Age Discrimination and Technology - Is the CIO Job Title Misused?


Age discrimination is a difficult topic to discuss but a situation experienced by many. We know it occurs on a daily basis when hiring for executive jobs, but it is almost impossible to provide precise evidence that it has occurred. Search CIO recently wrote an interesting article about age discrimination and the CIO job, drawing opinions from a number of recruitment leaders.

Here we have summarised the prominent themes in the research in an attempt to answer the question posed in the article, 'Do you think the CIO job more vulnerable to age discrimination than other C-suite positions?'

Reasons for yes:

1.       Experts in the article highlight that there is an inherent belief that younger executives are more connected to innovation and current IT trends.

2.       The search for a CIO is particularly difficult due to the requirements of strong technical knowledge and general management skills, increasing the fear of having to go through the process again if an older executive should retire. Hiring clients are then drawn towards younger but (almost) equally experienced candidates.Then as CIO’s start younger than other C-suite positions, the problem is accentuated.

3.       Lack of knowledge about the CIO role – organizations often begin a search for a CIO with the idea of a having a hand’s on, technical employee, failing to realise that the CIO position should be people and technology management, not programming. For example, smaller start-ups who need a hands on approach, not an operational CIO, are more likely to go younger.

Reasons for no:

1.       Experience will always win for c-level positions – having previous employers be able to vouch for your work and a proven track record of success, comes above the desire for a younger ‘connected’ executive with less experience. Large fortune 1000 companies are unlikely to hire inexperienced executives as they need what the article calls an ‘Operational CIO’ – managing people and operations on a global scale.

The number of reasons suggesting age discrimination is more pronounced when hiring for CIO executive positions is clearly higher. However, organizations who are more informed about what the role should be - people and operational management - are more likely to go for experience and fit, rather than age.

Unfortunately I do see the connection between youth and technology being shed anytime soon and age discrimination will continue to be experienced in hiring for CIO's, but if the main reason for hiring young is to get a ‘hands on’ (programming / process) leader, then perhaps the CIO job title should be used more carefully instead.


This article was written by Christian Pielow from the Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC).

BlueSteps is the exclusive service of the AESC that puts senior executives on the radar screen of over 6,000 executive search professionals in over 70 countries. Be visible, and be considered for up to 50,000 opportunities handled by AESC search firms every year. Find out more at www.BlueSteps.com.


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