I read an article by Brad McCarthy on The Next Web that struck a chord with me. It was titled “Why does technology celebrate ageism?”
In it, Mr. McCarthy makes a point about technology choosing to highlight the achievement of the under 30 age group, while ignoring the accomplishments of those older than 30.
There are several “associations” both official and unofficial that exclusively serve the younger age groups – for example, the Top 40 Under 40, the Young President’s Club (YPO), the annual “Millionaires Under 40” list, and I’m sure there are more of which I am not aware. I’ve always been curious about these “clubs” and wondered what happened when the members “aged out” (what a delightful term) or turned 40. I speculate that C-suite level professionals have established networks that dispense with the need for special age-related support groups. Either that or they prefer not to be associated with a group labeled as “over 40”. Because isn’t over 40 “over the hill”?
The inherent message in this oversight is both dangerous and misleading. It denigrates the over 30’s, or over 40’s, with accomplishments while setting expectations for the under “whatever” age group that if they don’t make the grade by that age, they are “washed up”.
To quote Mr. McCarthy, “Or maybe having a list that talks about age is disingenuous no matter what group it points out. Maybe age, like class, color and all else, should disappear when we’re talking about people who do great things. If technology truly wants to be a meritocracy then shouldn’t all factors other than the work that has been done go to the wayside?”
Yes! Eureka, yes that’s it – but not just relative to technology, and not only to “people who do great things”, but relative to society as a whole and to human beings generally.
Everybody starts out by being the youngest (on the team, in their class, at the office) , at one point in life, and then, ends up being the oldest at a later point. It’s just the way the world works.
The variable to concentrate on should not be age, race or gender, but talent, skill, intelligence, leadership, creativity, ability. Some of these are enhanced by experience and some just exist, inherently.
Compensation, including accolades, should correspond to the level of the various skills/abilities/characteristics demonstrated by the individual. Yes, there is often a correlation between experience and the acquisition or development of skills and talents. – like in music, even the talent of raw genius can be improved by diligent practice.
I’ve worked with employees who were convinced they deserved the promotion to the next level over their peers based solely on being the most senior in the group. “I should get Director, I’m next in line.” But it just doesn’t work that way. You may have put in the time, and you may have the qualifications, but what moves you ahead is possessing the qualities necessary to fulfill the next role. Age doesn’t have as much bearing on that as maturity does.
I’ve been fortunate to learn both from my young colleagues and from my senior workmates. Now, I am probably counted among the “elder statesmen” of my industry, myself. Yikes!
Whereas many of my contemporaries share similar thought processes, based probably on comparable experience and references, my younger colleagues have a whole different perspective. And yes, their familiarity and more frequent use of technology and social media are definitely some of the talents I can benefit from. Going forward I am learning more from the colleagues who are younger than me, than those who are older, leading me to wonder just when the pendulum swung this way, because I don’t remember.
The point is, though, that I really don’t care when it happened. I am learning. Developing. Growing. Enjoying it.
And increasing my value. No matter my age.