Add another layer to your #Business literacy. We at Serebral360° would love to know if the Forbes – Entrepreneurs article was helpful, leave a comment, like and share. Let’s dive in and discuss the information and put it to use to grow your business. #BusinessStrategy #ContentMarketing #WebDevelopment #BrandStrategy
Info@serebral360.com 762.333.1807 www.serebral360.com
Grap a copy of our Strategy Books 👉 CLICK HERE FOR VOL1 and 👉 CLICK HERE FOR VOL2
I was recently chatting with two young men who were telling me of their struggle to hire older employees.
“The rest of our office is young. They just don’t fit with our culture,” the first one admitted.
“Our industry is brand new,” said the second. “Older candidates don’t bring any relevant experience, but come with a higher paycheck.”
And then: “I’m not sure if an older employee would be able to adapt and learn quickly in our fast-paced work culture.”
I nodded in agreement. All these things made sense. Then one of them interjected: “I don’t want to feel like we have an office mom!”
Suddenly I felt a pit at the bottom of my stomach. I am a real-life mom. Oblivious to my reaction, the two men went on talking, genuinely trying to find a solution. One said: “We actually did hire an older employee recently. I was nervous about whether he would fit in, but so far, it’s going okay. He’s 40.”
The sinking feeling in my gut turned to all-out panic. Throughout this conversation I had been picturing a gray haired 60 year old. But no, “old” in tech is someone in their 40s. Until this point, I’d never thought of myself as too old for tech, but as a woman in her late 30s who is also a mother to three young children, I suddenly realized what others might be thinking when I walk in the room.
The data says ageism starts young in tech
There’s no getting past the fact that tech is a young industry. Studies show that age bias is rampant in tech not just once one hits their 40s, but by age 36. When VC firm First Round Capital polled a wide range of US startup founders in The 2018 State of Startups report, age was cited as the strongest investor bias against founders, with 89% of founders saying older people face discrimination in tech, followed by gender. And older women have double the odds. In a 2017 Indeed survey, 43 percent of tech workers said that fear of losing their jobs due to age is a real fear.
Jane VC’s survey of early stage founders last month found that the amount of venture funding raised by both male and female early stage founders dropped by over 40% after age 45. Aside from the hard metric of dollars raised, entrepreneurs of both genders report feeling significantly less supported by the venture community once they reach 45.
Pregnancy and ageism create a double penalty for women
Ageism impacts everyone, but women bear the unfair brunt of this trend. In this same survey of early stage founders, the amount of capital raised by male founders peaked between ages 30 and 45. But for female founders, the amount raised doesn’t spike until the late 30s and it peaks soon after, by age 45. Founders of both sexes experience a drop off in funding after they hit their 45th birthday. For women, this means a very narrow window in which to maximize their fundraising.
What could be behind this much shorter time period for founding a company and raising capital? Data points to pregnancy. Julia Collins, Co-Founder of Zume Pizza, said, “There is a misconception that you can’t be pregnant or take maternity leave and still lead your company, which can put pressure on you to delay or forgo parenthood. However, the landscape is changing and many of us are paving the way.”
Not surprisingly, when it comes to being a parent, venture-backed founders diverge on whether they’ve felt it to be a challenge. Two-thirds of male founders say that tech companies are “inclusive for parents,” according to the State of Startups report, while half that number of women say the same. And twice as many women report investor bias against pregnant founders or women founders with children.
Esther Crawford, CEO and Co-Founder of Squad, said, “I used to not tell people that I had kids because I felt that it would penalize me and I knew that wouldn’t happen for my male counterparts. But my daughter is part of the story for my current company, and this helped me get over the fear. We need more visibility and we need more events to meet the kids of other founders.”
Why is youth so coveted in tech?
The real question behind a lot of these numbers is why youth is held up as a gold standard. Partly, it’s thanks to celebrity founders like Mark Zuckerburg and Evan Spiegel. The latter was named the youngest billionaire in the world in 2015 after founding SnapChat. He was 24 when he made this list.
Unlike other industries, tech’s hallmark is change and innovation. For this reason, professional experience is not valued as much as the ability to think outside the proverbial box. Fresh young talent has a leg up in an industry where bold new ideas are valued above all else. Tech is an industry of and in disruption, not beholden to status quo ways of doing things.
In the war for talent, tech culture targets young recruits, particularly those that don’t have family obligations at home. Tech campuses are built like all-inclusive resorts, enabling — no, encouraging — recruits to stay on campus as much as possible, a la The Circle, Dave Eggers dystopian novel circa 2013. Apple Park, Apple’s multibillion-dollar new campus in Cupertino, is colloquially known as “the Spaceship Campus” because of its design — but also because it’s a self-contained destination one could conceivably stay airlocked inside forever.
These tech cultures offer “work-life balance” only in the sense that you can theoretically manage your entire life from campus, with no need to go elsewhere to exercise, do errands, eat out or meet up with friends (why be friends with people outside of work, after all?). The caveat here is these perks tend to fall short if your life responsibilities happen to include small people who are dependent on you.
But what are we collectively missing out on because of all this?
There are many problems with tech’s hyper-focus on youth.
First, it’s unfair and unpleasant for tech’s “elderly” (aka people in their late 30s and beyond).
Second, research suggests that age diversity indeed promotes productivity and performance. A recent study by HBR found that companies with higher age (and other types of) diversity scored 19% higher in terms of innovation revenues and 9% higher in EBIT margins, two markers that are indicative of healthy tech.
But the even bigger issue is that tech’s myopic view causes it to miss out on many billion dollar opportunities.
The stats on this opportunity are things we’ve all heard before: baby boomers control more than ⅔ of the disposable income in the US and will inherit $15 Trillion over the next two decades.
What is surprising is that the tech industry hasn’t taken more notice of this rapidly growing market underserved by tech. Instead, VCs are distracted by apps for millennials like private chefs, valet parking and skipping the line while clubbing (yes, there is a new app for this).
What about instead building technology focused on working parents, second careers, menopause, retirement and senior care?
And who better to build it than serial entrepreneurs and tech execs with a little grey hair. The average age of Facebook users is now over 40 years old. By not having this demographic represented in the buildings of tech companies and as founders of startups, we are missing out on a whole set of potential unicorns.
April 10, 2019 at 05:12PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs