A venture capital executive draws on a wide variety of business, government, and societal trends to illustrate how most major challenges facing younger adults are exacerbated by age biases. 2011 eLit award winner.
Venture capital investor Lerner calls attention to the alarmingly prevalent, counter-productive discrimination that thwarts young adults in the United States from making their mark on the culture.
It’s Lerner's desire to right a somewhat inconspicuous but pernicious, sweeping wrong: Young adults, say in the age range of 18 to their mid-30s, do not have nearly the same opportunities as older adults, which "is unfair, unjustified, and unsustainable, and therefore discriminatory." (That discrimination is even written into the Constitution; witness the age requirements for various offices.) Adding to the young adults' problematical situation, adults who are upwards of 40 years old have used their baseless entitlement to take a myopically short-term approach to their political, fiscal and social responsibilities—from natural resource depletion to issues of public debt, infrastructure and healthcare—which are then fobbed off on young adults to handle. Lerner can get a little hot under the collar when addressing the more egregious, mean-spirited acts perpetrated by oldsters, and the fumes add a nice acrid bite to the proceedings. But mostly he has plain-spoken commonsense, backed by a thoughtful array of statistics, on his side as he asks that if we are going to demand that 18-year-olds are adults, they must be given a fair, equal shot at tapping into the many great potential benefits that come with those responsibilities. Lerner presents all the roadblocks young adults find as they pursue careers in medicine, law, academia and the corporate world—"[p]romotions do not come quickly when there are layers of older mid-level executives clamoring for the executive suite," especially when seniority is the measure of all things—as well as plenty of instances in which youth trumped age in thoughtful decision-making. Most of all, he makes the case for the youthful qualities of risk, thinking big and embracing innovation as a boon for the greater commonweal, and the importance of high-quality jobs being available, through merit, to young adults.
Spirited and grounded, Lerner's condemnation of the institutional nature of youth discrimination and plea for fairness is, quite simply, right on.