This Is Why Tech’s Diversity Won’t Change Any Time Soon

Diversity Puzzle

Since Google last week gave the world a look at the diversity of its workforce–or lack thereof–the tech media has been full of articles dissecting what most people already knew: The industry is pretty much male and white.

Google said that just 30 percent of its employees are women, 3 percent are Hispanic and 2 percent are black. In technical roles, 60 percent are white and 17 percent are women. For comparison’s sake, women make up 47 percent of American workers overall, and represent 20 percent of all software developers. Eighty percent of American workers are white, 12 percent are black and 5 percent are Asian.

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Companies say the lack of diversity reflects the pool of available talent. They point out that they’ve undertaken a number of efforts to encourage more women and minorities to pursue STEM degrees. But that’s a long-term solution, and many question whether the issue isn’t really more about workplace culture. The overwhelmingly white and male tech workplace, they say, isn’t welcoming to people who don’t fit in with the existing demographics.

After Google released its numbers, Business Insider talked about diversity with Shellye Archambeau, CEO of MetricStream, which calls itself a governance, risk and compliance solutions provider. The website calls her one of the “smartest black people in tech.” (Given her track record at places like IBM, NorthPoint Communications, Blockbuster and Loudcloud, she’s undoubtedly smart but it seems ironic that BI pigeonholes her as one of the smartest black people in tech.).

Archambeau’s main points:

First, diversity is a governance issue: If a company’s leadership wants its workforce to be diverse, it will be. Noting that California is one of the “most diverse and liberal states,” she said, “If Silicon Valley wanted to solve this issue, it would be solved.”

Second, she thinks things are moving in the right direction, at least as far as women are concerned. She notes that Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Yahoo and Xerox are all led by women. “Every day they inspire us through their leadership, they broaden our perspectives, and they help tear down the structures, hierarchies, barriers–real or perceived–that might otherwise hold us back.”

Truth is, Archambeau’s not saying anything new here, but her words are another indicator that tech’s leadership recognizes there’s a problem to be solved. The question becomes when will executives, educators and tech professionals themselves decide the issue is something to face now, not over the years as the talent pipeline shakes out. Changing the proportion of women and minorities pursuing STEM careers is an admirable goal, but the results won’t be seen for some time to come. Google’s willingness to bring the conversation out into the open is an encouraging sign, but it won’t mean much if other brand names don’t follow suit.

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Comments

  1. BY max says:

    Tech has no diversity problem. Tech has an exclusion problem.

    Exhbit A: UW MBA @ cost 70K USD paid for by the employee’s company

    http://www.foster.washington.edu/academic/tmmba/Documents/TMMBA_roster_2012.pdf

    A survey of other MBA programs yields essentially the same distribution.

  2. BY KDeveloper says:

    I have helped hire at many companies for software engineers. I would say less 1% were females. They may be including H1 visa which many companies don’t sponser and hope for very long term US Citizens. Statistics are easy to manipulate to get your point across.

    I would say large companies beg for minorities and female software engineers. They even have the upper hand even if they don’t meet the minimum criteria.

    I think it’s somewhat cultural. If you look 20 years ago. How many males were nurses. Men are starting to be accepted as nurses and it can be a great career. Think about it how many little girls say “I want to be IT Pro”?

    • BY Nightcrawler says:

      —– large companies beg for minorities and female software engineers. They even have the upper hand even if they don’t meet the minimum criteria.—–

      That wasn’t my experience at all. When I got my Math/CIS degree, employers treated me the same way they would have treated a man who did not have at least 3-5 years of experience, an extensive portfolio, and complete fluency in at least a half a dozen programming languages. They weren’t interested in me.

      Not that I feel I should have been given special treatment. I’m just mad that I got a degree that is worthless in the job market due to no entry-level positions being available.

      • BY Violet Weed says:

        You make your own luck, dearie. If you don’t have the skills or experience you think are wanted, GET THEM. It is not difficult nor expensive to do so, though it does take some time. Sell yourself to smaller companies and agree to work for ‘entry-level’ pay. Do you know understand that everyone has to do that? Remember that H.R. is NOT in the business of HIRING people, but KEEPING PEOPLE OUT OF THEIR CORPORATION. Find out who is the hiring manager, and ask to become an ‘intern’, an unpaid intern if necessary. I DID IT when I first when into the technology world at the age of 12 (after having graduated from high school two years earlier and then finally getting legally emancipated).
        Do I have to list the websites that offer FREE training? No, I won’t, do your own googling (we know Bing won’t help).
        Start your own freelance business. Sign up on sites like fiverr.com and advertise your skillsets. Do something technical but free of charge for a family member or neighbor who owns a business. Voila! Now you have a reference and a client who can refer you to others. Struggle, learn, grow. THE SAME AS THE REST OF US HAD TO DO.

        • BY Nightcrawler says:

          Wow, you sound like a lovely individual. I’ll bet you’ve got lots of friends!

          You know absolutely nothing about me or what I have struggled with. I did not expect to receive more than entry-level pay. I was willing to work for minimum wage. Heck, I took a job at a car lot for 12 weeks where I was paid LESS than minimum wage ($300/week for 48+ hours a week). I couldn’t, and cannot, afford to work for FREE. I am an adult with bills, not a kid being supported by her parents. And I am *vehemently* against welfare.

          The car lot didn’t pay much, but at least they paid me *something,* and I wasn’t doing highly skilled work. They were training me to sell cars. Car sales turned out not to be for me, but I did it because I was desperate for money…and like I said, I don’t believe in welfare.

          Being as a car lot is willing to pay $300/week to people with no sales training or experience–an “internship,” if you will–it says a lot about the tech industry that entry-level “employees” are expected to work for NOTHING…and, I’m assuming, force the taxpayers to support them. I worked at a car lot–a job I hated, a job that made me sick to my stomach–so people like you could “afford” to work for free, then bash me and claim that I’m the one who is a lazy “taker.” Splendid!

          I’ve noticed a steep drop-off in unpaid “internships” since the 99-week unemployment gravy train came to a halt. Get rid of welfare, and watch them disappear completely, which is what should happen. Why should I have to pay to support people who CHOOSE to work for free? Why should I have to effectively pay the wages of tech “interns”?

          What a vile industry. The government gimme-gimme goody train needs to be derailed.

    • BY max says:

      Wanted to focus on your last point: “Men are starting to be accepted as nurses and it can be a great career.”

      Men are becoming RN’s because of the extremely limited options they currently face….
      Work at Walmart for $7/hr or clean up poop for $50/hr as RN?

      Overall the type of work people(our neighbors) are able to peruse is rapidly diminishing, into two categories:
      * “Service Economy” => “Slave Economy” low wage, low meaning employment
      * “Knowledge Workers”
      The ranks of latter continues to shrink year/year in the USA as more people are displaced, eventually transitioning to the “Service Economy”

      Even traditionally safe professionals such as Attorneys/Lawyers are feeling the effects of race to the bottom. Quite a bit of the tasks traditionally associated with lawyers(legal review/discovery), is being outsourced and automated and in the process reducing staff needs even the largest firms by 30-45%.

  3. BY KDeveloper says:

    I meant less than 1% of applicants and resumes.

  4. BY Dayne Ealy says:

    Most of time I just sit and watch the fireworks online… However, today I am speaking up.

    As Black Man or AA or what ever we are being classified as today or tomorrow. I find it very ironic that we talk about the Tech Jobs without understanding that the most IT related jobs that the 80 percent Caucasian males occupy are done so by people (in my 25+ years experience Government / Commercial and Contractor) with less than a AA degree (the majority had a HS diplomas) and with a few certifications. However, they were given a chance to see how they would pan out.

    The same positions advertised now are advertised with requirements of a BS – MS degree ( where in the world other than a CIO, Project Manager, IT Manager or the Upper Level supervisory roles ( which I have also seen occupied by the same group above again without the BS – MS sheepskin) do you need 4 years education to run machines with a GUI interface or Google or You Tube to help you do your job in IT.

    Exclusion is executed in TECH jobs because you don’t either fit the “Team Image (White Male Geek)” or someone else in the same group can’t identify with you personally… versus the person that is different or not the same as you but fully qualified for the position (However, most are unwilling to give this person of color or woman a shot).

    This is the real truth of the Tech Industry. Racism / Sexism is in Hi-Tech and to ignore it is asinine.
    I can’t count how many times I have been told I was over qualified to a position I was seeking , obviously if I was seeking it I wanted it LOL :) but that is neither here and definitely not there.

    However, these obstacles have not stopped me , as I have moved around (Mostly Overseas which is a bit different than the US market) when faced with the prospect of unemployment. I learned to speak additionally languages which is sometimes the only reason I was employed since I could interface with the local engineers (despite having a superior certs / resume over my peers and tech experience over 25+ years) I was told this on a few occasions. The 80 percent enjoys a bias slanted toward them by them for them… You wish to change it ” Start with HR and Management use independent contract IT specialists ” not the same good ole Tech Boys that are employed there ” Team player should not mean Team clone” Check out why the NBA is diversified ” Red Auerbach” is why ” Courage and well he wanted to win to !”

    Additionally this is also the reason why most Tech projects fail or off schedule due to monolithic thinking ( and a culture that says what ever they think ” the *0 percent Techno Geek White Guy” says it must be right ) I could tell you of countless Ideas I have had shot down later to be implemented after a few failures and the same folks were really in a spot said “OK try see if it works” …then when it does you never get the credit !

    Again, you want to clean up IT and make it competitive give everyone a fair shot ” of course in America on the right people get a fair shot, because they are the only ones given a shot.

    • BY Nightcrawler says:

      I maintain that if the local car lot–one of the most abhorrent industries in America–is willing to pay $300/week, for 12 weeks, to sales trainees (“interns”), then certainly IT companies can do the same thing. THAT’S why there is no “diversity” in tech; there is no way for entry-level employees to get started in the industry.

      It’s pretty bad that the tech industry doesn’t stack up to car lots when it comes to recruiting and training entry-level workers. It’s not like car lots set that high a bar. That dealership was one of the most miserable places I’ve ever worked. Being as the tech industry cannot compete with that sewage pit, the next question is, why bother trying to clean it up? Let it fail.

      • BY max says:

        Viewed from a broader perspective(Information is power). Companies in general, IT companies specifically no longer feel the need to invest in “interns” as the once did in the past.

        What triggered this trend was the ability to bring to the USA professional guest workers from abroad. These professional guest workers are being paid in some cases what fresh college graduates would normally been compensated. Companies had a need (Y2K for instance) at the time(mid-late 1990′s).

        Then something odd occurred, the professional guest workers decided not leave, and corporate sponsors agreed with them. Companies lobbied the government to not only keep them, but to expand the program dramatically.

        All good is fine/good and everyone is HAPPY. Fast forward a 5yrs(2002ish), first signs that flood of guest professional workers into the country and massive outsourcing of professional IT jobs abroad, was starting to impact ability of trained American college graduates to find gainful employment within area of study.

        One professors effort to raise the alarm, after finding it extremely difficult to place highly trained PhD graduates in even entry level positions within corporate IT.

        Read the following(One of many) if you care to have a bit more insight:
        * http://heather.cs.ucdavis.edu/h1b.html

        In Summary, the positions that would have normally offered yourself and other new entrants the on-ramp into IT, have simply evaporated. Something like 1.2 Million of these positions have simply been reallocated to south east Asia. Professional guest workers are every where.

        You are literally competing with the est. 900K yearly IT graduates from south east Asia. They receive the first and only shot by virtue of sheer numbers and, side effect of current worker programs.

        Fresh graduates are being excluded/marginalized from the hiring pool.

        Connecting the above back to the excellent points you raised about car lots, if the car sales industry 30K(+) these same southeast Asian firms would certainly target it for “BPO”. BPO business process out sourcing.

        Opportunities that should/would have “trickled down”, are being absorbed by a never ending supply from abroad. It won’t end until people hold local/state/ elected officials accountable.

        It really easy, Google the name of the elected officials in your area, do the same for your state representatives, then do the same for your state’s federal representatives. See how they’ve voted on policies that directly impacted you as a citizen. You get to Fire/Hire them based on how well they’ve performed.

        To see have your representatives have voted use tools like:
        * http://www.opencongress.org/bill/s303-113/show
        * http://beta.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/senate-bill/303/text

        • BY max says:

          Slight correction:
          Originally read: “Connecting the above back to the excellent points you raised about car lots, if the car sales industry 30K(+) these same southeast Asian firms would certainly target it for “BPO”. BPO business process out sourcing. ”

          Corrected read: “Connecting the above back to the excellent points you raised about car lots, if the car sales industry paided $30K(+) to interns, these same southeast Asian staffing firms would certainly target it for “BPO”. BPO business process out sourcing. “

          • BY Nightcrawler says:

            I never came across any tech firms that paid $30k to “interns.” I would have been ecstatic if someone offered me $30k. All of the “internships” I ever saw were unpaid, or paid something absurd like a $50.00/week “stipend.”

            I put “intern” in quotes because all of the “internships” I ever came across weren’t “internships.” They were unpaid temp jobs. A real internship is a learning experience undertaken by someone–usually a teenager or young adult–with few skills and little or no professional work experience. The “internships” I saw advertised read like paid job descriptions: years of experience, a portfolio, a laundry list of required skills.

            As I said, once the 99-week UI gravy train halted, the number of unpaid “internships” I saw advertised *suddenly* plummeted. Now that the government was no longer paying the salaries for these “interns,” companies were forced to pony up themselves. Get rid of welfare, or at least make unpaid “interns” ineligible for it, and the positions will vanish.

  5. BY max says:

    Internships for STEM definitely used to paid and probably still are. Most universities with Engineering colleges called them COOP. If you’re a member ACM, IEEE, SWE(Society of Women Engineers) etc … these orgs typically have big presence on campus.

    For example of salaries Visit: http://www.glassdoor.com/Intern-Salary/IBM-Internship-Salary-E354.htm

    Remember IT COOP never really about free/unpaid work…. it was about pre-training future employees, and getting access to them before formal entry into the workforce. That was how the model used.

  6. BY Lars Hammond says:

    It will only get worse for minorities. What will you do when automation wipes out a third of all IT jobs? Forget about the white males, it will all be Asians! The reality is that the powers that be have decided that only 20% of all people can expect to have a future in the new global economy, due to scarcity of resources. If you want to break out of that, you will really have to offer something exceptional.

    • BY max says:

      Lars …
      interesting point you make.
      The “powers that be” apparently didn’t study history…. bad things happen when only 20% of the total population can expect to have gainful employment. The first group that will get the worst of it during the inevitable social upheaval, is always the “powers that be”

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