When we think technology, we typically see it as a young person’s game. It’s a world of 20-somethings and 30-somethings creating the sites and apps we interact with on a daily basis. Once those first grey hairs start to sprout, if you’re not in the senior leadership of the company, the perception is that your days are numbered.
However, is it fair? Is there some age at which ideas cease to sprout? At 40, do you suddenly lose your edge or can’t commit to doing the job anymore? Or, is it something else? Could it be ageism, plain and simple?
Right now, a lawsuit against Google may shed some light on my questions. At the heart of it are complaints by two over-40 applicants who were denied jobs as software engineers with the tech giant. At least one of these applicants says she was interviewed for multiple positions “including some occasions when Google affirmatively reached out to her about the opening based on her impressive qualifications and didn’t hire her”. The applicant, Cheryl Fillekes, says she was 47 at the time of her first interview in 2007.
Fillekes, who holds a Ph. D. in geophysics, also alleges that she “was asked by a Google recruiter to put down her date of graduation on her CV so that the interviewers could see it.” Ms. Fillekes has presented evidence that shows the median age of Google’s workforce is 29, while the median age for computer programmers in the U.S. is 42.8 years.
On Friday, the judge overseeing the case opened the door for other rejected over-40 applicants to join the suit.
The trial is set to being in May 2017.
However, the lawsuit is not without detractors. There are those that believe that this suit might have a chilling effect on the tech industry that might actually make it hard for applicants of a certain age to even get interviews.
For its part, Google denies these allegations and points to its own anti-age discrimination policies and its own 40-plus employees, known as “Greyglers” as proof of its commitment to age diversity.
Nonetheless, it may take a class action lawsuit to determine just what is at the heart of the age disparities among some elite tech companies versus the larger work force.