Image by Stuart Miles
For all the hoopla and declarations by companies promising to improve diversity not a lot is happening. As matter of fact some companies have delayed or outright resisted releasing certain diversity data.
According to the Wall Street Journal Twitter, Pinterest and Salesforce.com delayed their diversity reports for more than a year.
Salesforce.com finally released its diversity data in December. The numbers showed little has changed. According to the company the release was delayed to accomodate the hiring of a diversity leader. That job went to Tony Prophet who will focus on initiatives to bring greater diversity to the business software company. Prophet came over from Microsoft where he was was co-executive sponsor of Blacks at Microsoft and founding executive of BlackLight, an organization for black marketers at Microsoft.
Google and Facebook have tried to increase diversity but failed to make any real progress. According to TechCrunch.com Googles’s chief of diversity, Nancy Lee, maybe leaving the company.
Lee joined Google in 2006 to focused on Google’s diversity efforts as the director of people operations in 2010 becoming vice president of that division in 2013. Lee managed to increase the number women in the company by one percent but the number of blacks and Latinos did not change at all.
Facebook’s diversity data is also nothing to brag about. The latest diversity report showed that only 2 percent of its U.S. workforce is African-American and only 4 percent are Hispanic. Facebook has made respectable progress in hiring minorities into leadership positions. According to the company 9 percent of new senior leadership hires in the U.S. are African-American and 5 percent are Latino. Women in leadership positions at Facebook has increased from 23 percent to 27 percent in a year.
But the lack of diversity is not the sole fault of the tech industry. There are other factors that must be taken into account. Many black and Latinos computer science majors choose not to go into the tech field. Why?
According to the Census Bureau American Community Survey forty percent of Asian graduates pursued technology careers compared to only 16 percent of black graduates and 12 percent of Latinos. .
Ten percent of black computer science and engineering graduates end up with office, administrative support or accounting jobs, compared with 5 percent of white graduates and 3 percent of Asians.
Maya A. Beasley, a sociologist at the University of Connecticut studied U.S. Department of Education data for her book; “Opting Out: Losing the Potential of America’s Young Black Elite.” According to Beasley black students were less likely than white students to continue in the major if they felt that there were underperforming. In addition African-American students who stayed in the major were less likely to apply for technical jobs choosing instead to pursue nonprofit or business work instead. Others failed to seek out jobs in technology because of the percieved atmosphere and culture of technology companies as unwelcoming to blacks.
Beasley said; “Any student of color looking at the numbers from the tech giants is going to be turned off and wary about taking a job there because it tells you something about what the climate is. They don’t want to be the token.”
Another major issue is the recruiting process. Many tech companies are seeking talent at the top universities where blacks are not heavily represented. The pipeline to talented students does reach to many historically black universities.
Another issue in the hiring process is the interview. Black colleges may not be properly preparing black students to get the jobs. Technology recruiters conduct interviews by giving code writing candidates whiteboard interviews. A whiteboard interview consists of solving a problem by writing code on a whiteboard. Unlike Asian and white recruits black students are unprepared for this challenge.
Yet another obstacles may the student’s name. Research has shown that many recruiters shy away from black sounding names. This is a common problem among hiring mangers who may have an unconcious racial bias.
Breaking It Down
How is it possible for a major university to find the most incredible black athlete in the most tragic schools and neighborhoods in the country but you can’t find a black student capable of learning computer science? How is this possible? That same questions applies to major tech corporations. High tech companies like Intel, Microsoft, Cisco and the hundreds of other should be able to apply the same search and recruiting skills that a college basketball or footbal coach uses to find capable recruits and apply them to your human resources recruiting. College and pro sports teams identify and track promising atheletes from junior high school to the day of the pro draft. Using extensive record keeping, and yes technology, to track and predict their potential. Why can’t technology companies do the same? Find these promising young men and women in middle school and groom them as your future workers. Get involved when they are young and show interest in their future. Get involved in black and minority schools, public schools. The model is there and the pay off could be huge. If you would just try.