Age discrimination…

A popular adage says “60 is the new 40.” Try telling that to companies and other hiring institutions. Most companies don’t like to hire anyone over fifty—they view older workers at best as a drain on their benefits programs, and at worst they’ll fire older workers because they figure they can hire two or three younger employees for the same salary. Experience has no value anymore.

Colleges and universities can even be worse than companies. There’s a wealth of experience among retirees from industry that these institutions ignore. Maybe they’re worried about benefits and salaries too, preferring to pay pittances to these people as adjuncts, but I believe it’s often academic jealousy. Industry’s retirees have actually done something with their knowledge instead of teaching and writing arcane papers no one reads besides other academics. The ivory towers of academia are so lofty that those invaders from the outside can’t scale them and aren’t welcome even if they could, so those inside become incestuous and their towers dungeons instead.

What’s going on? It’s not all about salaries and benefits. You’ll hear one ubiquitous reason from HR offices across the land. “You have too much experience for this job.” Those are code words meaning “we can hire two or three people for what we’d have to pay you.” For academia, they prefer to hire experienced people as adjuncts so their great academics don’t have to compete with persons who actually know how to do worthwhile research, and young people without tenure, squeeze them dry, and then fire them so they don’t get tenure. I don’t know what the percentages are for making tenure in the various disciplines, but it’s probably embarrassing. Also embarrassing are the taxi-profs, the adjuncts who have to hold down three or four positions when they’re laid off by a major corporation. And in those same companies, the average employees’ ages, most less than fifty, are embarrassing too, so they treat those numbers as Top Secret.

Never mind that experience often implies that the older worker knows what s/he’s doing and goes about doing it efficiently. Never mind that older workers are often problem solvers while younger workers are often lost without a cookbook solution because of the failures of our current educational system at all levels, even at the college and university levels. Never mind that those younger workers could often use some good mentoring and a bit of corporate knowledge so that they aren’t wasting time reinventing the wheel, which they often do out of their ignorance.

Silicon Valley’s mentality is partly to blame too. Take coding as an example. Young programmers write inefficient and bloated code using canned routines that they don’t understand. They also use bloated and inefficient coding languages. Maybe that’s OK for writing a silly little app, but it can be the death knell for a massive software project. Add to that the fact that their experience often resides in the VR world of computer games, not the real world with real-world data, and you have a recipe for disaster.

Yet that Silicon Valley mentality permeates many modern corporations and institutions and leads to their preferring hotshot kids over more experienced workers. I’m not talking about your Googles, Apples, and Microsofts, all catering to the wet-behind-the ears sweatshirt and blue jeans crowd—I’m talking about serious corporations and institutions that are attacking serious problems but can’t come up with serious solutions because they’re places where the desire for quick profits overrides everything else. Shrinking deadlines imply sloppy, second-rate, and mediocre work older employees with a serious work ethic object to doing. In fact, work ethic is unknown in companies and in academia.

Planned obsolescence factors in also. The iPhone X is about to hit the market and iPhone 8 is now available. How long has it been since iPhone 7? And are the new iPhones really worth twice as much or more than the iPhone 7? C’mon! That’s planned obsolescence to the extreme. How ‘bout building a smartphone that lasts ten years instead of almost immediately adding bells and whistle no one needs so you can charge the public much more than it’s worth? Do I need facial recognition in an iPhone? Do I need apps for this and that, ones I never will use and clutter up my home screen? And do I need to keep all those technologically addicted employees at Apple employed, especially when there’s no respect in the company for older workers?

Technological progress does leave the older worker in a perpetual catch-up mode in our crazy system, but only because corporations and institutions aren’t willing to spend the money to keep those older an more dedicated workers up-to-date—they’d rather fire them and deal with twenty-year-olds without any experience. After all, that fifty- or sixty-year-old is only going to give the corporation ten to fifteen years, while the twenty-year-old will give it forty to fifty, unless they can’t keep up with progress—then they can work at Burger King’s after they’re laid off.

In academia, tenure makes colleges and universities grind through and spit out younger academics, which is sort of the other extreme. Only the good old girls and boys survive that tenure grind because they already have that protection, and they don’t often do much of anything after achieving tenure. And heaven forbid that some older gal or guy comes in from industry who’s still used to being creative, efficient, and desiring to impart practical knowledge to young students. S/he might also be more versatile too—industry doesn’t have any use for those old stodgy academic disciplines and their artificially created boundaries.

Industry and academia today often make two huge mistakes: they don’t appreciate older workers and they’re as sexist as DC politics. There’s an age ceiling and a gender ceiling. That might just be a sign of the times—after all our infamous leader has no respect for the elderly or women—but I don’t want to hear anyone complain about having a shortage of qualified employees if that’s the case. And I don’t want to hear “60 is the new 40” because, where it counts, that’s ignored.

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Rembrandt’s Angel (Penmore Press). How far would you go to recover a missing masterpiece? Have great fun this fall reading about the adventures of Scotland Yard’s Art and Antiques Inspector Esther Brookstone and her paramour/sidekick, Interpol agent Bastiann van Coevorden. Esther becomes obsessed with recovering Rembrandt’s “An Angel with Titus’ Features,” a painting stolen by the Nazis for Hitler’s museum. The crime-fighting duo goes after the painting and those currently possessing the painting, but the whole caper becomes much more dangerous as they uncover a conspiracy that threatens the security of Europe. With all the danger, their budding romance becomes full-blown. This book is available as an ebook on Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, B&N, and Apple, and also as a print book from Amazon and your local bookstore (if they don’t have it, ask for them to order it). Check out the review and interview at Feathered Quill.

And so it goes….

 

 

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