Does Silicon Valley have a diversity problem?


The media is claiming they do.
See, for example:

Silicon Valley struggles to hack its diversity problem
By Cecilia Kang and Todd C. Frankel
Washington Post, 2015-07-17


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

But fresh data show that top schools are turning out black and Hispanic graduates with tech degrees at rates significantly higher than they are being hired by leading tech firms.

Last year, black students took home 4.1 percent of the bachelor’s degrees in computer science, information technology and computer engineering, according to an annual survey by the Computing Research Association of 121 top U.S. and Canadian colleges. That’s double the average of blacks hired at the biggest tech firms. Hispanics accounted for 7.7 percent of the degrees.

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


The lack of minorities in Silicon Valley has been met by a rising sense of urgency. Firms began disclosing their diversity data last year under pressure from groups such as Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition. And those numbers have underscored the extent of the problem in this tech hotbed, where former start-ups have matured into some of the nation’s leading economic engines.

Jackson rebutted claims by companies that there simply isn’t a robust talent pool of blacks and Latinos. He for years attended shareholder meetings for Apple, Microsoft, Facebook and Google and demanded that the companies release data on their workforces.

“They aren’t looking in the right places,” Jackson said in an interview. “And this doesn’t answer the question of why the vast majority of their workforce — which is non-tech — is also lacking diversity.”


[End of excerpt from the 2015-07-17 Washington Post story;
back to comments by the author of this blog.]

I, the author of this blog, have several comments on the issues raised in the above story,
and in many other similar stories that have appeared in the last few years.

First is a constructive suggestion:

If blacks feel like they have the talent, but are not being hired due to unjustified racial prejudice,
why don't they prove that they are right
by starting their own, black owned, run, and staffed companies
and prove, through the market place,
that blacks can succeed just as well as non-blacks
(I use that description to include Asians, etc. with whites)?
If blacks have the talent,
while no one expects them to compete successfully with such well-established brands as
Microsoft, Apple, Google, etc.,
surely there is some area of the market for high-tech goods
where they could succeed.
Surely there are some politically-correct financiers who would finance such a thing
(if they thought it had a reasonable chance of success).
In addition to the politically-correct venture capitalists and Wall Street figures,
there are also some rather rich black folds
who have made fortunes in entertainment or sports, among other areas.
Winfrey and the Johnsons certainly come to mind,
but there are other blacks who have been paid well for their endeavors,
and surely would be interested in investing their wealth
back in the black community, if they thought it would not be a losing proposition.
Finally, there are loans targeted to minorities.

As to the market for such a business,
surely, in the over 300 million population of the United States,
there are sufficiently many politically-correct consumers
who would, in fact, prefer to buy a product from a black-run and staffed corporation
simply to express their support.

By the way,
I have the same suggestion for those (whom the Washington Post frequently says exist)
who complain about the lack of quality restaurants in heavily black areas in the Washington, D.C. area,
and also about the quality of the Asian-run convenience stores in those areas.
Some of those complaining even call restaurants and stores "amenities."
Well, call me old-fashioned, but I thought restaurants and stores were businesses,
which represent money-making opportunities for their owners and jobs for their employees.
Precisely what is stopping blacks from starting their own restaurants and convenience stores
if they feel the need for such, or don't like the existing ones?

Changing from the "constructive suggestion" to some new issues:

Silicon Valley in fact would seem to be a strong argument for non-diversity,
in the sense of not hiring blacks.
Of all the segments of the U.S. economy,
it seems Wall Street has been by far the most successful financially,
while Silicon Valley has had matchless success in producing great products at ever lower costs.
What more can one ask from industry?
Why argue with success?
Again, if the goal is to product attractive, desirable products at ever lower costs,
as I think it is,
why break up a good thing?
Want to introduce the quality and effectiveness of the U.S. government's cybersecurity operations
(note the U.S. government most certainly has made diversity a goal in its hiring)
to Silicon Valley?

To rephrase the point,
if there are so many talented blacks in the talent pool,
why are so many government operations in the D.C. area such a mess?

Two very prominent examples are the U.S. government's cybersecurity and the D.C. crime lab.
Surely the U.S. Office of Personnel Management under the Obama administration
was not exactly run on racist lines.
One might think that diversity inside the OPM would have been quite prevalent.
Can talented blacks make their mark their, and help the nation?

The D.C. crime lab has not made such headlines,
but has had a record of failure,
despite the D.C. government having invested $220 million in its building and equipment,
with its analysts being described as "not competent."
I don't know the racial makeup of its staff,
but surely if there were talented blacks capable of doing the work at the crime lab,
the D.C. government would not be averse to hiring them.

I am sure the analysis above is incomplete,
but I wonder if its general direction is not accurate:
That the more successful parts of the economy seem to be the least diverse,
while the least successful parts are the most diverse.
Is that a misconception on my part?

Now another news article from the Washington Post:

Obama administration joins the push for diversity in Silicon Valley
By Cecilia Kang
Washington Post, 2015-08-05

[This "news article" is replete with words indicating the bias of the reporter.
They represent her opinions, and constitute editorializing, not reporting.
I have put them in red italics to indicate them.
Also I have highlighted one of her revealing remarks
by putting it on a red background.]

The Obama administration Tuesday joined a push
to increase diversity in the tech sector,
announcing commitments by
an array of venture capital investors and Silicon Valley firms
to hire and promote more women and minorities.

In the announcement,
to be made during the White House's first Demo Day for startups,
40 venture capital firms including Andreessen Horowitz and Kleiner Perkins
promised to focus on funding startups led by female and minority founders.
Companies such as Intel, Box, and Pinterest committed to a battery of programs
including mandatory interviews of minorities in recruiting as well as
partnerships with universities to improve the pipeline for talent.

["improve"? Is imposing a racial and gender spoils system an improvement?
Not in my book.]

The efforts, the most comprehensive from the tech sector yet,
come amid a growing concern that
the most vibrant sector of the economy
is largely leaving out
women and minority workers and leaders.
But even with the White House's support,
it will be difficult to significantly change the embarrassing paucity of diversity
without more explicit and stronger commitments by companies and venture firms,
civil rights groups and political leaders say.

Come on, this isn't reporting; it's editorializing.]

Scrutiny over Silicon Valley's lack of diversity has intensified with
dismal reports on the state of minority hiring
by leading companies such as Facebook, Yahoo, and others.
In particular, the percentage of blacks and Hispanics significantly lag
the number of those minorities obtaining engineering degrees from universities
or their representation in the overall labor force.
And those numbers haven't improved in recent years.
Yahoo said last month that African Americans comprised 2 percent of its workers,
while Hispanics were at 4 percent.
Facebook said last month that it had employed just 81 blacks among its 5,500 U.S. workers in 2014.

Some at these companies say that "unconscious biases" can lead white men who dominate the venture capital world to hire largely among their own social, business and school networks.
And several companies, such as Box, Indiegogo and DropBox, said they will train their staff to be more aware of such issues.

IBM said it would expand its relationship with the group Girls Who Code. Facebook and Microsoft say they are focusing on expanding diversity in its vast ecosystem of corporate partners. Amazon announced plans to change their screening of engineering recruits to lessen potential biases.

And some studies have shown diversity leads to higher financial returns.

"Not only is it the right thing to do,
it's highly profitable to have a diverse team,"
said Obama's top tech aide U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith.

[Yeah, maybe with enough help from Washington
Silicon Valley can have a computer operation as high quality as
that of the OPM,
or the operation that produced the healthcare.gov website.
Washington has such a record of success with managing computer systems, right?]

But some civil rights advocates say the most effective efforts are
to set clear targets for hiring
and to invest heavily in funding startups expressly run by minorities.

"The thrust of the problem is systemic institutional racism.
Unconscious bias tends to reduce the problem to a personal level,
which is not the right way to look at this,"
said Butch Wing, the head of Silicon Valley civil rights efforts for the Rainbow PUSH Coalition.

[Yeah, maybe with enough push from the black community
America can have an economy like, say, Nigeria or Kenya have.]

Some tech companies said they would do more than just train workers.
This week, Intel said it would double its recruitment referral bonus of women, minority and veteran job candidates
and has set a goal of making its workforce reflect the demographics of the overall labor force in five years.
The company has also committed $250 million in funding of minority-run startups.