Archive for November 10, 2011
CNN Money is trying to answer a simple question: How diverse is Silicon Valley? The answer: Tech companies won’t tell them! Google, Apple, and Yahoo claim that to do so would be releasing a “trade secret.” Really? The Netflix argument below is particularly aggravating. “We just hire the best people” has long been exposed as a lie, since technology hiring is not really a meritocracy. Instead, “just hire the best” seems to be code for “we hire the mostly White and Asian males who are friends with our current White and Asian male workers.”
This is a real problem for computing — we can’t make it better if we don’t see it. It’s a real problem for efforts to broaden participation in computing education — if we generated a more diverse computer workforce, could they get jobs? (Thanks to Amber Settle for pointing out this article.)
Are these programs working? That’s impossible to measure. Microsoft refused to release its workforce demographic data. Sixteen other companies contacted repeatedly by CNNMoney also declined or ignored our request: Apple, Amazon, Cisco, eBay, Facebook, Google, Groupon, Hewlett-Packard, Hulu, IBM, LinkedIn, LivingSocial, Netflix, Twitter, Yelp and Zynga.
“Every company talks about their lovely diversity programs … but they won’t give us their data,” says Aditi Mohapatra, senior sustainability analyst at Calvert Investments, which invests in socially responsible companies and conducts its own diversity research. “What gets measured, gets managed. We need something tangible and public.”
Some companies shrug off those criticisms. Netflix (NFLX) is a “veritable UN,” according to spokesman Steve Swasey: “We don’t do anything to get diversity; we just get it. We don’t focus on it, and we don’t talk about it. It just is what it is. And we get the best people.”