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Silicon Valley the 'most ageist' place in America, investigation says

Even those in their 20s are turning to cosmetic procedures to appear more youthful

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 April, 2014, 3:39am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 April, 2014, 3:39am

Silicon Valley has become the most ageist place in the United States. The tech sector, according to an investigation by The New Republic, does not look kindly on less than perfectly smooth skin - and even twentysomethings are now turning to cosmetic surgery to keep their youthful looks.

The logic is plain. "People over the age of 45 basically die in terms of new ideas," said Vinod Khosla, the practically prehistoric 59-year-old Indian-American entrepreneur who co-founded Sun Microsystems and is now a venture capitalist, in 2011.

Mark Zuckerberg, the still-not-quite 30-year-old CEO of Facebook, put it even more succinctly at Stanford while still a youthful 22: "Young people," he said, "are just smarter."

The result, The New Republic reveals, is not just a college-style culture in which youthful employees work all hours then party till they drop and companies provide jamming studios, table tennis, scooters and skateboards for out-of-hours (or even in-hours) relaxation, but a real fear of appearing old, which is to say past about 35. Thirtysomethings say they "avoid the sun to escape premature wrinkling".

One Silicon Valley recruitment consultant told the magazine he recommended anyone over 40 used a professional photographer for their LinkedIn profile pic, "so they exude energy and vigour, not fatigue".

More alarmingly, even young tech workers are seeking surgical help. A leading Bay Area plastic surgeon, Seth Matarasso, said he had recently turned away a 26-year-old who wanted hair transplants because of an incipient bald patch. The most in-demand interventions, Matarasso told the magazine, were laser treatment for broken blood vessels, ultrasound therapy to tighten skin and, above all, Botox to firm up the mouth, neck and eye surrounds. Fridays are his busiest days, because his thirtysomething patients then have the weekend for post-op swellings to subside - and can keep the treatment secret from their twentysomething colleagues.

Things don't appear a great deal better in the UK tech sector, where three out of four IT professionals told a 2011 survey by the IT recruitment consultancy Greythorn that the industry discriminates against older workers.

"Tech can be a bit like the music business," said one 49-year-old British software engineer who asked not to be named. "At some point in your career, the things that made you desirable - flexibility, adaptability, the time and energy and drive to stay abreast of new developments and just work, work, work - start to fade. What you're left with - experience - simply isn't worth as much as what you've lost."