age discrimination in the workplace. We all know it exists, consciously or subconsciously, but any employer with a bit of sense will successfully deny it. HubSpot’s CEO Brian Halligan, evidently, lacks that  bit of sense, espousing the practice in an interview with The New York Times.

Lyons’ April 5th  article is about flagrant age discrimination at HubSpot, as reportedly is his book, Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Startup Bubble,” he relays a situation in which his management admitted and defended their practice of illegal discrimination:

HubSpot’s CEO and co-founder, Brian Halligan, explained to the New York Times that this age imbalance was not something he wanted to remedy, but in fact something he had actively cultivated. HubSpot was “trying to build a culture specifically to attract and retain Gen Y’ers,” because, “in the tech world, gray hair and experience are really overrated,” Halligan said.

“Retain?” Does Halligan realize that he, his existing staff, his new hires most likely will age? Like, every day of their lives? As will every living person on earth? Gen Y’ers will soon enough have both experience and gray hair; then what? It seems his actual plan is for a complete turnover of staff every few years. Wonder if his employees know this.

Gray hair is overrated? In whose world? In whose world is age rated higher than youth? Not your world, not my world.

Obviously, this hits close to home. I have my theories as to where these ageists are coming from:

  • They have never been a ‘senior worker.’
  • Or, if they have, despite the fact that they have risen to the top of the hiring chain at their organization, they have low opinions of themselves and of those of their generation.
  • Or, in the interests of being a hip place to work, they hire those perceived to be hip.*
  • Or, they want to provide playmates to their existing young staff…to keep them happy.
  • Or, as I recently received as a juicy bit of gossip, they simply prefer to be surrounded by attractive young people (read: people of the opposite sex), to the extent they have the tendency to–remember, this is just gossip–fire those of middle age. I won’t mention any names.
  • Or, they actually believe the nonsense about those over 40? 30? being out of touch, unqualified, uncool,  unfun, low-energy stuck in their ways fogeys.
  • Finally, the unfortunate notion that older candidates can do their company no good in the assumed “short time” they have left in their working years, if not in their actual years. Insert sad face here.

As an over 60 (holy shit!) worker who looks for work daily–full time, part time, temporary, freelance–I do find that I am legitimately underqualified or unqualified for many, many of the openings; it’s the nature of having a non-technical, non-management, non-medical background. But every time I see a position or gig where I may have the ‘required qualifications,’ I apply. It’s a process. It can take literally hours, just to  get the wording right on the cover letter and tweaking the resume to put the most relevant skills for each job in the most appropriate place on the page. Then, many many companies also require you fill out a lengthy–literally pages and pages lengthy– on-line form reiterating exactly what you already provided in your resume and cover letter.

Ok, now I’m whining.

My point is–and I’m asking you to suspend skepticism here–I have a good resume by current standards. There are jobs out there for which I believe I am a perfect fit; where my employment history and skill set match or exceed everything listed in the job description. I have great references. I submit my application in a timely manner. I engage employment agencies. Yet I don’t get an interview. Sometimes I get a “thanks for applying! We are reviewing your qualifications” email, which is nice, and after which I get absolutely no follow-up.

I’m still whining.

Assuming I am not delusional about my qualifications, all I have left to do in these instances is to imagine that they took one look at any and all “dates of employment…” “number of years employed by…” “degree received on…” and immediately discarded the application.

Regardless, Halligan’s smugness provided strong evidence of his company’s unconscionable and illegal discriminatory practices. Unfortunately, in most cases age discrimination is impossible to prove. Taken to task, an employer need only say “we found a candidate who was a better fit” to justify hiring one person over another.

Do I still have hope that I will find a job that will pay me a decent wage, at which I will perform well, that I won’t hate, where nobody gives a damn how old a person is? Not really. My hope lies in freelancing where my work is my resume and my qualifications are unclouded by dates.

I welcome your comments. See below.


* At 61, I am hip. I have been hip for a verrrrrry long time, so in all practicality, I am hipper than most. Unfortunately I will rarely be perceived as such because I am 61.