Where Are The Black People In Silicon Valley?

Written by Kiara Powell

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It’s no surprise that the lack of black people in the offices of tech giants in Silicon Valley like Google, Facebook or Lyft are abysmal, but what is being done to combat this? With buzzwords like “diversity” and “inclusion” flying around in conversations with no real change being made or seen, it can seem like a lot of these companies are all talk and no action.

In a recent article by Bloomberg, a black Facebook employee described working at the social media giant as a “lonely experience,” largely due to Facebook’s workforce being 3 percent black. Many times his peers did performance reviews with him as sort of pro-bono work, where you give one person a good review and then the other does the same, and in addition, there were times where his coworkers didn’t give him help when collaborating with projects, causing him to do them on his own, which adds additional stress to the job. This story isn’t different for other black people who work in Silicon Valley and feel isolated. Many cite Silicon Valley’s infamous “bro-culture” as well as a variety of other reasons for them to feel this way.

Even though initiatives and programs have been created to hire more people of color, including working with schools to create pipelines for hiring, and the creation non-profits in order to teach tech skills in order for those less fortunate to get jobs at these companies, the data describing the rates of diversity in tech are stagnant and little has changed. Google’s workforce is 69 percent male and 2 percent black, and according to a study done by Bloomberg news, “among 8 of the largest U.S. tech companies, the portion of black workers in technical jobs rose to 3.1 percent in 2017 from 2.5 percent in 2014.”

In order to change the culture of the lack of diversity in Silicon Valley, the way of thinking has to change. The words “diversity” and “inclusion” are thrown around so often now that people often develop “diversity fatigue,” meaning they start to care less about diversity, and many ideas can start to fall on deaf ears. Additionally there can be employees who respond to these diversity efforts unfavorably through lawsuits, such as the Google employee who filed a lawsuit for discrimination against white workers. Even senior executives can be known to brush off employees when they speak up about being more diverse in the company.

The lack of black people and other minorities in tech isn’t something new in Silicon Valley. In 1999, Jesse Jackson launched a campaign for tech companies to hire a more diverse workforce and was called a “terrorist” by Scott McNealy, the co-founder of Sun Microsystems, and now the chairman of a digital marketing startup. This type of thinking that links calls for diversity to the tune of “terrorism” is the type of ideology that needs to be changed. Asking a company that is 97 percent white and male to hire more diverse employees isn’t a form of racism, but rather a call to action in order to make the company better by bringing in people who come from different backgrounds and have different perspectives that will bring new and innovative ideas to the company. There is hope for the future, with tech companies creating bigger pipelines to feed in a diverse workforce, but the question will still remain: when the next round of statistics come, will the stats be higher? Or will the tech companies continue to do performative acts of diversity and inclusion in order to maintain a positive false image to the public?

Kiara M.P. is a brand designer from Richmond, Virginia, specializing in copywriting and digital content. When she’s not writing, she enjoys going to concerts, visiting national parks and Yelping about her favorite restaurants.

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