Too Old? Too Young? Ageism in IT

Let’s Talk about Unconscious Bias and Ageism

With Boomers, Gen Xers, Millennials and Generation Z now all part of the workforce, unconscious biases about ages can prevent employees from adding real value to a company. Unconscious bias, according to the University of Victoria, refers to the “unconscious assumptions, beliefs, attitudes and stereotypes that human brains have about different groups. These learned mental shortcuts affect how we perceive and respond to people.”

(Read more in our series of blogs about the value of diversity, equity and inclusion in the tech sector: Why Workforce Diversity is Important and Why Tech Needs More Women)

And like other industries, the tech world often hires and works with people who have similar backgrounds and experiences. Even with the best of intentions, ageism can seep into hiring, work assignments and promotions, not to mention making an office culture less inclusive and welcoming. Studies have found that diverse teams are more innovative and creative – an advantage when competitive threats loom.

Ageism undoubtedly exists in the tech industry, and it hobbles both business and professional growth. But there are things employees and employers can do to start this important conversation.


What IT Professionals Can Do

Know Your Rights

In Canada, the Human Rights Act outlines that no one can be discriminated against based on race, place of origin, religion, sexual orientation, age, marital status, disability, family status, financial situation, etc. The only thing the employer needs is that you are of legal age to work.

They can do so by asking if you are between the ages of 18 – 64. Be on the lookout for workarounds like asking for photos, requesting your graduation dates, or screening you via a video call to determine your age.

Know Your Value

As a more confident and experienced worker, an older employee can provide unique perspectives that newer employees cannot. Having strong skills, leadership/management experience and industry knowledge can set you up to work for yourself as a contractor or consultant.

Stay Curious

Being curious is an asset in any employee, regardless of age. Even if you are the most experienced person in the room, be open to learning.

Lean on Your Community

Later in life, your professional community can become your go-to source when seeking or evaluating new employment positions.

What Businesses Can Do

There are important steps an employer can take to root out ageism in a company’s policies, practices and culture.

Look at the Data

Analyze internal data to understand the current state of age equity within your company to find signs of potential age bias in hiring, promotions, salary levels, turnover, and performance ratings.

Review Hiring Practices

1) Develop hiring practices that reduce the potential for screening out older applicants. Managers can gauge a candidate’s skills by using an assessment that includes tasks that align with job-relevant skills in a realistic environment. Older unemployed workers often take longer to find jobs than younger workers so consider that when looking at the length of a candidate’s unemployment.

2) Structured interviews can prevent casual, off-the-cuff, yet biased questions. With an interview template, interviewers focus on questions and scenarios relevant to the candidate’s qualifications.

3) Establish a resume review or interview panel made up of a diverse set of colleagues in terms of gender, ethnicity, socio-economic background and age. With a wider perspective, you can make a more informed and comprehensive decision.

It is a win for all when the best and brightest talent are working – regardless of age.

Since 2010, SIGnature Recruiting has been pairing exceptional people with short-term contracts and long-term careers in Vancouver’s flourishing IT industry. We are specialists in IT Recruiting and pride ourselves in making valuable contributions to our clients and candidates. If you are seeking talent or an employer, let’s talk.

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