Tag Archives: Diversity

The Talent Bowl of the World

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.

Diversity Begins with Us

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.

Diversity’s History: Is No One Listening?

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

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Moving the Goal Line

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.

The Financial Necessity of Diversity

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.

America by the Numbers


Great Boston Globe piece on long time Latina journalist Maria Hinojosa’s series, America by the Numbers. I’ve watched a few of these episodes and find them refreshing. As the article notes, each demographic change tells a story. Hinojosa makes a sincere effort to understand what these changes mean not only to the group in focus but the U.S. as whole. She’s filling a much needed gap for intelligent and informative discussions on multicultural America, which often isn’t addressed by most mainstream media:

Hinojosa’s content is resonating in part because it does not approach the demographic changes with an inherent sense of controversy, like much of the media do. “The sentiment in many mainstream media newsrooms . . . is that the conversation around demographic change, the Hispanicizing of America, the browning of America . . . was often met with a sense of fear,” says Hinojosa, who was born in Mexico City and grew up in Chicago. “And because I am an American journalist 100 percent but I’m also 100 percent part of that demographic change, I don’t approach this change from a place of fear and panic. I approach it as a journalist and trying to understand what this means.”

Hinojosa is shedding a light on the corners of a new multicultural reality in America, and it’s working. “America by the Numbers” doubled the number of African-American and Latino viewers that typically watch PBS programming, while also maintaining the established audience for PBS news and public affairs.

 

The Base…It’s All About the Base

BuzzFeed News shines some light on how the Democratic National Committee (DNC) has been all talk and no action in efforts to increase the participation of Latino-owned businesses in the expenditure proposal process.  According to BuzzFeed, a 2014 report revealed that only “1.7% of the $500 million the DNC spent on consulting went to businesses that are minority-owned or a minority principal.” Six months after the report, the DNC seems to be scrambling for explanations:

DNC spokesperson Rebecca Chalif said the meetings thus far have been to grow relationships for the future.

At the DNC we are always working to expand our relationships with minority owned businesses and will continue to look for new and innovative ways to bring more people from diverse backgrounds into the party,” she said in a statement. “We know that one of the Democratic Party’s greatest strength is our diversity and we work every day to ensure that the party’s business practices live up to our commitment to that principle.”

Weak. Very weak.

Diversity Initiatives: Speaking the Wrong Language

DiversityInc.

A factor that often gets overlooked in the discussion regarding diversity in organizations is how it impacts the “bottom line.”  While there is no shortage of companies “investing” in diversity initiatives, these efforts are either limited or negligible as compared to the missed market opportunities.  Additionally, they tend to focus on demographic numbers rather than economic impact or market realities. Given that so called diversity initiatives have been in place at most Fortune 500 organizations for at least two decades, the representation of Latinos, women, and other people of color in their workforce is dismal.

Consider these Latino economic factors: Latinos on average spend more money on a daily basis than the typical adult population in the United States, $96 vs. $90; the number of affluent Latino households, those earning over $100K, is growing; Latinos spend over $90 billion annually on groceries; Latinos will represent more than half of all new home buyers by 2020; and more than 83K, mostly tech savvy Latinos, will turn 18 each month during 2015. The list of statistics can go on and on.

The trouble with most diversity initiatives isn’t the goals – it’s the means. Diversity professionals aren’t speaking the right language – the language of business: profit, marketing, consumption, spending, demand, human capital, income, specialization, trade, and employment. Diversity programs need to be reframed to reflect the priorities of business.  Some organizations understand this reality and are adjusting to capture a changing market, others don’t know how.

Tech Companies’ “Super Minority” Problem

Microsoft released its diversity numbers yesterday, and they resemble those of other tech giants. Not pretty. I’ll have more to share on the tech industry’s diversity problem in a later post. In the meantime, pictures always speak louder than words.

Workforce Gender – 71% male:

Leadership – 83% male:

Workforce Diversity – Latinos 5%

(Graphic credit: Fortune Magazine)

Seen But Not Heard

One of my favorites on the subject of diversity is Tanya Odom. She recently shared thoughts on President Obama’s last news conference for 2014. In case you missed it, President Obama took questions only from women reporters; he didn’t call on any male correspondents – by the way, expressions from male reporters in the video link above is priceless.

Tanya refers to President Obama’s goal here as a “teachable moment.” One that highlights what most women and people of color must endure everyday in the workforce, education, and  particularly, in the media.

The media exerts a powerful influence on our attitudes. How is it that our world has changed so much in the last decades, and yet, women still lag behind men in prestigious professional roles? Invisibility is harmful. Moreover, people who might have intersecting identities (e.g., black women, Latino gay person) may experience “intersectional invisibility,” which is just as challenging.