Age Bias in Silicon Valley and Beyond

“I don’t think I would have been able to get this CEO job if I hadn’t shaved my head.” Randy Adams, founder of ten venture-backed companies who happens to be 60.

Okay. Shaving your head and wearing Converse sneakers to get a job may be a bit of a stretch. But, then again Adams, who clearly had credibility and experience, couldn’t get himself arrested when he went looking for high-tech jobs in Silicon Valley.  According to an NBC article, Silicon Valley’s Dirty Little Secret:

Such are the pressures in Silicon Valley, where the startup ethos extols fresh ideas and young programmers willing to toil through the night. Chief executives in their 20s, led by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, are lionized, in part because of their youth. Many investors state bluntly that they prefer to see people under 40 in charge.

Adams finally landed a job as the CEO of a start-up. But, what is so sad here is that the admirable quest of rewarding creativity, innovation and the “can do” entrepreneurial attitude in Silicon Valley is thwarted by youth-seeking VCs (many in their 50’s!) and companies, who like so many before them, use a short-cut prejudice for decision-making.  They assume older folks won’t work as hard or take risks because they are raising families.

In this age of data, hopefully there will be some smart person, like the NYT’s Nate Silver who correctly predicted the electoral votes in the recent Presidential election(with the exception of North Dakota) who comes up with the analysis on success ratios of companies with CEOs of all ages.

As for those who actually bag looking for a job and start new companies, the Kauffman Foundation, which studies entrepreneurial activity, says 47% of all U.S. entrepreneurs are now over 45 years of age. The percentage of entrepreneurs over 55 has grown from 14% to nearly 21% in 5 years.  It seems the high-risk, innovation,pull all-nighters ethos lives on for the over 45 set as well!

If you know of good data or research on this topic, please let us know.

Related Items:

Is Yoda Too Old to Code?

Please Respect My Generation




This entry was posted in HR, Innovation, leadershipskills, management and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.