Too old

In recent QESP Newsletter issues we have looked at the ongoing challenge of the ICT gender gap, e.g. Gender Gap Research Yields Unexpected Results and More Sexism in STEM. Now ICT sexism has been joined by ICT ageism as an area for concern. In a 5 Aug Business Spectator article Bridging the IT age gap, ACS President Brenda Aynsley quotes statistics on sexism from the ACS Deloitte Australia’s Digital Pulse Report launched on 16 June 2015 and on ageism from a March 3, 2015  article in The Age (where else?) by then Treasurer Joe Hockey, Ageism in the workplace hurts us all.

Brenda notes that: “men account for a massive 72 per cent of the Australian ICT workforce. Add to that a marked bias towards younger workers and we have a challenge worth solving.” On the benefits of solving the ageism challenge, Brenda quotes statistics from the Joe Hockey article: “Deloitte Access Economics estimates a 3 per cent increase in participation by the over 55s would generate a $33 billion annual boost to the national economy. A 5 per cent increase in participation, would see a $48 billion boost to the economy.”

ICT ageism is not a new issue for Brenda, who says: “Back in 2010, I chaired the ACS Ageism Task Force which released a report calling for greater recognition of the skills and knowledge of older workers. At the time, ACS Employment Surveys for several years had consistently highlighted significant and growing under-utilisation of ICT workers aged 45 years and over.” Brenda also points to the Australian Human Rights Commission’s  2015 National Prevalence Survey of Age Discrimination in the Workplace Report, which revealed that “over a quarter of Australians aged 50+ experienced some form of age discrimination in the last two years. Furthermore, a full third of managers surveyed reported that they factored age into their decision making.”

While we are talking about Australians aged 50+ , we should also be aware of another  point Brenda makes: “While most people assume that ageism is only an issue for older people, ageism actually impacts workers at both ends of the spectrum, with youth unemployment (15-24 years) running at 14 per cent in January, compared to a national jobless rate of 6.3 per cent.”

Brenda also quotes recent statistics on workforce changes which give some cause for optimism. The Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) Future Workforce Report (2015)revealed a substantial increase in part-time and casual employment over the past 30 years for both men and women, a shift which could well suit older workers who want to continue to make a contribution, but no longer wish to work full-time.” Also, ITCRA’s Q1 2015 ICT Employment Trends Report, which shows that “over 90 per cent of advertised roles specify contractors rather than full-time employees.  Since the ICT sector already encourages contract and part-time roles, it’s ideal for people wanting to continue working later in life. The knowledge-based nature of our work also supports those with limited mobility or physical challenges.”

Brenda concludes that Rather than living up to our stereotype of a young man’s game, let’s reinvent ICT as a sector for workers of all ages. Our biggest hurdle is our own perception – by beginning to change those we can make this sector more welcoming, equitable and successful for all.”

Another area where ACS assists in making ICT a sector for workers of all ages is the Startups & Small Business SIG. At a 10th September ACS Women and Startups & Small Business SIG event,  the guest speaker,  Leesa Bauer,  Head of Innovation Partnerships at Westpac spoke  about Innovation, and how Startups can best leverage large corporates to get ahead. While the Startups & Small Business SIG tends to attract  younger entrepreneurs, a September 16, 2015 article in The Conversation suggests that “seniorpreneurs” should not be ignored.  Alex Maritz makes a case for this in  Australia’s next wave of startups could be from the over-55s . Alex is Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship and Innovation; Education Director: ARC Training Centre in Biodevices, Swinburne University of Technology. He quotes new research from the Swinburne University of Technology and Queensland University of Technology, noting that “Senior entrepreneurs are Australia’s fastest-growing segment of entrepreneurs, despite facing significant barriers including ageism and a lack of financial support”.

“Key findings include:

·         34% of all young firms in Australia are now led by seniorpreneurs

·         The average age of seniorpreneurs is 57

·         Seniorpreneurs work about five fewer hours than younger entrepreneurs each week and have almost double the industry experience.

The research also found seniorpreneurs invest, on average, A$1.2 million more in their business than younger entrepreneurs, and their firms earn more than twice the profits.”

Alex notes that seniorpreneurship is becoming a global phenomenon and that much can be done to help seniorpreneurs. He concludes that Governments must act. Assuming entrepreneurship is mostly a “young person’s game” is a form of ageism Australia cannot afford.”

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