In 2008, San Jose Mercury News reporter Mike Swift began to probe diversity at the 15 largest Silicon Valley tech firms. He’s still trying to get the information from both the companies and from the federal government. But what they have divulged shows an industry that’s inclusive of Asians, but well below the U.S. average in hiring black and Hispanic workers. And, Swift discovered that the percentage of women employed has dropped from 37 percent of the workforce to 33 percent.
Swift’s efforts were covered recently by CNNMoney, which also filed a Freedom of Information request with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission seeking data on the Valley’s diversity. The EEOC turned them down, and CNNMoney is now awaiting a response from the Department of Labor.
But, as the article notes, Mike Swift had already discovered the lengths some companies are using to avoid disclosure.
“Swift eventually received information on 10 of the companies he targeted, but five successfully blocked the request by convincing the Labor Department that releasing the data would infringe on their trade secrets.”
In July, 2011 the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council released report, Minorities And High Tech Employment, which concluded that “the composition of the high tech workforce is not representative of the overall population or of the consumers that these companies serve.” The council followed up with a letter of complaint to the Department of Labor.
And, on November 13, Soledad O’Brien hosted “Black in America: The New Promised Land – Silicon Valley,” part of an ongoing series on race in America. A report on the show said, “According to statistics cited by the documentary, less than one percent of all venture capital money went to digital startups with African-American founders in 2010. The digital boom, O'Brien says, mainly belongs to ‘the white male who dropped out of Stanford with a good idea.’”
Silicon Valley fights to keep its diversity data secret (CNNMoney, Nov. 9, 2011)
Five Silicon Valley companies fought release of employment data, and won (Siliconvalley.com, Feb. 14, 2010)
Minorities And High Tech Employment (Minority Media and Telecommunications Council, July 22, 2011)
Coming to Terms with the Minority High Tech Employment Gap (Broadband & Social Justice, Jul. 24, 2011)
Black in America: The New Promised Land – Silicon Valley (CNN broadcast, Nov. 13, 2011)
CNN's Soledad O'Brien examines lack of diversity in Silicon Valley (San Jose Mercury News, Nov. 12, 2011)