Generation X is the new face of age discrimination in tech fields

How old is “too old” in the tech field? Would you believe 36 is considered too old by many employers?

For anybody born between roughly 1965 and 1984, known as “Generation X,” it seems almost inconceivable that members of their generation who witnessed the birth of the digital age are now considered too old to be part of it. Unfortunately, that’s the accepted wisdom of many in various technological fields.

Ageism is rampant in tech. Many companies send out sometimes obvious messages that anyone in their 40s (or even younger) need not apply for open positions. Among the frequent notices of job openings, a phrase that often gets tossed in the mix is “digital native.”

Experts say that term is slang among tech fields for a younger person, specifically someone who grew up surrounded by a digital world and high-tech devices and media. Another term that’s sometimes used (somewhat more sparingly) is “a member of the net generation,” which means someone who grew up after the internet really took off and which excludes anyone in Generation X.

Why do tech employers have such a bias against older workers? There’s a scientific fallacy that suggested that younger people who grow up exposed to digital media and the internet are actually more “evolved” to cope with its rapid-fire pace and the quick exchange of information.

Here are some of the most disturbing signs of the bias:

  • Only about 26 percent of tech workers are in their 40s or older.
  • Of those workers in their 40s or older, nearly half are afraid that their age will soon cost them their jobs.
  • More than a third of workers over the age of 40 say that they’ve experienced personal discrimination due to their ages.

The problem is so bad that many middle-aged adults in tech fields alter their resumes to look less experienced (and younger) and change their looks using plastic surgery. They do this hoping to avoid the presumption of being “too old” to understand tech.

Age discrimination is a serious issue. If you’re feeling pushed out or discriminated against because of your age, not your abilities, start taking notes and discuss your legal options with a professional as soon as possible.