Employers have recognized for some time that it's smart business to have a diverse workforce—one in which many views are represented and everyone's talents are valued.

—Thomas Perez, “Our New Year's Resolution”1

Many company leaders talk about embracing diversity, but such conversations typically focus on ethnicity and gender and often neglect to address age. Although discrimination on the basis of ethnicity and gender is indeed a problem in the workplace, age discrimination is also a very real problem—especially for older workers. In a 2013 AARP survey of individuals aged 45 to 74, 64 percent of respondents said they “have seen or experienced age discrimination in the workplace,” with 58 percent saying they believe it starts when a person reaches his or her 50s.2 This environment is shaped in part by the fact that many influential leaders perpetuate the stereotype that younger is better. At the 2011 NASCOMM (National Association for Software and Services Companies) Product Enclave, for example, venture capital investor Vinod Khosla told attendees, “People under 35 are the people who make change happen” and “People over 45 basically die in terms of new ideas” in part because they “[fall] back on old habits.”3 This perception isn't entirely accurate, though, and the data tell a different story—in particular, research by Benjamin Jones of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, which found that life experiences give ...

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