A question asked by Zach Stafford based on his experiences with those who say they forget “he’s black” — and somehow mean it as a compliment. He takes them to task:
When I point out that their eyesight had never left them, that my skin has never changed colors, and that they probably did not really forget that I am black, they inevitably get defensive. First, they try to argue that it was a compliment; the smart ones quickly realize that complimenting someone on not being black is actually pretty racist, so they switch gears.
I don’t see race! is usually their next tactic, followed by I am colorblind, though they never give credit to Stephen Colbert. By “colorblind” they don’t actually mean that they can’t see green or red; rather, they are suggesting that they can’t ever be racist, because they don’t register skin color at all.
This ideology is very popular – like a racial utopic version of the Golden Rule – but it’s actually quite racist. “Colorblindness” doesn’t acknowledge the very real ways in which racism has existed and continues to exist, both in individuals and systemically. By professing not to see race, you’re just ignoring racism, not solving it.
Latinos, women, and other people of color still earn less than white men, even with similar education levels.
Among workers age 25 and older with at least a bachelor’s degree, median weekly earnings in 2014 were $1,385 for men and $1,049 for women. Black or African American workers with at least a bachelor’s degree had median weekly earnings of $970 in 2014, compared with $1,219 for White workers with the same level of education. Asians with at least a bachelor’s degree had median weekly earnings of $1,328. The median for Hispanic or Latino workers with that level of education was $1,007 per week.
Two different but sometimes intersecting viewpoints about diversity and strategy.
Jonathan Jackson argues that the lack of diversity in organizations is systemic and considers race, gender, and culture a vital factor:
People talk at me when it comes to diversity, not to me, and certainly not for me. People want to solve diversity like it’s a business problem. It’s not. Diversity (read: the need for Black and Latino creativity, excellence, and ingenuity to be fundamentally embedded into the DNA of billion dollar companies and enterprises) has business implications, and there is a case for how it can improve outcomes, revenue, idea generation, and a host of other metrics. But at its core, the issue of diversity is a structural one. Systemic inequity has a legacy that is long, varied, and intertwined with a multitude of other issues that ‘Murica is wrestling with. It’s an autopsy in its purest form, and everyone is in the viewing room, peering down through their own vantage point, looking to make sense of the broken bones and exposed organs.
BJ Gallagher counters that race and gender are important but shouldn’t be the only focus: Continue reading
Expanding diversity in organizations often focuses on increasing the “pipeline” – the flow of diversity talent coming into the organization. However, I agree with Sarah McBride and Noel Randewich who assert an organization has a lot of enough diverse talent within its own corporate walls – the authors draw upon Intel’s recent announcement of investing $300 million to diversify the company’s workforce noting the money should be focused somewhere else:
Diversity advocates say seizing on the supply issue can obscure other causes.
“They are blaming the pipeline for their own faults,” said Vivek Wadhwa, author of “Innovating Women,” noting that many technology companies no longer consider degrees of any sort, including computer science (CS), a requirement for employment.
He and others say technology companies should look inward, working on making themselves attractive to qualified women and minority candidates who avoid or abandon technology careers.
Of all science and engineering graduates, only about 31 percent of males and 15 percent of females work in related occupations, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Just 17 percent of African Americans with science and engineering degrees go on to work in related jobs.
To draw women and minorities, Intel should make managers accountable to specific diversity goals and measure progress through employee surveys, said Katherine Kimpel, a lawyer specializing in discrimination at Sanford Heisler Kimpel LLP.
Lori Nishiura Mackenzie, executive director of Stanford University’s Clayman Institute for Gender Research, said Intel should spend the bulk of its cash on what she called “the frozen middle” just below the top executives.
So implies Shikha Dalmia who also contends the immigration assimilation argument is often a myth, especially when it relates to Latinos:
But such snapshot comparisons between the attitudes of naturalized and native-born citizens tell us nothing about the assimilability of modern immigrants compared to past immigrants — a good third of whom returned home because they didn’t like America. What’s more, assimilation is a multi-generational process that by all available metrics seems to be proceeding just fine. For example, restrictionists consider Latinos the most resistant to assimilation because of their tenacious fondness for Spanish and their relative proximity to their homeland. Still, 91 percent of the children and 97 percent of the grandchildren of Mexican immigrants to America speak English as their dominant language.
Victoria Stilwell expects this “majority minority” to have significant economic impact in the coming years. Continue reading
Inaugural class of the CSIT-In-3 program, scheduled to graduate in 2016
Krista Almanzan’s great piece on Cal State University, Monterey Bay, and Hartnell Community College’s three-year, intensive bachelor’s degree program in computer science and information technology targeting the largely Hispanic Salinas Valley. Despite a successful first year, the program’s director, Joe Welch, faces the typical funding challenges as well as the larger issue of getting Silicon Valley companies to give these students an opportunity to apply their skills:
Connecting with prospective employers is where program organizers are already facing their own challenge. Welch says in trying to secure summer internships, they’re finding many of the brand-name, Silicon Valley tech companies are used to dealing with brand-name schools.
“Frankly, they’re so comfortable, they’re not reaching outside that student stream,” he says.
Many of the CSIT-In-3 students are from historically disadvantaged backgrounds and first-generation college students. Welch says he doesn’t want them to get a handout. He just wants Silicon Valley to give them a fair shake, especially since companies have said they want to give these students an opportunity.
Unconscious bias is seen as a significant factor for the lack of diversity in organizations and industries. The idea focuses on individual biases, perceptions, and behavior. While organizational diversity and inclusion attempts can provide policy and process, these initiatives often fail to address the human element involved in developing an inclusive work environment. Organizations have developed interesting ways to try and overcome unconscious bias including awareness training, mentoring programs, and “resume scrubbing.” Remarkably, Google, an organization with a 70% male workforce, shares a detailed overview of the concept below, and how we can try to overcome it.
Unconscious bias is a complex and wide-ranging topic, and it’s an issue that will get more attention here in the coming months, particularly when it comes to Latino workforce issues.
I spent the morning today taking a journey through history.
With the recent discussion regarding the lack of diversity in Silicon Valley as well as other industries, I wondered how the discussion about diversity had changed over the last 40 years. What were the key arguments for a diverse workforce during the 1990’s,1980’s, 1970’s, and even the 1960’s? I jumped onto an online library and ran a simple search to find out. Most articles concentrated on the potential business outcomes: increased innovation; added competitive advantage; improved market share; and many other opportunities. There were certainly articles on the associated challenges (legal, policy, change, discrimination, etc.) but for the most part, I found over 40 years of information supporting the “business opportunity” of diversity.
What struck me about my journey, however, is how arguments for diversity haven’t changed, and more importantly, why haven’t they?
Graphic via Catalyst.org
LynNell Hancock and Meredith Kolodner examine how the increased emphasis on SAT scores at some colleges is helping to create a two-tier system in higher education – the first for Asian and white freshman and a second for Latino and black students. CUNY is one such institution:
At a time of massive and widening inequality gaps in New York City, CUNY has a responsibility to address these equity gaps within and across its colleges,” said Michelle Fine, CUNY graduate center professor of psychology and urban education. “I fear that we have lost thousands of talented and engaged students of color who are rejected by our senior colleges and yet accepted by other highly competitive private colleges and universities.
The basis of the article is this report which suggests the 2008 recession forced colleges to raise SAT score requirements to manage the increased number of people entering college. Latinos and other people of color were systematically squeezed out:
As a result, beginning in 2009, the makeup of CUNY colleges changed significantly. The incoming freshmen at top-tier schools had higher SAT scores and GPAs than those in previous years. Many students that previously had been able to enroll in top-tier schools were now enrolling in second-tier senior colleges. And more freshmen with scores that would have previously allowed them to get into a four-year college program were enrolling in community colleges.
Graphic via American Progress
In yet another article regarding “the new tech industry” and diversity, the question of whether it will serve as the silver bullet to address the old economy’s racial problems is asked. As we’ve read over the last months, the tech industry has significant diversity issues to overcome. Whether it’s education, talent, culture, or systemic – the lack of diversity won’t be solved anytime soon (sorry to say). Investing millions into new diversity initiatives is a positive step, however, it won’t change decades of cultural and structural barriers ingrained in Silicon Valley and beyond.
Even if they didn’t care about diversity for all its benefits, tech organizations should be intimately familiar with a large chunk of its market and potential workforce (women, Latinos, African Americans). Other industries are coming to understand how critical it is to integrate specific demographic groups into their workforce – not because its an HR initiative but because they see it as a financial necessity. Consider television networks that are losing market share to on-demand services:
Latino viewers are an increasingly important demographic for all networks. The Nielsen Company found that Hispanics in the US have over $1 trillion in purchasing power and represent more than half of US population growth between 2000-2010. Bi-lingual homes where both Spanish and English are spoken currently watch about 50% Spanish-language television, while English-dominant Hispanic households watch a mere 3% of Spanish-language TV. In other words, television networks need to win over this audience if they want to make up the shortfall left by formally loyal absconders. But at the moment few networks are catering for Latinos specifically.
The tech industry will only come to understand the opportunity of diversity when it’s presented in the form of profits/losses or market share. I think the industry will certainly come to recognize this in the long-term – which makes the future a bit brighter.