Why Does Silicon Valley Continue Lacking Diversity

Big tech companies have frequently been making headlines over recent years for their consistent lack of diversity, despite repeated promises to do the opposite. Bloomberg Businessweek last week published an article called “Why Doesn’t Silicon Valley Hire Black Coders” that shines further light on the continued lack of minorities in the tech industry.


The article describes the efforts or lack thereof by tech giants to recruit students from Howard University, a historically Black university located in Washington, D.C. According to its college scorecard, 94 percent of Howard’s undergraduate students are Black, 3 percent are non-resident alien, 2 percent are American Indian/Alaska Native, 1 percent are white, 1 percent are Asian and less than 1 percent are both Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander and Hispanic. 45 percent of students receive a need-based Pell Grant.

The dismal statistics regarding minorities at tech companies have put pressure on these companies to make changes. But diversity reports released from Facebook and Google last year revealed that neither company made progress in achieving a more diverse workforce.

Related Story: Facebook, Google Show No Progress

According to Facebook’s report, whites make up the majority of its overall workforce at 55 percent. The company is 36 percent Asian, 4 percent Hispanic, 3 percent two or more races, and 2 percent Black. When it comes to tech positions, employees are 51 percent white, 43 percent Asian, 3 percent Hispanic, 2 percent two or more races, and 1 percent Black. The 2014 report for tech positions is almost identical, with no increase in Blacks or Hispanics.

Meanwhile, Google’s numbers fare even worse. Overall, Google is 60 percent white, 31 percent Asian, 3 percent two or more races, 3 percent Hispanic, 2 percent Black and less than 1 percent other. For tech jobs, the workforce is 59 percent white, 35 percent Asian, 3 percent two or more races, 2 percent Hispanic, 1 percent Black and less than 1 percent other. In 2014, Google’s overall workforce, like Facebook’s, saw no change in the percent of Blacks and Hispanics.

Related Story: Twitter Stock Down as Revenue Plummets and a Diversity Scandal Rises

Twitter has the same problem as its fellow tech companies and garnered backlash in November following a series of layoffs that people believed disproportionately targeted minorities, who were already underrepresented in the company to begin with. Rev. Jesse Jackson wrote a letter to Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, expressing his concern that the layoffs were racially motivated.

“Twitter already has an appallingly low number and percentage of African Americans and Latinos working at your company, around 60 total in the workforce and zero in your boardroom and c-suite leadership,” Jackson wrote. “We are concerned that a disproportionate number and percentage of Blacks and Latinos were adversely affected in your recent layoffs.”

Indeed, according to a blog post on the company’s website in August (ironically titled “We’re committing to a more diverse Twitter”), its overall workforce is not diverse but is 59 percent white, 31 percent Asian, 4 percent Hispanic, 3 percent two or more races, 2 percent Black and less than 1 percent both American Indian/Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander. The statistics for tech jobs are nearly identical: employees are 56 percent white, 37 percent Asian, 3 percent Hispanic, 2 percent two or more races, 1 percent Black and less than 1 percent both American Indian/Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander.

But a 2014 USA Today analysis revealed that the percent of Blacks receiving computer science degrees is double that of the rate they’re being hired. So why are companies not hiring the talent

Lenard Burge, head of the computer science department at Howard, put it best: “They want to do these things, but nobody is making the solid commitments.”

According to Bloomberg Business, one problem lies in the unchanged way these companies recruit. Despite Howard’s impressive list of prominent graduates (including Thurgood Marshall, Toni Morrison and Taraji P. Henson), “it’s not among the elite science-orientated universities where tech companies have focused recruitment places like Stanford, MIT, and Carnegie Mellon.”

But the schools considered elite for computer science positions do not have high populations of Black students. Stanford’s undergraduate student body is only 6 percent Black, MIT’s is less than 1 percent and Carnegie Mellon’s is 5 percent. So the likelihood of recruiting Black students pursuing computer science degrees from such a small talent pool is unlikely.

Another issue is that students pursuing computer science at historically Black colleges have not been exposed to the field prior to attending college: “Silicon Valley is rife with Stanford and MIT graduates who started college during childhood, won programming competitions in their spare time, and spent their summers interning at startups. At Howard, few of [Charles] Pratt’s students fit that profile. They’d begun studying computer science in college, and many had never visited the Bay Area. Once senior, Sarah Jones, says she’d assumed for years that Silicon Valley was the name of a city. [Jones said,] ‘There are not a lot of people of color in the Valley and that, by itself, makes it kind of unwelcoming.”

Charles Pratt is a former Google employee who went to Howard University in 2013 to recruit students for jobs and internships. He also began teaching classes to try and bring the students up to the same speed as students from other schools who already had more exposure to computer science. According to Pratt, one significant difference between students from Howard and students being recruited from other schools was that they didn’t receive the same hands-on teaching. In addition, Pratt noted the outdated curriculum professors taught from. “I’d ask faculty members, ‘Why are you teaching this course that way’ And they’d say, ‘Well, I’ve been teaching the course for 25 years,'” he explained. So Pratt gave special projects to his students that focused on practicality rather than theory.

According to the article, Pratt admits that “it’ll take years for Burge’s program to start training students at the level of Silicon Valley’s top feeder schools. [But] he wonders if companies were letting some of his former students slip through the cracks partly because of unconscious racial biases.”

In summary, according to the article, the reasons companies have a hard time recruiting Black students are varied: “People tend to discuss Silicon Valley’s diversity problem in binary terms. One camp says companies are biased against underrepresented minorities, or at least aren’t trying hard enough to attract them. The other says there aren’t enough people from these backgrounds who are qualified for positions or at least who are good enough to beat those Stanford grads with all the programming trophies and internship experience and Mozart-like childhoods. The reality is, both are true.” But ultimately, if tech companies are serious in making diversity a priority, it is up to them to recruit from all available talent pools, rather than the same places they’ve been recruiting from in the past.

Latest News

COVID entrepreneur

Explosive New Growth in Small Businesses Due to COVID-19; America’s Police Force is Not Becoming More Diverse Despite BLM Movement; the Best and Worst Performing States in the 2020 Census; and More

Even with incredible nationwide unemployment rates, the creation of new small and diverse businesses has exploded due to COVID-19. Finally some news coming out of our pandemic: The Philadelphia Tribune reports that as bars and restaurants closed and stay-at-home orders were put into place earlier in 2020 to help fight…

Justice for Breonna not served; The essential rule of politics; Teen serves two months in jail for not doing homework; and More

Justice for Breonna not served as grand jury indicted officer who shot her with wanton endangerment — but not murder. “Outrageous and offensive.” Those were  by attorney to the family, Ben Crump to describe the grand jury’s decision in the March 13 fatal police shooting of 26-year-old Breonna Taylor. While…

IBM, EEOC, age

EEOC Unearths Years of Intentional Age Discrimination within IBM

After a long investigation, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has revealed that IBM leaders had directed managers to replace older workers with younger ones. Between 2013 and 2018, nearly 86% of those considered for layoffs within the organization were older employees over the age of 40. The investigation showed…

Breathe March in Globe Park, New York, USA - 12 Sep 2020

Cities under attack from the Justice Department; Louisville bracing for the Breonna Taylor murder charge; Twitter reveals its racist side; and More

Justice department attacks three U.S. cities, declaring them anarchist zones — despite most of the protests that took place in each city being peaceful marches in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. In a move designed to pull federal funding from New York City, Seattle and Portland, OR, the…

ginsburg, supreme, court

The Lasting Legacy of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — Plus the Four Biggest Issues Currently at Stake Following Her Death

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who served on the nation’s highest court for 27 years, passed away Friday, Sept. 18 at the age 87. “As the second woman ever to sit on the highest court in the land, she was a warrior for gender equality — someone who believed…

Abbott Receives CE Mark for Next-Generation Mitraclip Heart Valve Repair Device to Treat Mitral

Originally posted on Abbott.com – CE Mark for MitraClip G4 offers physicians an innovative next-generation system with more options for mitral valve repair using proven clip-based technology – MitraClip is a first-of-its-kind transcatheter mitral valve therapy, now on its fourth generation, improving further on MitraClip’s history as a safe and…

Cox Crews Mobilized to Reconnect Gulf Coast

Originally published on Cox.com Cox has mobilized its employees with support from outside of the Gulf Coast area to begin assessing damage and restoring service outages caused by Hurricane Sally. In times like this, we understand it is important to stay connected and we want our services to help you…