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Friday, July 5, 2013

Technology Workers Are Young (Really Young)

It’s well known that technology is a young man’s game. Still, it is surprising to see just how young (and how male).

PayScale, a company based in Seattle, has determined that the median age of workers at many of the most successful companies in the technology industry, along with information on gender and years of experience.

Just six of the 31 companies it looked at had a median age greater than 35 years old. Seven of the companies, the study said, had median employee age of 30 or younger. Women were generally less than 30 percent of the work force, and in fields like semiconductors, represented much less than that.

While the results may affirm a widely held hunch, they are nonetheless striking: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the overall median age of American workers is 42.3 years old. The company with the oldest workers on the PayScale list, Hewlett - Packard, came in at 41 years.

The other five companies with older workers, in descending order of median age, were I.B.M. Global Services (38 years old), Oracle (38), Nokia (36), Dell (37) and Sony (36).

The seven companies with the youngest workers, ranked from youngest to highest in median age, were Facebook (28); Zynga (28); Google (29); and AOL, Blizzard Entertainment, InfoSys, and Monster.com (all 30). According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only shoe stores and restaurants have workers with a median age less than 30.

Median age means that an equal number of workers are above and below the figure. In large populations, the number is considered representative. PayScale, which surveys many industries, says it covers 3 percent of the American work force, an amount that could yield meaningful results.

Not surprisingly, the companies with older workers tend to be older companies, because some people still stay with one employer for many years, and over time a company may accumulate more of these people. Cisco Systems has a median worker age of 35, and both Samsung and Microsoft come in at 34. These companies also tend to have workers with a lot more experience.

Younger companies tend to have workers with less time at the firm, which is partly an effect of being new and hiring intensively in recent years. Facebook’s median worker has been with the company just 1.1 years, while Intel, I.B.M., Oracle and others come in around six years.

Other factors are also in play, however. “The firms that are growing or innovating around new areas tend to have younger workers,” said Katie Bardaro, the lead economist at PayScale. “Older companies that aren’t changing with the times get older workers.”

One reason for this, she said, was a function of skills. “Baby Boomers and Gen Xers tend to know C# and SQL,” she said. C# is a software language, while SQL is a database technology. She added, “Gen Y knows Python, social media, and Hadoop,” which are newer versions of those things.

Amazon.com, notably, has a median stay with the company of just one year, a figure Ms. Bardaro ascribed to the intense pace of work there. (The study did not include workers in Amazon’s warehouses, where skills and turnover are different.) “We’re based in Seattle, and know a lot of people at Amazon,” she said. “The consensus is that you are run through a gamut there, make money, burn out and leave.”

The survey was derived from information PayScale gets from individuals who come to PayScale seeking employment information, and volunteer their data to share information from others. PayScale, which works with LinkedIn, sells its data to human resources departments. Ms. Bardaro said her company had also backed up the information with third-party data, to confirm the numbers.