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As a man grows older

Ubiquity, Volume 2000 Issue April, April 1 - April 30, 2000 | BY


Full citation in the ACM Digital Library

In 1991 at 50 years old I was laid off. At the last section meeting (with my supervisor) the statement was made that "There is going to be a layoff. The younger members of staff do not need to worry." The ACM generously provided me with a free subscription, but in no other way contributed to my welfare.

In February 2000 I was given a performance appraisal which lies the groundwork for a layoff. I am 59. The appraisal and the facts are not consistent, but there is little that I can do but wait.

In the 16 Mar 1998 issue of US News and World Report there was an article on age discrimination, particularly in the computing field. Look about you, where are the "old one's"? (See

For the last several years, high tech has clamored for foreign workers to hire because of the lack of U.S. citizen talent, with each such effort insisting that the talent to be hired would be hired at equitable rates. However, I have seen Ph.D's (from Communist China) willing to work for $40k/year as programmers while U.S. citizens over age 40 are having difficulty finding fair market employment.

Historically, salary surveys have shown that age and years in the employment pool retard earnings.

Why not produce a Ubiquity series under the auspices of the ACM showing where the talent is and what the hiring practices are; and highlighting the plight of the talented "old" in getting employment (at all) and receiving an equitable salary for labor. And take a position. After being a member of the ACM for my entire work life (32 years), it behooves me to berate this organization for its total lack of interest in supporting its "aged." I can't remember any single statement of the ACM offered proactively on behalf of their members who are being discriminated on in a wholesale manner. I do remember many proactive and concerned articles and statements about our colleagues in the Soviet Union (during the 80s). Is the ACM only for justice for the foreign-born and not for those born in the U.S.? And does the ACM believe that its interests are best served by making statements and claims about persons, institutions, governments, and political arenas in which it has little influence?

I am tired of being old. It's not fun. It has no glamour at the end. I get no brass ring when done. It is unpleasant to face age and the economic uncertainty that this "youth" profession brings with it. It would be worthwhile for my professional organization to at least tilt at this windmill.

[Editorial Note: We asked the author of these comments how he would like to be identified, and he replied with the following postscript.]

As anything but me. I expect my layoff notice soon, and if it occurs I will probably seek judicial review and compensation. If, as I think likely, the layoff is going to be a general layoff, then it is unlikely that there will be much credence given to my suffering age discrimination; at least the battle will be more up than down. In any case, my situation does not lend itself well to being identified as anything but someone else, and the issue is too important to provide a flippant or humorous pseudonym.

With any name used there is always the danger of managers seeing a name and misconstruing it to be one of their own will draw both an unfortunate assumption and take an unfortunate action. So, I am in a quandary as to what to say concerning a name. Anonymous seems callous and shallow: avoiding an issue by the subterfuge of hiding in anonymity.

I think that I would like to leave the decision as to what to call me up to you. The issues presented above and my fear of suffering personal consequences from being identified will allow you to appreciate and respect the position that I and others are in.

I would like to thank you for taking the time to write and expressing an interest in making this a collective experience. I will frankly tell you that when laid off at 50, I was lucky. Very, very lucky. I found a job. I left my home (not merely my house), and my state (not merely the state where I lived), and I found a job. I did not become despondent and stop looking -- or as some did, just give up everything and die. I would only add that I sent out more than 300 resumes over about ten months and went to numerous interviews (some in which the interviewers were not interested in the quality of my work as a new employee but rather in the quality of my work as a "free" consultant.

And so for others I thank you. It is possible that your little article and request to others for information will bring forth more fruit than the tree can hold. But please ensure that all correspondents will have some sort of anonymity or the desperate who are on a desperate journey will not respond.

There are always stories to tell. I am glad that you are seeking them out.


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