Silicon Valley holds a perception of inclusion and progressiveness. Even a recent Intel commercial featured an Indian man as the company’s own rock star – and other tech companies have done the same. But the release of recent data shows stark contrasts between these images and the reality of visible minorities in Silicon Valley.
The truth is that most high-tech entrepreneurs are not white Mark Zuckerbergs who get it all figured out in Harvard dorm rooms. Most tech entrepreneurs cut their teeth while working in successful (and sometimes unsuccessful) technology companies within the industry. Only after getting some real world wisdom and experience do most entrepreneurs leave the ranks of the employed to start their own companies.
HITC Tech reports figures from Google, Yahoo, and LinkedIn that reveal that their work force is more than sixty percent male—a 10% overshot of the general population (not terrible compared to other industries). But when it comes to race, African-American and Hispanic workers often accounted for less than ten percent of their total worker population. Throughout the general U.S. population, African-Americans and Hispanics make up almost 30%. What’s even more telling is that this ten percent minority is paid less on average than the reset of the workforce.
So who is to blame for Silicon Valley’s lopsided distribution of minorities? The explanations include the usual suspects – starting with education, where often-referenced statistics point to a lack of exposure to math and science for minorities and women, thus excluding them from technology jobs. One problem with this explanation, however, is that many of the jobs in Silicon Valley are in sales, marketing, and public relations, where the race gap is most easy to see.
Mindfulness (simply acknowledging these disparities) is one important step for tech companies who are hoping to close the gap. So is finding opportunities to reach minority communities and invite them to apply for permanent positions and internships that could give them the exposure they might need to move into tech companies and eventually form their own enterprises. Platform is an organization trying to do just that. This past October, Platform partnered with Morehouse College and the Level Playing Field Institute to pull together an academy to immerse minority students in math and science. The initiative is known as the 10,000 Innovators Fund. It’s aim is to boost the number of minorities in science and engineering programs.
Once more minorities are involved in the engineering heart of Silicon Valley, opportunities for everyone, inside and outside of these businesses, can benefit from a new diversity of ideas and perspectives.