Boston Startups Age Discrimination: Fact or Fiction?
When a recent article by Scott Kirsner, “Exploring the Age Divide in Boston Start-ups,” caught my eye, naturally, it sent my recruiter senses tingling.
Is it true that the majority of the startups in the Boston area are populated by Millennials?
Sure, many do tend to have a younger workforce.
Does that make them and other startups guilty of age discrimination?
But it is worth considering what factors do lead to the typical age divide in startup environments. Let’s take a look to consider whether there is in fact
The Demanding Hours
One common belief is that startups hire younger people because they are more willing to work around the clock, seven days a week. Last time I checked, however, startups were not the only space that demanded long hours. What about doctors, lawyers, Wall Street? Are these roles dominated by twentysomethings? The answer is a resounding no.
So if it’s not the hours, then, what is it?
Startup Company Culture Skews Young
Company culture is typically heavily emphasized at startups. They have fridges full of beer, they have video games, employees wear jeans to work. Perhaps the companies are inadvertently discriminating against other generations by creating a climate that caters to a younger generation. Again, this goal isn’t likely to keep people of a certain age out of the company intentionally — but maybe it does.
This is not necessarily discrimination, but rather the age-old issue of people preferring to be around those who are similar (not opposite) to them. Think back to the last time you really enjoyed a conversation with someone you just met. I can 99.99% guarantee that it was not because that person challenged the way you think and what you stand for, but rather it was because you had common ideologies and saw the world similarly.
Too Much of the Same
The issue lies not in discrimination, but our desire for homogeny. We seek out like-minded individuals and avoid diversity. We need to start looking for individuals who are not just qualified and like to play Nintendo, but who also know enough about the space to challenge the status quo. While hiring 15 people with the same views might make for a great happy hour, it wont challenge your business and take it in a new direction.
The startups in Boston and beyond are not pushing more seasoned employees out, nor are they discriminating against hiring older employees. They are just sticking to what they know well — themselves.
What do you think we can do to change this?