An age discrimination lawsuit filed against Google last week seems to indicate that I may be past my prime, shedding new light on the Internet behemoth, and revealing startling information about the age-related demographics within the company.
According to information compiled by Payscale and reported in Computerworld, between 2007 and 2013, Google’s workforce grew from 9,500 to 28,000 employees. (Holy hiring!) Yet despite nearly tripling in size, Google’s median age for their employees is 29 years old. 29! I have old copies of the The New Yorker lying around that are older than that!
The lawsuit filed against them involves an experienced 60-year-old computer programmer, Robert Heath, who applied for a job after being contacted by a Google recruiter, according to Computerworld. Despite being tagged by the recruiter as a great candidate, he was not offered the job after a phone interview in which he and the interviewer couldn’t hear each other very well.
Because, you know, people who are old—like, over 30–don’t hear well. They also drive 25 miles per hour in the left lane and eat dinner at 4:30 in the afternoon. All of which Google apparently frowns upon.
This is hardly the first time Google has thumbed its nose at anyone who was alive when Reagan was president. In 2007, they settled an age discrimination suit brought by an employee, Brian Reid, who was fired at 54 for not being a “culture fit.” Reid claimed in the course of that suit that he was told by his much younger colleagues that his ideas were “too old to matter” and that he was called an “old fuddy-duddy.” The case was settled out of court.
While the pair of cases case sheds light on the hurdles a man over the age of 50 faces in maintaining employment, it raises troubling questions about where the magic number is if you’re a woman. If a 54-year-old man is over the hill, what is a 45-year-old woman?
The reality is that women in their 40s have already managed to maneuver through complicated workplace dynamics due to sexism and, in some cases, gender discrimination. We put up with unequal pay for equal work. We are underrepresented in boardrooms and in Congress. We also live in a culture of youth that isn’t going anywhere. But the the thing we had going for us—our wisdom, our experience, our age—is supposed to be one of the biggest assets we have. We aren’t so young that we’re frivolous. We aren’t so old that we’re out of touch. We are smack in the middle, right in the prime of our careers.
Unless, apparently, we’re at Google.