Where Are All of the Older Programmers in Tech?

June 13, 2016

5:00 pm

Ageism in tech is a pervasive problem – while the unconscious bias against older workers in the industry has recently been spotlighted, there is the question of how specific roles are affected. Particularly, programmers.

Exactly, Where Are They?

In a post on Quora, programmers themselves take to answering this complicated question. As it turns out, the answers can vary almost as much as the individuals involved.

From the responses given, it turns out that many variables play a part in the lack of visibility for programmers over a certain age. One response, from Karl Wong, explains:

“They’re still here, just not in the roles you might be expecting. Many have moved into management roles, or other technical roles not directly related to engineering. Others have moved on to larger firms, or having made their money from early tech booms, left only to start second careers or retire…If you do find older developers, more than likely, they are at a large firm. Why? Because all the 20- and 30-year-olds want to be somewhere ‘hip’ and ‘fun’.

Older developers, if they keep up their curiosity, can be a boon to a firm. Their real-world experiences and different viewpoints can add to the diversity of a development team. They only need an opportunity if given.”

Adaptability and relevance also play a role in how long people will stay once programmers have reached a certain age. Even though most programmers find themselves staying in the tech industry as they age, their visibility may be compromised. Even with them switching to roles outside of just programming, older programmers can find themselves stuck in the limitations of preconceived notions that come along with unconscious ageism bias.

While this flexibility and willingness to shift roles may be good in terms of staying adaptable to the changing market, it can also add to the problem. By not allowing older programmers to have complete ownership of their own roles and value in the industry, we contribute to their erasure. We must allow for older programmers to be considered valuable, for their skills and contributions to the field, and amplify what they bring to the industry as a whole.

Image Credit to Stocksnap.

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Cameron is a tech and culture journalist, comic book enthusiast, and lives near New York City. A graduate of Stockton University, she's using her words to shift the world of online journalism, one byline at a time. When she's not writing, she can be found reading sci-fi novels, collecting succulents, and planning her next obnoxious hair color. Cameron is an editorial fellow at Tech.Co. Send your tips to cameron@tech.co or tweet @BlkGirlManifest.

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