If you really want a diverse workforce, why not go where there is diversity?

December 12, 2016 at 7:05 am 7 comments

Nick Black, brilliant GT alum and (now former) Google engineer, says it like he sees it.  His critique of Google and their efforts to improving diversity extend to most of Silicon Valley.  If you really want a diverse workforce, open offices where there’s diversity.

Nick’s analysis (and I encourage you to read the whole post below) talks about the density of middle class Black workers. He doesn’t consider where there are Black workers who know computing.  Computing education is still pretty rare in the US.  Let’s use AP CS exam-taking as a measure of where there is CS education.  In Michigan last year, there were 19 Black AP CS exam-takers. 11 in Missouri.  None in Mississippi.  There are middle class Black families in these states.  They may not be getting access to CS education.

Google talks endlessly about diversity, and spends millions of dollars on the cause. My NYC office lends its prodigiously expensive square feet to Black Girls Code. We attempt to hook the recruiting pipeline up to HBCUs. We tweet about social justice and blog about the very real problem of racial inequality in America. Noble endeavors, all. It’s too bad that they’re not taking place where black people actually, you know, live.

According to census.gov’s data as of 2016, Mountain View is 2% black. In 2010, the Bay Area Census Project recorded 1,468 blacks in MTV. I saw more black people than that crossing Peachtree Street today. census.gov reports, as of 2010, blacks making up 25.1% of NYC, 9.6% of Los Angeles, and 6.1% of famously liberal San Francisco. census.gov does not provide data for Dublin or Zürich, but we can make some reasonable assumptions about those other largest Google offices, n’est-ce pas?

And let’s be honest — I doubt much of that 25.1% of NYC is centered around Chelsea.

Atlanta’s a bit down from 67% in 1990, but 54% ain’t so bad.

Source: A dispatch from Terminus – dankwiki, the wiki of nick black

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7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Bonnie  |  December 12, 2016 at 8:19 am

    The comment about Chelsea is just dumb. They are located right on major public transit routes, easily accessible by people from any neighborhood of NYC, as well as NJ (served by PATH train). My guess is that very few of their workers live in that immediate neighborhood. NYC is one of the most diverse cities in the US, with not only a sizeable black population but also a large Hispanic population, another group underrepresented in computing. Google’s presence in NYC is actually, or should be, a good thing for diversity.The bigger issue for them, and most other tech companies, is that they don’t recruit from the schools in NYC that have diverse student bodies (I teach at one of those schools, so I know the problem firsthand). I also think that standard interviewing process is very offputting for minority candidates, who already feel like they don’t “belong”, as well as to female candidates. But that is a whole ‘nother issue. Google’s location in NYC is not the problem

    • 2. Mark Guzdial  |  December 12, 2016 at 12:19 pm

      I can’t argue about Chelsea, but I can point out that being on transit lines doesn’t actually guarantee access by diverse populations. Have you read Winner’s “Do artifacts have politics?“? There’s a fascinating discussion of Robert Moses’ design of parkways on Long Island, which were created to keep out the poor and Blacks.

      • 3. Bonnie  |  December 12, 2016 at 1:34 pm

        Come visit the area. Trust me, you will see a lot of black and brown faces when you walk around that neighborhood. I used to live there, so I know it well.
        Google HQ is a block from the 14th st station for the 8th avenue line, which is a straight run down from Harlem. A block further on 14th street is a stop where the trains that serve the Bronx stop. Transit in this case is not the barrier. I agree there are real barriers that Google and others put up, but the location of Google NYC is not one of them.

        • 4. Tom Watkins  |  January 5, 2017 at 5:02 pm

          Beg to differ and suggest not to trust this assertion about the location of the NYC Google HQ. I think Mark’s transit concern is very valid.

  • 5. alfredtwo  |  December 12, 2016 at 9:23 am

    There are a number of tech companies who seem to think that loving the place the company is headquartered in is an indicator of good hires. (I used to work for one) Smart companies open offices where people want to work. Not everyone is enamored with the west coast, California, the Pacific Northwest, or even New York.

  • 6. jprestoncc  |  December 12, 2016 at 10:21 am

    Nice read. Thanks for sharing.


  • 7. gasstationwithoutpumps  |  December 13, 2016 at 12:13 am

    I had a little trouble with the title of this post, because it seems to take a “black and white” view of diversity, as if those were the only categories of people worth thinking about. UCSC has few African-Americans, but is still a very diverse place, with no racial group making up more than 33% of the undergraduates (whites 33%, Latino 31%, Asian-American 22%, mixed race 7%, international 4%, African-American 2%, [http://diversity.ucsc.edu/diversity/images/student_demo_2016.pdf]).


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