Over a third of participants in silicon.com’s annual Skills Survey claim to have been victims of ageism but this week’s CIO Jury disputed that claim.

silicon.com has just launched a campaign against ageism in IT on the back of our survey findings and we asked our panel of CIOs and IT directors if ageism is a problem in IT. The results were far from conclusive with seven saying ‘no’ and five saying ‘yes’.

One argument was that while ageism is a problem it is rife throughout society and not just IT. Neil Hammond, IT director at British Sugar said: “I think the problem is a general one of attitudes to ageism and non specific to IT.”

Gavin Whatrup, IT director at Delaney, Lund, Knox, Warren & Partners added: “I don’t think as an industry we are unique in this but we tend to suffer from, and believe in our own publicity, painting IT as a young person’s game. Where experience and communication skills are highly valued, we shoot ourselves in the foot by excluding those who are more likely to have both.”

Hugo Smith, IT director at online spread betting firm Sporting Index, agreed ageism is a problem but said it is not widespread.

“It is very dependant on the size, age and culture of the company itself, but there is no consistency. Clearly many older IT professionals will be very much more experienced in traditional technologies, but may not be as up to speed with the latest technologies, or the rate of change.”

But the verdict swung in favour of the ‘no’ vote with others on the jury maintaining that a balanced workforce is more important than any token gestures to age when recruiting.

Frank Coyle, IT director at John Menzies Distribution, said ageism is just an easy excuse for individuals who fail to get a new job or promotion.

“The real reason that this appears to be an issue is the large number of experienced IT personnel who are approaching retirement and the surge of good, high quality IT people who are available, keen to prove their worth, but have not had the opportunities that the post war ‘baby boomers’ had,” he said.

Graham Benson, IS director and CIO at Screwfix Direct, said: “As the profession matures, it is imperative that we continue to balance raw enthusiasm with the expertise that is generally gained via exposure to a variety of experiences. As with any team, the right balance is the key to success, irrespective of age.”

One explanation for the issue of ageism cropping up on a regular basis is that it is related to the ups and downs of the economy, according to Bill Gibbons, CIO at Abbey Group.

“This seems to be a cyclical activity and debate. In times of downturn one of the more obvious opportunities to reduce costs and headcount, without pain, is consensual retirements. In time of growth, those with knowledge and experience – the old – are key contributors to development and growth.”

Are our CIOs right or do you have a different experience? Let us know by emailing editorial@silicon.com to let us know your story.

This week’s CIO Jury was…

Jeremy Acklam, IT Director, Virgin Trains
Graham Benson, Information Services Director and CIO, Screwfix Direct
Frank Coyle, IT Director, John Menzies Distribution
Bill Gibbons, CIO, Abbey Group
Neil Hammond, IT Director, British Sugar
David Jemitus, Head of IT, Government Planning Portal
Mark Lichtenhein, Director of IT and New Media, The PGA European Tour
Hugo Smith, IT Director, Sporting Index
Pete Smith, Director of IT and Telecoms, Inmarsat
Sinclair Stockman, CIO, BT
Gavin Whatrup, IT Director, Delaney, Lund, Knox, Warren & Partners
Graham Yellowley, Director of Technology, Tokyo-Mitsubishi

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If you are a CIO, IT director or equivalent at a large or small company in the private or public sector and want to be part of silicon.com’s CIO Jury pool, or you know an IT chief who should be, then drop us a line at editorial@silicon.com