Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's baby-faced 29-year-old founder, is actually on the older side of his company's workforce. The median age for Facebook workers is a spry 28 years old, according to a new survey of 32 top tech firms by Seattle-based PayScale.
That puts the company's workers at about the same level as those at Google (median age 29), as well as AOL, Blizzard Entertainment, and Monster.com, which all had median ages of 30. Only six companies in the study had a median age higher than 35 — well below the national median age for workers, 42.3.
Not only are most tech workers young, they are also overwhelmingly male. The study found that women made up only 30 percent of the surveyed companies, despite the fact that they make up half of the U.S. workforce.
So what is going on here?
Young start-ups tend to hire people with less experience, who usually happen to be younger, writes Quentin Hardy at The New York Times. He also pointed out that it's not a coincidence that the companies that have been around for a while — Microsoft, Cisco Systems, etc. — are the ones hiring relatively older workers.
Younger companies are also often looking for new ideas, which they associate with twenty-somethings.
"The firms that are growing or innovating around new areas tend to have younger workers," Katie Bardaro, lead economist at PayScale, tells The New York Times. "Older companies that aren't changing with the times get older workers."
Tom Foremski, a former Financial Times reporter who pens Silicon Valley Watcher, thinks it's less about fresh perspectives and more about simple economics:
I would bet that that these companies are skewing toward younger workers because they are simply less expensive. Do those younger workers know more? Are they more skillful? More productive? They are certainly cheaper and that means they are more productive as measured per salary dollar. [Silicon Valley Watcher]
Regardless of the reason top tech companies skew so young, many older workers in Silicon Valley have complained about ageism, especially as industry leaders rally for more H-1B visas, which allow them to temporarily employ foreign talent.
"You can be an exact fit but if you're 35, you're probably not going to even get a phone call," Norman Matloff, a computer science professor at U.C. Davis, told NPR earlier this year. "And meanwhile, the company is going to tell the press that there's just not any qualified people."
As for the predominance of males in the tech world — the industry has long been blasted for its sexist bent, and the latest report will only bolster such criticism.