Marilyn, you aren’t just experiencing age discrimination, you do know that, right? I have been in this industry for thirty years. But when you are a person of color in Silicon Valley, being colorful is enough to keep you off the table, let alone being older.
Consider it this way: If you are a person of color who happens to show up at a firm where they don’t have any, their expectation of you isn’t that you lack the skills, because they know better.
They know you have had to work harder, longer, and with more excellence in your program because being a Person of Color, you are not allowed the latitude to screw up, make mistakes or not do your job.
As a Person of Color, one mistake is all it takes to be fired and replace with a White employee who will have a completely different standard of accountability, quiet as it’s kept.
So they secretly know, if you are showing up for a job, more than likely, you didn’t choose that job by accident. You choose it because it closely matched your skill set. Being a Person of Color means you need to show up at a job interview with 85 to 90 percent of the skills required to even be allowed to play the game.
The issue isn’t that you are old. You got old doing this job by being great at it. Because you didn’t get the latitude, the “expectation of competence” given most white employees.
The “expectation of competence” is part of the “white privilege” package no one likes to talk about. The idea a white man can walk into any room, as long as he has a degree in anything, it is presumed he can acquit himself in any field given enough time and support.
I bet you’ve never experienced that either.
The reason you don’t get a job, isn’t that you lack the skills or your age. If you managed to make a living for any period of time in this racist, misogynistic, hostile working environment called the tech industry, it’s because: YOU ARE DAMN GOOD AT YOUR JOB.
You had to be. You wanted to keep eating; you wanted to keep a roof over your head and clothes on your back and a system which does not afford you the opportunity to make mistakes makes you a BEAST in the workplace. (In the parlance of my oldest son, a “beast” means you are powerful, skilled, savagely focused, just so we’re clear.)
If you applying at a company filled with entitled, less enthusiastic, probably highly “educated” workers, the last thing they want to see is YOU. They fear for their jobs should someone like you wander up and actually give a damn about your work.
My advice: Find other people like you and start a company. This current crop of short-sighted, age-discriminating organizations aren’t going to welcome you any time soon. There are too many of them wandering out of college and stumbling into the workforce with their friends at the helms. Honestly, without a few more greybeards (the discriminatory expression used by these younger techies to describe anyone over fifty) on their payroll, I expect to see a more than a few of these we’re-not-producing-anything-but-I-have-a-startup businesses folding up and going home as their funding starts drying up.
The good news is there are plenty of real problems that need dedicated, focused, intelligent, hardworking people over 50 who remember what a work ethic is, who aren’t afraid of hard work, who remember hoping for a better world rather than trying to figure out how to make the most money for the least effort. Yes, I said it. The current crop of Silicon Valley Toys are exactly that. Toys.
I’m with you, Marilyn. We have a world that needs saving. Let’s find a real problem and get back to work.