Engineer Takes Up Petition Asking White House to Examine Age Discrimination in STEM Fields

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The right to petition the federal government for a redress of grievances is guaranteed in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. If you haven’t heard of it, back in September 2011, the Obama administration launched a feature called “We the People” on the site that allows anyone 13 or older to create and sign petitions on a range of issues affecting the nation. If a petition reaches a signature threshold-25,000 signatures in 30 days-and complies with other basic requirements, the Administration will review the petition and issue an official response.

Do Layoffs Target Older Workers?

In September 2012, our colleagues at IEEE’s The Institute asked readers to answer the question "Do Layoffs Target Older Workers?"  Take a look at the December 2012 issue of The Institute for a selection of reader responses.

Petitioners’ requests have ranged from the absurd (e.g., construction of a Star Wars-esque Death Star to “spur job creation in the fields of construction, engineering, space exploration, and more, and strengthen our national defense”) and nationalizing the Twinkie Industry “to prevent our nation from losing her sweet creamy center,”) to the profound (e.g., “Support and fund medical research to develop treatments and cures for traumatic brain injuries”).

Given the range of issues petitioned (seceding from the nation is a popular one), the White House may have opened Pandora’s Box by launching this site, but public discourse is, and should be, a critical part of formulating public policy. Giving “the people” an online forum for raising important issues-and venting about other -is a good start.

In November 2012, Kenneth Davis, a self-described “51-year-old, long-term-unemployed, degreed mechanical engineer” in Tennessee added a petition to "Examine the practice of age discrimination against STEM workers and the ‘shortage-of-scientists-and-engineers’-claim."

Davis’ petition argues that, despite claims of skilled worker shortages, America has a sufficient supply of STEM graduates already, and that corporate America is forcing STEM graduates out of these fields. He believes that age discrimination plays a large part in "U.S. companies routinely overworking, underpaying, demoralizing, and discarding many of our best minds (…at the peak of their powers…) at a time when competition has never been fiercer, nor the stakes higher."

IEEE-USA strongly supports greater public, private and cooperative efforts to promote more diverse and inclusive opportunities for aspiring and incumbent workers with degrees in scientific, technical, engineering and math (STEM) fields by:


  • Strengthening the teaching of math and science in the nation’s elementary and secondary schools


  • Encouraging more women, minorities, disabled, disadvantaged and older Americans to view the STEM professions as a viable and rewarding career choice


  • Bolstering mentoring, career counseling and other vocational support services for gifted and talented pre-college, community college and university students


  • Accommodating those who need to take time away from their careers to raise a family and who need pathways to enable their return


  • Implementing objective, performance- and results-oriented recruitment, hiring, compensation, staff development, promotion and retention strategies


  •  Recognizing and rewarding the value of experience and investing in lifelong learning opportunities for  STEM professionals


  • Improving job opportunities for those who have been disadvantaged by socioeconomic  status, affordability of training, or who have been out of the work force for  extended periods of time


  • Disclaiming any preference, limitation, specification, or discrimination in employment that can be construed to be related to an employee’s age, race, sex or national origin


  • Ensuring opportunities for older workers who wish to continue their careers, and accommodating those who opt for phased retirement, job-sharing, or other non-traditional  ways of working


If you agree with Mr. Davis, you can read and sign his petition at:

(Signers are required to sign up for an account).

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