Of course it is. That's to be expected due to the narrative on race in America. I alluded to this in a post awhile back called "Thank God for Asians - Google Releases Workplace Diversity Numbers". Affirmative action plans pack a lot of nationalities into the Asian classification, and the classification does nothing to really show the level of cultural diversity that's present in what the EEOC would call "Asian".
I'm back on this topic after I ran into a great interview with Marc Andreessen (founder of Netscape, venture capitalist, etc) in New York Magazine. Here's a taste of how he responds to critisim that the tech workforce isn't diverse enough:
The critique of Silicon Valley is also that it isn’t very diverse. At Twitter, for instance, 90 percent of the tech employees are male and more than 50 percent of them are white.
I think these discussions are totally valid. Now, I disagree with many of the specific points.
What’s your take?
Shall we? Let’s launch right into it. I think the critique that Silicon Valley companies are deliberately, systematically discriminatory is incorrect, and there are two reasons to believe that that’s the case. No. 1, these companies are like the United Nations internally. All the diversity studies say that the engineering population is like 70 percent white and Asian. Let’s dig into that for a second. First, apparently Asian doesn’t count as diverse. And then “white”: When you actually go in these companies, what you find is it’s American people, but it’s also Russians, and Eastern Europeans, and French, and German, and British. And then there are the Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Thais, Indonesians, and Vietnamese. All these different countries, all these different cultures. To believe in a systematic pattern of discrimination, you’d have to believe that we’re discriminatory toward certain people without being discriminatory at all toward an extremely broad range of ethnicities and religions. Because of Pakistanis, we’re seeing a higher-than-ever proportion of Muslim employees in a lot of our companies.
No. 2, our companies are desperate for talent. Desperate. Our companies are dying for talent. They’re like lying on the beach gasping because they can’t get enough talented people in for these jobs. The motivation to go find talent wherever it is is unbelievably high.
So what explains the numbers?
There are two fundamental problems that are resulting in what a lot of people believe is discrimination, and these are the problems that I think need to be solved. One is inequality of education. If you come up through a path that’s sort of a stereotypical upper-middle-class American path and you go to Stanford and you get a really great technical education and your professors really care about you, then you come to Silicon Valley and you’ve got the skills and you’re golden.
But, of course, most people in the world—including most people outside the U.S. but also people in the U.S., like where I grew up in rural Wisconsin, or people in the inner city—never have access to that kind of education.
Preach it, Marc. I saw the original workplace numbers at Google (click through the first link in this post to see the chart) and thought - "wow, that Asian number is high and there's a lot of stuff packed into that we never really think about". I think Marc did a nice job of describing the impact of that diversity.
We think about diversity a lot in America related to two races only. Is diversity brought to life more in an environment similar to what Marc describes or by a workforce that's entirely made of White and Black? Which one would you want your kids to be exposed to in order to acquire a global perspective?
It doesn't solve some of the noted issues. But the system doesn't give tech companies enough credit for the diversity that's present. Education needs to catch up to the problem in the US before it's going to get better.
BONUS: Film Clip from HBO's Silicon Valley breaks down Tech "Bro Packs" (email subscribers click through for video)