We should have seen this coming. My first inkling was reading an article in 1999 or so in, I think, NY Times about EPinions. In the article there was a discussion of their hiring approach and how they looked at potential recruits based on the level of obstacles they had to full time commitment. Only the word wasn’t obstacles, I can’t recall what it was, something vaguely pejorative, but it was clear to me as the father of two children that this was a brave new world I shouldn’t bother to apply to.
Thanks so much for this article and surfacing this deep undercurrent that has been bothering me for a long time. I’m also somehow over 60. My background is digital marketing, which puts me further away from the Valley, but closer to advertising where ageism, and so many other isms, have been common practice for years. But it seems to me that as services, software and marketing have moved closer and blended we find that the biases of these industries become strengthened and shared be it women or old folks.
For me the real issue is not with founders or folks younger than me in the business. Its with the hiring process and HR organizations, (talent management? really??), that maintain their existence and sustain their importance by supporting a culture of sameness that they likely helped to create.
Over the past 10 years whenever I have been working with people 20 or more years younger than me there has rarely been a question of lack of fit or understanding. Instead I’ve found that if anything I’m looked at as the resource, the organizer or the steady hand that helps make groups a larger sum of their whole. Culture has rarely mattered. Ideas, attitude and thinking have always been more important. But when it came time to send in a resume it would fall into a black hole of silence occasionally pierced by “overqualfied”, code for age or perceived income or title requirements. I don’t fault people for wanting to be with people like themselves. I’m not sure I would really like to spend all my time with a bunch of 60 year olds. I do fault hiring organizations for assuming that homogenous organizations somehow lead to better results.