Interesting observations, but I think that a prosepective sweat-shop employer could find "problems" with potential employees of any age group or either gender. "Geeky young men," as you call them, might be perceived as having no personal life and able to just work/sleep/work. The same could be said for geeky young women. But neither has much experience, and in just a few short years, they are no longer those same geeky young men and women -- they start thinking about starting a family and doing more with their lives than just work.
For those of the family-raising age, roughly the 30s & 40s, there are the "distractions" of raising children, that tend to inhibit the willingness of employees to do nothing but work/sleep/work.
Then by the time the kids are grown & out of the house, the employee may experience age bias. He or she is very experienced, and ironically now at a point in life where focusing more intensely on work & career is a more feasible possibility, but they may be perceived as too old or too expensive.
It is a cynical view to say that "what a lot of companies are looking for are employees that have no outside interests whatsoever so they can spend every minute of their lives working for the company." I am sure some companies fit that description, as I am also sure many do not.
Which ones do you think attract the best employees?
I think there's a common factor here. Basically, what a lot of companies are looking for are employees that have no outside interests whatsoever so they can spend every minute of their lives doing work for the company. There's a Dilbert cartoon about this, from January 1998:
Wally asks new employee Rex how his personal life is going. Rex answers "I don't have one... that would be like stealing from the company."
Geeky young men are widely regarded as having no personal life whatsoever, so that makes them much more attractive as tech employees. You just chain them to their desks (or share of a common table), feed them high-energy food, and watch them churn out code.
The big problem with middle-aged employees is not that they cost more, because they produce higher-quality results since they've learned the most common things that can go wrong and how to avoid them. Somebody else paid for their mistakes. No, IMO the problem with middle-aged employees is that they have problems with aging parents and difficult teenagers, and these distract them from the job. It's much easier to hire young people who don't have these responsibilities so they can concentrate on the job.
Cartoonist Roz Chast has a poignant graphical essay about her own aging parents in a recent New Yorker magazine. The essay is called "Can't we talk about something more pleasant?" Along with the expense, time, and anxiety of caring for aging parents, Roz Chast brings up an interesting point. One of the things she has to deal with is two lifetimes' worth of stuff that her parents have accumulated. She says it gives you an entirely different view of stuff, where instead of seeing the latest great thing and thinking "Cool! I want one of those!" you instead think "someone is going to have to deal with this stuff some day". It makes you a lousy consumer (see her recent cartoon "Not the target demographic").
People in their twenties and thirties can just go out and buy these things without considering the long run. I would also think that it would be hard to be enthusiastic about designing these meaningless gewgaws, and you do want to have tech staff who are excited about designing "the next great thing" instead of middle-aged engineers who think "I like my job, I like my cow-orkers, but I would never buy this product".
Indeed, it is unfortunate. This is exactly my point that even some women believe their mathematical skill wasn't as good when they were in high school. It's a myth to me.
When I was in school back in HK. I didn't think of it and, didn't notice there was any difference in analytical and mathematical skills between boy and girl. . In US, I learned from my friends that some of their friends started believing the myth as soon as they were in high school.
Conicidentially, I heard similar topic from KQED. I believe the world is changing.
Susan, you should read the article. In my experience, I disagree with the outcome of the study. When I was in school, (okay, it was the stone age), there was only one woman in the EE dept. By the time I was a senior, there were a few women freshmen. It was a male dominated degree program. Years later, when I was the hiring manager, there were many women applicants. I don't know if the mix in school changed or if HR made it seem that way. I hired about as many women as men. I guess a big difference could be the culture of the company. I am surprised that the study found that women hiring managers had the same bias towards men. That definately goes against my experience.
The ploy in this study is a standard in social psychology research. The task that the candidates are supposed to be differentiated on is intentionally meaningless and their backgrounds are disguised to be similar, leaving only appearance/gender as the statistically significant difference among the candidates. If hiring managers were not biased by gender, then men and women should be chosen evenly. However, men were twice as likely to be chosen as women, indicating that there is a significant gender bias in hiring. Without more access to the description of the actual study, I can't personally judge if there may have been other biases at work, but the design of the study in general is valid.
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