Earlier today, on a Wall St. Journal tech blog stats were published showing that a large majority of workers at well known Silicon Valley tech companies are white or asian. This follows some news of the last several weeks where tech companies are acknowledging this.
The question is: Is this a problem?
And the next: If so, can it be solved?
And lastly: If so, what is the one solution or what are the multiple solutions to the problem?
I’d argue that it is a problem. The world is in a knowledge economy and the more Americans that can participate in the knowledge economy, the better for America. The lack of diversity reflects a lack of participation in the field and thus portions of the country not participating in the economy, as full as possible.
Yes, there is extrapolation going on here – large companies predominantly housed in Silicon Valley is being used as a proxy for all tech, and tech being a proxy for the best portions of the economy in the nation.
But, when they say that small companies grow the economy, it isn’t someone selling stamps or vitamins, it is companies that have venture capital like the beginnings of Facebook and such.
Tech companies start with some tech guys with an idea. They borrow. Then they go for venture capital. Venture Capitalists want to ensure that the plan is sound and/or that they have some proven leadership. The companies try to staff up with the best staff they can.
Meanwhile, the tech companies are in fierce competition for talent (except when they collude to keep wages down). So, tech companies in Silicon Valley have glorious headquarters and are willing to shuttle staff down from San Francisco.
So, when selecting candidates from college, what would tech companies look for? Graduates with STEM degrees, of course. And what does that diversity look like? According to this site, , in 2011 75% of grads in Comp Sci were White or Asian.
In addition, those who start college pursuing STEM degrees, under represented minorities are less successful in completing those programs than others. And this can be tied to how they perform in high school. Minorities are known not to perform as well. In 2013 it was said, “This year only 15 percent of blacks and 23 percent of Latinos met or exceeded the SAT benchmark for college and career readiness.”
So, this does not really seem to be a problem with the tech companies. You don’t hear how NFL teams aren’t recruiting enough from the Ivy League. Going back to the question: Is this a problem? Yes. More specifically, is it the tech companies’ problem? No.
Can the problem of minority participation in tech be solved? Maybe. It needs to be done in earlier years. In high school and earlier, logic and cause & effect, need to be taught. Taking on the subject of the problem with public schools is beyond this blog, but the point is that the diversity in tech outcomes are results of issues long before it gets to employers.
Jim – 06/19/14 @itbycrayon (I don’t accept general LinkedIn invites – but if you say you read my blog, it will change my mind)