WORK-LIFE BALANCE / JUL. 28, 2015
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Silicon Valley's Diversity Issues

In February, Facebook turned 11 years old. Perhaps that explains why the company, managed and operated by the “white boys’ club,” continues to make headlines about its immaturity. In March, one of Facebook’s former product managers, Chia Hong filed a lawsuit against the company for sexual harassment and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

See Also: Tech Geeks Still Dream of Working for Google

According to The New York Times, Hong claimed that she was let go because she’s a Taiwanese woman. But despite its obvious shortcomings, the social networking site is still considered the king of the Web platforms; and it is used by 57 percent of all American adults and 73 percent of teens, according to the Pew Research Center.

And there’s also Facebook’s playmate, Google, that has taken over. Earlier this year, the mega-giant tech company was ranked first amongst “the most visited multi-platform web properties in the United States with 242 million U.S. unique visitors and a market share of 64.2 percent among the leading U.S search engine providers.” But it also has engaged in some juvenile behavior that has landed it in the news. In February, Google’s former software engineer, Kelly Ellis posted comments that she was repeatedly sexually harassed by two of her managers. As reported by the SF Weekly, Ellis posted both on Google+ and Twitter that:

“It was Rod Chavez saying to me in Maui, ’It’s taking all of my self-control not to grab your ass right now.’

And according to a new report, the irresponsibility of Silicon Valley’s children continues. The question is: what can be done about tech-companies’ infantile behavior when it comes to diversity? Perhaps, one forward-thinking company can help lead the way.

Village of the Dammed

It’s no secret that Silicon Valley is nothing more than a “white boys’ club”. But until recently, the world had no idea by how much. It had taken years for some of largest tech companies to release its diversity data. But over the last couple of months, the severity of the issue has finally been made public.

Last week, Yahoo revealed that only 2 percent of the company’s workforce are African Americans, while only 4 percent are Hispanics. A few days earlier, Facebook admitted that the platform giant only has 81 African American workers “among its 5,500 U.S. workers,” says The Washington Post reporter, Cecilia Kang.

“Silicon Valley has a diversity problem, a contentious issue that has come into sharper focus in recent months as tech firms have sheepishly released updates on their hiring of minorities. The companies have pledged to do better.”

But was that just another empty promise or PR tactic? Last year, Google claimed that it would do a better job of recruiting more women and minorities after the first set of diversity data disclosures were released. According to Inc.com, the overall U.S. workforce is over 90 percent white and Asian at Facebook, LinkedIn, and yes, Google too. At all four companies, says Inc.com, only 3 to 4 percent of employees are Hispanic and 2 percent black. When it comes to gender, approximately 70 percent of the workers at each company are men. Although no significant progress has been made, Google still maintained its continued commitment toward improving diversity in a blog post. So what’s the issue with hiring more women and minorities?

“Many point to the talent pipeline as one of the main culprits,” says Kang. “They’d hire if they could, but not enough black and Hispanic students are pursuing computer science degrees, they say.”

But that’s more empty rhetoric. According The Washington Post, statistics show an increase of black and Hispanic STEM students graduating from some of most prestigious universities—“at rates significantly higher than they are being hired by leading tech firms.” And The Washington Post points to an annual survey by the Computing Research Association of 121 top U.S. and Canadian colleges that shows last year 4.1 percent of African American and 7.7 percent of Hispanic students obtained bachelor’s degrees in computer science, information technology, and computer engineering, which is “double the average of blacks hired at the biggest tech firms.”

“It would be a more convincing argument if their numbers more closely tracked what we were producing,” Stuart Zweben, an Ohio State computer science professor who helped conduct the survey, told The Washington Post. “And Silicon Valley’s diversity problem exists not just on the tech side.”

Maybe, it’s time for the tech-companies, who are serious about being more inclusive, to look outside of Silicon Valley.

The Outsiders

Other well-known U.S. companies are making significant strides when it comes to promoting diversity and racial equality. Take Starbucks, for example, that launched the “Race Together” campaign in March. Developed in response to the recent wave of racial incidents that occurred in the U.S., the campaign abruptly ended because of the social media backlash. However, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz later promised to launch a similar campaign sometime in the future.

“This week, the company announced two initiatives that that seek to address the economics of racial inequality in America,” says The Washington Post reporter, Abby Phillip. “On Thursday, Starbucks announced that it will open 15 stores in low-income neighborhoods - including one in the heart of Ferguson’s West Florissant neighborhood.”

The Ferguson, Miss. location was selected because it’s where the death of Michael Brown occurred, the black teen that was killed by a white police officer. Other locations, with large minority populations, include Milwaukee; Jamaica, Queens in New York; and Chicago’s South Side, according to The Washington Post. So why is Starbucks doing it? Blair Taylor, chief community officer for Starbucks and chair of the Starbucks Foundation, told The Washington Post:

“We want to be part of the solution in these communities and help create a sustainable future for those who may be looking for a second chance.”

The coffee giant also plans to hire the minorities who live in those communities; especially black youth who is currently experiencing one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, according to The Washington Post.

See Also: #GenderDiscrimination: Twitter is the latest Tech-giant to be Sued by a Woman

Perhaps the “white boys’ club” in Silicon Valley can follow Starbucks’ lead. After all, it seems that the tech companies are vastly becoming the real outsiders in America.

 

 

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