So I'm glancing through My e-mail and I notice one from Jen Rhee.
Don't know who that is. Clicked it open.
While searching for resources about tech and social media, I came across your site and saw that you had talked about the current digital divide. I wanted to reach out with a graphic about the absence of minorities in today's booming tech industry, which I think would be a great fit for your site. Would you be interested in taking a look?
Thanks in advance,
Quick Google search satisfied My low-key "Is this spam?" filter. But I took an unconscionably long time to respond to her. Happily, she replied:
Thanks for getting back to me. The graphic I was referring to lives here: http://www.onlineitdegree.net/is-tech-racist/
I think your readers will enjoy it, so feel free to share it and let me know if you do! I’d love to get your thoughts as well.
The infographic is very large, but here are two facts that are quite stunning:
Population of the U.S of part of A.: Black, 12.8%; Hispanic, 15.4%, Other, 71.8%
Silicon Valley Employment Population: Black, 1.5%; Hispanic, 4.7%, Other, 93.8%
Internet Company Founders, Nationwide: White: 87%; Asian: 12%; Black: 1%
And lest you look at these numbers and think they are merely part of the past, the infographic also reveals that although employment in the 10 largest companies of the tech industry has risen 16%, the number of Hispanics employed in those companies has dropped 11% and the number of Blacks has dropped 16%.
Let's start with labeling. In the Silicon Valley Employment Population stat, Asians are classified as "Other," and yet they are 12% of the Internet company founders. By that measure, 99% of all Internet companies are founded by "Whites/Asians" and only 1% by Blacks. And that 99% would ostensibly include Hispanics, lumped with Whites out of carelessness, bias, negligence or because their numbers are too small to separate (in which case they should have been listed to contrast with the size of the Hispanic population.)
In short: the way the data is presented obscures or obfuscates the conclusions...but only to a certain extent. When 28.2% of a nation's population equals barely 6.2% of a major industry's workforce and barely more than 1% of its entrepreneurial founders, there has got to be more than an "oops factor" involved.
So what could they be?
1) Education: The numbers for Hispanics and Blacks are far below Whites and Asians when it comes to college degrees, even in technology-related fields. They have been for a long time.
But isn't Silicon Valley the proud poster child of the college dropout who built a company and changed the world? In fact, isn't the image of the industry one that often eschews "book learning" or "theory" in favor of "just doing it"? Since when did "doing it" have a skin color?
2) Economics: The Silicon Valley scene is rife with venture capital money, in the same way some parts of Colombia are built on cocaine. From a 2011 survey on venture capitalists comes this conclusion: "When looking at race, 86% of investors identify themselves as Caucasian, 10% as Asian and 1% as African American." [Jenius Note: Apparently 4% don't care what they are or don't want to be scrutinized too closely.]
Let Me save you the trouble of scrolling back up for the comparison:
Venture Capital Racial breakdown: White, 86%; Asian, 10%; Black, 1%.
Internet Company Founders, Nationwide: White: 87%; Asian: 12%; Black: 1%
See that? You could make a case that Whites fund Whites, Asians fund Asians (and a little more beyond that) and Blacks fund Blacks, only that Whites and Asians (but especially Whites) seem to have way more money than Blacks.
And if that has been going on for a long time--and it has, because venture capital is about investing in people more than technology or business models--then the more Whites fund Whites, the more Whites there are to fund Whites.
But. If Whites-only VC funds only funded White start-ups, We'd have a clear case of racism. I don't know if We do. If Asians-only VCs only funded Asian start-ups or Blacks-only VCs funded only Black start-ups, would it be racist of them? Couldn't they state that their investments are made to "Offset the limited opportunity (translation: racist policies) offered by Whites-only VC firms"? And would that make it right? [For the record: Exclusion of others because of skin color is racism, no matter who does it to whom. Period.]
And yet, successful VC firms, like most companies, thrive on having a variety of peoples with a variety of skills and outlooks. Racism that seeks to limit the potential of a team, group or company to "Only those that look like Me" run the very real risk of getting their asses handed back to them waxed and pounded flat by companies who know that talent, skill and energy come in all skin colors.
However, that leads to a third possible factor:
3) Social inequality: Not that Asians, Hispanics or Blacks are less capable, only that their opportunity set is smaller because society has barriers for them that don't exist for Whites.* Asians are expected to do well in school, particularly math and technology. Given their relatively small percentage of the population (4.4%), they account for a significant amount of college degrees (2008-2009): Bachelor's: 7%; Master's: 6.1%; Doctoral, 5.7%, and an impressive 10.4% of First Professional degrees. In every case, they exceed their population percentage, whereas Hispanics and Blacks are below their population percentage at every degree level.
Is that racist? I don't think so; it's merely a series of factual data points. But is the opportunity set the same? Here's a litmus test: Jeremy Lin. Apple Store Genius you want fixing your MacBook Pro or last man chosen at a pick-up basketball game...and only because he brought the ball? Most likely both, though he's really a key component of the Knicks in their run to the playoffs, a major story because he is Asian-American. And why is that? Because Asians are not really supposed to be major basketball stars, or athletes in general. Mathletes, sure. Feisty-gutsy point guards with skillz? Not so much.
The opportunity set, the potential pathways to growth in a society, are not truly equal. Never have been, anywhere. In the U.S. of part of A., Whites have advantages over Non-Whites, mainly in that they go to jail far less often though Whites commit as many crimes as Non-Whites. Education is highly-praised and touted by all races, but Asians are perceived to be tigerish about it, while Blacks and Hispanics are perceived to be trapped by a system and Whites are perceived to be gliding through it in pursuit of high grades that don't entail effort.
Those are perceptions. The realities are that Whites have more college degrees, more money and more access to both than Asians, Blacks and Hispanics. What the IT industry reflects in Silicon Valley is most likely a snapshot of nearly all other "knowledge economy" industries in the nation. I dare say that others are worse; Wall Street, for example. And beyond private enterprise, the disparity is similar, as a glance at the justice system or Homeland Security will reveal.
What the infographic doesn't touch is the male/female breakdown of Silicon Valley, the Top 10 tech companies and VC firms with their investments. Racism and sexism often go hand -in-hand, so maybe that data would help clear up the picture, though clarity may have already been achieved.
Again, does all of the above mean that the IT industry is racist? Yes, it does. There is definitely a racial component to the huge disparities, a consciously chosen set of decisions that produced these results. Just like the conscious decisions of a nation have led to the following results, a horrendously damning indictment of the entire society Silicon Valley is ultimately part of:
Notice how in this "industry," Hispanics and Blacks have truly higher percentages than Whites...which is how Whites want it.
Racist? From Silicon Valley to Wall Street and everywhere in between in this once-great "Land of the Free"?
The Jenius Has Spoken.
* If you don't think there are barriers for Non-Whites in the U.S. of part of A., you have obviously never heard of Arizona, Alabama or Georgia, don't understand the true target of "the Drug War" (hint: it has NOTHING to do with any drug) and are completely delusional. Which means you vote Republican. But I repeat Myself.