A lot of hay has been made recently about the “diversity in Tech” – both for racial minorities and for women. Reporting out on these statistics makes me uneasy (and not for the reason you might think), there is trouble in how it is getting presented.
First: why it makes me uneasy. Any sort of measurement like this raises the specter of quotas. Saying that 25% of a company’s technical staff are women or 7% of its management staff are black in the context of diversity implies that something should change. Say, for a moment, that this company is a start-up and has been in existence for less than three years. There is no heritage of generational or national diversity issues – in fact, one could argue that it was created in an era where that is at the forefront of many people’s minds. Let’s also posit that no one in the company harbors any bias and their hiring practices are fair – wouldn’t they then be hiring the best talent for the roles needed? My point being, if we doubt that can take place then quotas will drive it. And if quotas become the norm, how far do we apply it? What about professional sports where many team rosters are skewed where racial minorities are the majority. Should the Superbowl winning Denver Broncos have a certain percentage of white, Hispanic, black, and Asian players? Most would argue not, that physical talent should win out. Exactly my point: in the corporate world, the best talent for the job at hand should win out.
So what do we do about it? First, stop reporting out on these percentages – or at least stop doing it without contexts like:
- Only 20% of computer science graduates are women (if a company has 43% women in its computer-science-based technical staff, it is exceeding the demographic of 20% CS majors in the United States*).
- In 2014, 4.5% of undergraduate Computer Science degree earners were black. 6.5% were Hispanic.
Second, start addressing the problem at the core: education and society. If the goal is to diversify the population doing certain technical jobs** then we should begin in elementary school by laying a strong foundation to aid children and give them the tools to achieve those goals. We should stop blocking charter schools and voucher programs that aim to provide better educational options to less fortunate communities. We should encourage and reward teachers that continue to push and grow in their curriculae. I’m not advocating that everyone has to learn to code or build microprocessors in grade school rather, we should be laying a strong foundation so that when kids are in middle school and high school, those interested and so inclined can start learning specific skills. We should demand that we get the best quality education for the money.
From a societal perspective, we should be careful in the stereotypes presented. Entertainment outlets are chock full of references that imply that girls aren’t as smart, that those interested in science and engineering aren’t “cool”, that reading and learning is for losers, etc. This is slowly changing and I see differing views in my kids’ generation which gives me hope. We should stop accepting a “minimal acceptable” quality for our educational system. Instead of creating academic calendars where the minimum number of “required academic hours” are met – why not exceed it?
Basically, complaining about symptoms does us no good. Arguing that a high-end tech company doesn’t have some percentage of some racial, gender, etc. group does us no good as the likely implication is that they should just hire more of that group and less of
GorT is an eight-foot-tall robot from the 51ˢᵗ Century who routinely time-travels to steal expensive technology from the future and return it to the past for retroinvention. The profits from this pay all the Gormogons’ bills, including subsidizing this website. Some of the products he has introduced from the future include oven mitts, the Guinness widget, Oxy-Clean, and Dr. Pepper. Due to his immense cybernetic brain, GorT is able to produce a post in 0.023 seconds and research it in even less time. Only ’Puter spends less time on research. GorT speaks entirely in zeros and ones, but occasionally throws in a ڭ to annoy the Volgi. He is a massive proponent of science, technology, and energy development, and enjoys nothing more than taking the Czar’s more interesting scientific theories, going into the past, publishing them as his own, and then returning to take credit for them. He is the only Gormogon who is capable of doing math. Possessed of incredible strength, he understands the awesome responsibility that follows and only uses it to hurt people.