Picture this – you’re at your computer, filling out an application online for your dream job. Simple enough, right? You fill out your standard information – name, address, phone number, email – then you plug away your impressive past experiences. You begin to feel elated, you think “I’m going to get the job, I’m the perfect candidate, why wouldn’t they request an interview?!” You click next, and suddenly you’re dispirited. The EEO data shows up on your window. The Equal Employment Opportunity data, meant for companies to ensure diversity within their workplace.
So why do you pause? This shouldn’t be hard. You know your race and gender, and you certainly know if you’re a United States veteran. However, you pause. And then the questions start to hang over your head like swinging pendulums. Will sharing this information deter you from your dream job? Will all the years of preparation for this career be wasted based on the color of your skin or the sex that you were born with? What if you choose not to answer - will they assume that you’re hiding something?
However, the real question starts to loom over your head. What do companies do with this information and why have some been hiding it?
In early 2008, Mercury News, a newspaper based out of San Jose, California, sent in a federal Freedom of Information Act request for the top 15 Silicon Valley companies to share their EEO data publicly. Companies such as Intel, Cisco Systems, eBay, AMD and Sun Microsystems willingly obliged and shared their information. Chuck Mulloy, a spokesperson for Intel, took a further step and contacted Mercury News with a statement saying, “There’s nothing to hide, in our view. We just felt that we’re very proud of the [diversity] programs we have in place and the efforts we put forth, and we don’t have any trouble sharing it.”
However, five companies decided to fight against the FOIA request from Mercury News. These companies included Apple, Yahoo, Oracle, Applied Materials - and most surprisingly - Google, a company that was created to provide readily accessible information to the world.
After an 18-month battle, these companies convinced federal regulators that providing the information would cause potential “commercial harm” which competitors could use. Many experts believed that reasoning was absurd and saw no negative correlation between releasing diversity data and vulnerability in business strategies. "One of the main ways that we track how society is doing in terms of race relations, in terms of eliminating discrimination, in terms of promoting diversity, is by looking at statistics," said Richard Ford, a Stanford University law professor who is an expert in civil rights and anti-discrimination law. "But if we can't get the data, we can't know if it's a problem or not."
The data was ultimately collected by Mercury News who noticed an odd change between 1999 and 2006. The data showed that the collective workforce of 10 Silicon Valley’s companies grew by 16%, however the minority population dropped 16% coincidentally. By 2005, only 2,200 out of the 30,000 workers in Silicon Valley were either black or Hispanic. Out of that number, only 300 held managerial positions, which was a decrease from the previous years. The data also showed a dip in women holding managerial positions from 28% in 2000 to 26%.
A strange irony to it all, in the last two weeks of 2009, Google donated over $8 million to encourage minorities to pursue careers in technology, donating laptops to more than 600 high schools. The company also donated to the National Society of Black Engineers. Still, Google declined to release its racial and gender breakdown of its 20,000 employees.
Eventually in 2014, Google gave in and released their EEO data. That year, Google’s workforce makeup was 70% male and 30% female. Of those workers, 61% were white, 30% was Asian, 4% were 2 or more races, 3% were Hispanic and 2% were black.
This pattern seems to be common amongst the Silicon Valley companies. Apple shared an identical gender makeup in their 2014 report - with white leading the racial breakdown at 55%, 15% Asian, 11% Hispanic, 7% black, 2% being 2 or more races and the rest as undisclosed/undeclared. Sadly, Apple was the only company that seemed to have the most racial diversity between Yahoo, Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and eBay. Out of those, eBay lead in the closest gender workforce equality with 58% male and 42% female.
Computer Science jobs have been rapidly expanding, and yet there remains the issue that only one in fourteen technical employees are either Hispanic or black. "The numbers are not where we want them to be," said Sarah Stuart, manager of global diversity and talent inclusion at Google. Nationally, 12% of blacks make up the American workforce while Hispanics rank up 14%.
Gender diversity has also remained a top issue, especially amongst the technology industry. Even more interesting, despite making up the majority of the Silicon Valley population, women went from 37% of the workforce in 1999 to 33% in 2005. As clearly shown in the 2014 reports, this gender gap hasn’t budged.
Below is a chart showing the 2014 data of the gender makeups of top Silicon Valley companies. The top bar is representing males while the lower bar represents females. Microsoft has the largest gender gap out of all, with 71% male and 29% female. Out of that percentage, 83% of those males hold leadership positions. Amazingly enough, Microsoft is not the most male dominating company - Intel takes that lead with a 77% male workforce.
Now the question arises, if these EEO reports are meant for companies to keep a diverse workforce intact, then why has there been little (or worse) change?
Earlier this month, NYPD Commissioner, Bill Bratton, has been hit with this issue – specifically on racial diversity – with protesters claiming the NYPD discriminates against minorities. On the topic of recruiting more black officers, he stated to The Guardian, “We have a significant population gap among African American males because so many of them have spent time in jail and, as such, we can’t hire them.” Bratton continued by blaming the “stop, question and frisk” initiative that led many blacks and Hispanics to receiving minor misdemeanors. Consequently, the population pool of candidates in these races have diminished. The “stop and frisk” initiative was eventually struck down in 2013 by a federal judge that claimed the policy was a result of indirect racial profiling. Judge Shira A Scheindlin claimed the program had officers routinely check “blacks and Hispanics who would not have been stopped is they were white.”
The NYPD issue further shows that racial diversity is not only within Silicon Valley’s companies, but it’s becoming a national issue affecting any industry in any area. And where do people like Rachel Dolezal, who is legally a white woman but identifies as being black, and Ruby Rose, who also is legally a woman but identifies herself with no gender, fit into all this? Although the EEO-1 form was developed in 1964 under the Civil Rights Act as a means to help companies and protect minorities within the nation, it is important to look over this policy and see if the Act is doing more harm than good when it’s giving companies a bad reputation and possibly deterring potential candidates who are minorities from applying.
For more information visit: http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2014/06/26/silicon-valley-tech-diversity-white-asian-black-hispanic-google-facebook-yahoo/11372421/
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