Silicon Valley’s Male Tech Workers are Using Cosmetic Surgery to Get Ahead

January 20, 2020 | Katrina Hinrichsen

Man marked with lines for plastic surgery looking away

Attention to physical appearance and anti-ageing is often deemed a requirement for a woman to achieve career success. Now a recent report from The Washington Post reveals that men in Silicon Valley are also feeling the pressure and are getting plastic surgery in order to succeed at work.

Male tech workers are said to be exploring procedures such as Botox, laser treatments, eye and neck lifts, fillers and radio frequency microneedling - a technique that stimulates collagen and rejuvenates the skin. In fact, according to figures from the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, cosmetic procedures for men have tripled in popularity since 1997, with 1.2 million going under the knife in 2015.

Middle-aged tech professionals based in San Francisco are looking to plastic surgery to conceal their age and help them fit in with a workforce who are often fresh out of college and believed to possess youthful passion and a knack for innovation. But rather than call it anti-ageing, Silicon Valley appears to have rebranded the trend as "optimizing" your appearance, helping to disguise the negative associations.

Plastic surgeon Larry Fan stated, "In Silicon Valley, it's commonly believed that if you're over the age of 35, you're seen as over the hill. People here value the young for their passion and their ability to look at things in new ways." For Fan, around 25% of his patients are men who work in the tech industry.

Silicon Valley tech worker Daniel, 48, commented that "Back in the early 2000s and late '90s people didn't worry too much about how you looked. But there's a whole new generation of workers here, and they have created different expectations and that starts with appearance. You see more people in shape and looking fashionable now." He added that if those in the workplace discover "you're older than everyone else", it will have an impact on "what roles you get."

business people group on meeting at modern bright office indoors. Senior  businessman as leader in discussion.

Ageism is becoming so serious that multiple lawsuits and investigations have arisen recently, alleging that age discrimination is a common occurrence in some of Silicon Valley's biggest companies. 

In 2019, some 230 job applicants over 40 years old were paid $11 million by Google after claiming there was a 'systematic pattern' of age bias in the internet giant's hiring process. 

Robert Heath launched the lawsuit in 2015, arguing that the tech heavyweight engaged in a practice of discriminating against individuals who are age 40 and older in hiring, compensation, and other employment decisions. Heath was denied a software engineering position in 2011, when he was 60, even though he had the required qualifications and was regarded as "a great candidate" by a recruiter.

In Heath’s lawsuit it surfaced that the median age for a Google employee in 2013 was 29, much lower than the median age for a computer programmer in the US, which was 43 in 2015, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The problem is widespread. Indeed’s 2017 report on ageism in the tech industry stated: "It’s there in the clichéd but widespread perception that employees need to be young to have a good grasp of the latest technology. And it’s there in startup cultures that push for long hours and low pay, which are hardly friendly to older workers with families."

In 2019, CWJobs sent out a survey to 2,000 UK workers and an additional 250 people working in tech and IT who have experienced ageism in a bid to explore the problem. The findings, visualized below, were eye-opening and disheartening:

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Age prejudice is the elephant in the room that is typically going unaddressed. And it’s causing anxiety, as 43% of tech workers worry about losing their job due to their age. Peculiar, isn’t it, that the older professionals become, the more concerned they feel about their careers despite their acknowledged high qualifications.

There is a serious disconnect and contradiction here when you consider that at the same time, 85% of people in tech believe their employers care about diversity. Perhaps companies need to do more than just voice their interest, but actually put measures into place that will help to improve diversity - inclusive of culture, religion, gender and age - in the tech industry.

HR and recruiting professionals can help by incorporating age-inclusive language and practices into their initiatives to aid the tech ecosystem's diversity and to ensure that the value and experience of older employees are not being left untapped.


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