The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal agency that administers and enforces civil rights laws against workplace discrimination, sat down for a hearing on the status of diversity in the technology industry and their findings were unsurprising. Their report, Diversity in the Tech Industry, indicates that women and minorities are highly under-represented in the industry, particularly in Silicon Valley, which serves as the pulse for tech.
In Santa Clara County, where many of the top high tech firms are headquartered, whites and Asian Americans each comprised around 45 percent of the total high tech workforce, totaling about 90 percent. That means, on average, of one-hundred workers, only two were African American and fewer than six were Hispanic. Women made up less than one-third of the county’s high tech workforce (28.9 percent). Taken together, these results show under-representation of Black and Hispanic employees in Silicon Valley, and in the heart of Silicon Valley (Santa Clara County) in particular. The same pattern is observed for women.Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Director of the EEOC, Ronald Edwards added, “The distribution … suggests a pattern where women and non-white employment decreases as the job group increases from technicians up to executives.” That is, there appear to be barriers preventing even the small amount of women and minorities in tech from moving up in their field. This hearing and the report illustrate the focus President Obama’s administration has put on technology. They see tech as the key to unlock the “full potential of tomorrow’s economy.”
But missing the contributions of entire segments of the population will necessarily prevent that from happening. As the report indicates, “There are almost twice as many job postings in STEM fields as there are qualified applicants to fill them.” Kweilin Ellingrud, Partner at McKinsey & Company concurs, “There is a critical shortage of Americans in computer science and we will not fill the talent shortages that we face unless we include women and minorities more actively.”
Of course, there is more than the economic argument. It’s a moral imperative for society to work towards enabling all citizens, regardless of their background, to harness their talents.