All Articles Tagged "silicon valley"
The picture of the tech sector just got whiter and more masculine. A number of tech companies such as Google, Twitter and Yahoo have released their diversity numbers and it wasn’t pretty. Just as most thought, the tech industry is mostly male and white. And it seems that Pinterest is no different.
Pinterest admits its lack of diversity is a problem, especially since a majority of its users are female. The site’s employees are 60 percent male, and 92 percent of the company’s 400 employees are white or Asian. And according to its own data, only 21 percent of the San Francisco-based company’s tech positions are filled by women, and more than 80 percent of its executives are male. Pinterest discussed their dismay over the diversity numbers via a blog post.
Pinterest software engineer Tracy Chou said in an interview with The LA Times that the company is working to become more diverse. The photo-sharing social network supports programs promoting tech-friendly fields to under-served populations. And, says Chou, it has a 32 percent female engineering intern class and has partnered with organizations such as Girls Who Code to expand the pipeline.
“The [tech] environment is not particularly friendly to minorities,” Chou said. “The industry is not doing a very good job at retaining diversity.”
According to Chou, tech’s lack of diversity is due to two main reasons: a “pipeline problem” of very little diversity in computer science and engineering college students, and that tech owners and staff tend to hire only people who look like themselves, reports The Los Angeles Times.
After some pressure from civil rights groups like Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition and ColorofChange.org, along with the transparency of other Silicon Valley giants like Facebook and Google, Twitter has released its diversity numbers. And, no surprise, the company found that its staff is lacking in women and minority workers. Nearly 90 percent of Twitter’s workers are White or Asian. That same percentage occupy technology jobs. About 70 percent of the staff, overall, are White or Asian.
Seventy percent of the company’s staff are male. That percentage goes up to 90 percent when you look at just the tech workers, and 79 percent when you look at the company leadership.
“A Twitter that we can be proud of is diverse, and it’s inclusive,” writes Janet Van Huysse, VP of diversity and inclusion, in a blog post. She says there are a number of employee groups that will be helping with this task, including WomenEng, a women in engineering group, and Blackbird for “Tweeps of color.” Van Huysse says the company has also partnered with Girls Who Code and other groups, as well as lent its support to organizations like Black Girls Code in order to build outreach to diverse groups.
“We know the critical importance of actively recruiting from under-represented communities such as women’s colleges and historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs),” the blog post also says.
ColorOfChange.org released a statement on behalf of its executive director, Rashad Robinson, in response to the report, that reads in part:
“Twitter benefits a great deal from the creativity, energy, and intelligence of Black folks engaging on the platform — both financially and in terms of popularity. Twitter’s blog post recognizes that there is a problem and states a commitment to fixing it. So we invite Twitter to work with ColorOfChange and our allies in hosting a public forum that addresses the company’s plan to recruit and retain more Black talent. We stand ready to help and hope that they will be a leader in this effort to make Silicon Valley a better representation of America.”
All of the big digital companies say that being diverse within their ranks is necessary to keep up with the diversity of users. Black Twitter in particular has become a force that drives the success of television shows like Scandal and has everyone talking about #TimeTitles based on this story from Time magazine, “This Is What Bae Means” based on the new song by Pharrell.
Now that Silicon Valley is aware of its deficiencies, the key will be sticking with what it takes to correct them. This isn’t going to be a quick fix. Turning around an entire industry culture, training workers to operate on the back end of these systems and sustaining that commitment will have to happen over time.
Condoleezza Rice was the United States Secretary of State. She was also and National Security Advisor. Now she’s a Dropbox board member, making her one of few blacks (and fewer black women) on the board of a major tech company. The cloud file storage and syncing firm made the announcement along with lots of other company news.
Dropbox also launched a number of new products and features, debuting Carousel, a photo storage and sharing service; releasing Dropbox for Business to the general public; and an Android client for its Mailbox email solution, reports TechCrunch.
Rice will bring much-needed international experience to Dropbox’s board to help it deal with foreign governments, such as China, that have blocked the use of the service. She will also help them maneuver cultural differences as they and develop and promote products in other countries.
Dropbox also announced two more executive changes. Sujay Jaswa comes on as the new CFO and Dennis Woodside has left Google to be Dropbox’s new COO.
Almost immediately, there was backlash to Rice’s appointment, with critics calling for users to dump the Dropbox service because of Rice’s involvement with the Iraq War, secret wiretapping, and other Bush-era policies.
“We’re honored to have Dr. Rice join our board — she brings an incredible amount of experience and insight into international markets and the dynamics that define them. As we continue to expand into new countries, we need that type of insight to help us reach new users and defend their rights. Dr. Rice understands our stance on these issues and fully supports our commitments to our users,” was Dropbox’s response.
Once upon a time, being a techie and launching a business meant adapting to the warmer climate in California after graduating from MIT or dropping out of Carnegie Mellon. Young developers and designers, hopeful inventors and ideological innovators descended upon Silicon Valley starting in the late ’60s. And up until the past few years, not much had changed.
Now tech startups are sparking in cities across the country, but none so much as New York. Brand new micro corporations are settling in the Financial District, illuminating Chelsea, running Lower Manhattan and invigorating all parts of Brooklyn. The same talent pools that once fled to the west coast are sticking closer to home and saving on rents by headquartering in the city.
However, it’s more than cost-savings drawing technological hopefuls to the five boroughs. Initiatives from the city, such as We Are Made in NY, are already in place to offer a support system to emerging businesses. Mayor Bloomberg, the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment and NYC Digital launched the Digital Roadmap, enhancing accessibility and education. Not to mention AT&T’s $1.6 million investment into the homegrown well of expertise.
New York City has made a point of highlighting and investing in the tech industry. So have its businesses.
Quirky, headquartered on 28th Street, helps innovators prototype, market and sell new products. Cooperatives across the city provide work space and tight communities for tech-minded makers to collaborate. Startups around the city start small and grow from the input and programming provided by others.
Exhibitions are a factor, too. The companies showing at the first Engadget Expand New York were given unprecedented access to interface with future consumers beyond Kickstarter campaigns. The show allowed inventors to gauge interest in their products, beta test, promote and chat with investors and peers in the industry. The fact that Engadget holds an annual competition that invests a total of $25,000 in startup enterprises is no small thing either.
But more than anything, what appeals to these new companies is its flagship market status. Technology is flocking to the city for the same reason fashion does: New York City gets it first. Innovators are using robotics, cloud computing and apps to make everyday life easier, save money and generally just do better. Today’s tech companies are lifestyle brands, and there’s no greater location to introduce them to the world. New York’s all-embracing environment is making it possible to get everything from energy conscious powerstrips to calorie counting scales. If this keeps up, the newfangled things we thought were just fantasies for The Jetsons and Back to the Future aren’t too far away.
They’re already making plans for the hoverboard.
The 394-unit project, called Anton Menlo (it’s being developed in partnership with real estate developer St. Anton Partners), will be within walking of the social network’s Menlo Park, Calif., campus. The cushy rental complex will feature all the benefits of high-end apartments. Plans include options that rival the amenities of even the most posh housing arrangements and compliment the batch of incentives already offered at the youthful, laid-back office park.
Although Anton Menlo will certainly draw prospective recruits away from other power players in the tech and startup market, the digital brand is no innovator in corporate housing. Large businesses often hold leases on apartment blocks to accommodate guests and displaced employees. But community setups such as these haven’t been seen since industrial neighborhoods died out in the early 20th century.
Still the modern company town is certainly an advantage in an area with rising real estate costs, hundreds of relocating techies and a flustering search for nearby residential options. But will employees living among their peers soon forget how to unplug?
Perhaps when you work for Facebook, taking a step back is less of a concern. However, living and working with the same people around the clock can easily become overwhelming in an already frenzied occupation. Still once the 630,000 square-foot housing complex is complete, workers of the pioneer in online community development will have one of their very own IRL (In Real Life, in case you don’t know). And they’ll never have an excuse for being late again.
Is the tech world finally looking to black women to join the talent pool? According to Lisa Nicole Bell, founder and CEO of Inspired Life Media Group, if Silicon Valley isn’t already taking notice of tech’s fastest growing minority groups, it will be soon. And black women need to be ready to jump from tech consumers to tech makers.
“Black women consume significant amounts of digital media. We’re frequently the early adopters for new software and hardware,” she writes in Inc. The numbers are there: An Essence magazine 2008 report found that five times as many black women — 36 percent — use cell phones for three or more hours per day. It also found that black women are much more likely than other female consumers to use technology and the Internet as tools of empowerment and self-expression. Add to this, a recent Pew study, which revealed that blacks “over-index” on Twitter and Instagram.
While the tech world may finally realize the need for inclusion of more black women, actually making that happen is another matter. According to Bell, several steps must be taken not only by Silicon Valley but also by black women themselves.
“Education seems to be the most promising means of both increasing the number of black women active in tech,” she explains. “With a paucity of black women choosing to major in computer science and related studies, there has to be more done to encourage black girls to see themselves as producers in addition to being consumers.”
And the education push needs to start early on. By encouraging young girls to enter STEM careers, not only will this affect the tech industry but the world in general. “More girls and women need to be encouraged to pursue interests and careers in digital,” Mira Lowe, senior editor for features at CNN Digital, explains to Bell . “If women are not engaging in the technology world, they will ultimately not be contributing to the world at large.”
One organization helping to encourage young black girls to enter the tech arena is Black Girls CODE, an organization founded by Kimberly Bryant, a technical project manager based in San Francisco. “There is definitely a very serious pipeline issue. The K-12 infrastructure does not currently provide adequate access to training in computer science,” Bryant says. “Once we can better feed the tech pipeline with women and other diverse candidates, we can begin to move the needle and change the face of tech as these students move on to attend college, pursue careers in tech, and eventually become the tech leaders, builders, and mentors for the next generation.”
Lastly, once young black women have studied and entered the tech world there needs to be mentoring available. “Network with people in the field. Develop and preserve your digital footprint. Believe that you can make a digital difference,”Lowe tells Bell.
Just two months after setting off fierce debate about the merits of telecommuting, Yahoo has announced a slate of new perks and benefits for its staffers. On the top of the list is extended maternity and paternity leave. All parents, including fathers now have eight weeks; new moms have 16 weeks.
In addition, parents will receive $500 for necessities, there are gifts for new pet owners, and eight weeks of unpaid leave for employees who make it to five years with the company. This all sounds pretty good, but actually, Yahoo is playing catch up with the rest of Silicon Valley. According to CNN, Google, the company Mayer used to work for, offers all parents seven weeks of paid leave, and between 18 and 22 weeks of maternity leave for mothers. And Facebook offers four months for both parents and $4,000 of “baby cash.”
Mayer herself went back to work two weeks after giving birth to her son on September 30, which everyone commented on (even though it’s none of their business). All of her decisions are watched closely for a variety of reasons: because she’s a woman CEO, because Yahoo was once a major player in the tech space and it’s trying to regain prominence, and because of the attention now being paid to women “leaning in” and “having it all.” Keep in mind, Mayer was pregnant when she accepted the CEO position, so there’s a good chance she felt she had to go back to work as quickly as possibly because she was new to the job.
On the business side, the company’s stock is up 24 percent since the beginning of the year. Mayer herself is being paid $36.6 million in cash and stock for her work.
Research conducted by Kenneth Matos at the Family and Work Institute shows just how far outside the norm these new Yahoo perks are. “Matos’s research shows that only 30 percent of U.S. employers offer paid or unpaid maternity leave that is greater than 12 weeks,” Today’s website says about the data. “Matos also said that 58 percent of employers who provide maternity leave pay new moms for at least some of that time off. Only 14 percent of employers who provide paternity leave pay for some of the dads’ time off.”
Many companies and most states in the US don’t offer very much in the way of paid maternity leave, a rare thing among developed countries. The Today site proposes that the Yahoo changes could spark other developments in this area.
CNN has made numerous attempts over the past few years to collect data about diversity at the top tech companies, but have been mostly unsuccessful due to blockades from tech leadership. As you may know, I work for a large tech firm, also one that CNN attempted to collect data from, and I don’t need any advanced survey research to prove that black people, male and female, are hard to spot on tech campuses.
I’m sure many would make this assumption, but CNN wanted to prove it. After making a general request to 10 of the largest firms and 10 smaller but influential firms only three — Dell, Ingram Mico, and Intel — were forthcoming with their data. The other 17 companies flat out refused to share this data, which immediately raises a red flag.
CNN consulted with their legal team and found out they could make a request through the Department of Labor to access Equal Employment Opportunity Commission data. But even this tactic only added two more companies to the information list — Cisco and Ebay. Five major companies required by law to give up the data submitted written objections on the basis that releasing this data would cause “competitive harm.”
To go so far as to be ready to start a legal battle over the issue, shows that these companies have something to hide. With the data they were able to collect, CNN was able to determine that diversity in Silicon Valley is a serious issue and it seems like we are just embarking upon the conversation. As Aditi Mohapatra, associate tech sector director at BSR, a consulting group that works with companies on social and sustainability issues, put it: “This data is just a baseline for discussion, but we can’t end the problem if we can’t start the conversation. For the tech industry to remain silent about diversity is so not aligned with what they preach.”
Tech companies are supposed to be about breaking the mold, advancement and innovation, but it seems like this is not represented in their workforce. These cutting edge companies are stuck in the past when it comes to diversity. Maybe one day the transparency they promote in other areas of business will be reflected by their willingness to provide diversity data. It’s only when you know what you’re working with that you can improve. And as the tech industry is a thriving one with boundless potential for growth and innovation, it’s important that we open doors for different groups to make their way into the industry — for their own betterment and that of the technology advancements we want to continue seeing.
Of course, tech start-ups in Silicon Valley are finding lots of success. But there are a number of other cities that are also becoming fertile ground for burgeoning technology businesses.
According to data provided by Thomson Reuters and the MoneyTree Report by PwC and compiled by National Venture Capital Association, San Francisco and San Jose, CA are the two top cities in the U.S. for technology start-ups. But coming in at number three is New York City. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Sen. Chuck Schumer, and other New York government officials started a big push in 2011 to make the Big Apple a hub, not just for industries the city has been known for. It has been building a reputation as the place for tech start-ups on the East Coast.
“Part of this is that many of the traditional industries in which New York has always been a leader — like financial services, and retail, and business services — are more and more becoming high-tech industries as well,” Sen. Schumer said at the time.
Mashable also credits companies like Facebook and Google, which have set up offices in New York, for boosting its tech cred.
Coming in number four on the list is Boston, which, according to CIO.com (the site originally posted this information) is a venture capital hub and is seeing a lot of activity in the healthcare and IT spaces. That city is also aided by the prestigious schools that call the city home. For instance, according to CIO.com, MIT grads are jumping into a lot of startups.
And finally, number five is Los Angeles, which is, naturally, seeing a lot of activity in the media and entertainment area.
Behind The Click: Ayori Selassie Came From Humble Beginnings to Work for Forbes’ Most Innovative Company
So here we are! Our last “Behind The Click” profile for 2012. (Don’t worry… there’s a special year-end piece in the next few days as well as much more to come in 2013).
Ayori Selassie is helping us wrap up this year with a bang. Not only is she a product manager at SalesForce.com (voted most innovative company by Forbes magazine), but she also has some very special involvement with a particular part of the U.S. State Department (of which I’m a huge fan). Read on to find out about this very busy and talented member of the technorati!
Current Occupation: Product Manager, SalesForce.com
Favorite website: Mashable. “Great resource for tech, startup and innovative stuff in general.”
Favorite read: Women Who Run With The Wolves by Dr Clarissa Pinkola Estes. “The fables, folk tales and stories in this book (less so the analysis of the stories) helped me recover from a failed marriage engagement and learn to trust my gut. I still refer to these stories for personal experiences and when giving advice to other women.
Recent read: Rebuild the Dream by Van Jones. “He is one of my role models.”
2012′s ultimate goal: Taking my daughter to see our nation’s capital. I did that in October and will be doing it again for her birthday with a very special surprise visit to a very important place. I’ll have to let you wonder about that!
Quote Governing Your Mission:
“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” Theodore Roosevelt
“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” Eleanor Roosevelt
LdC: So, let’s always start with the basics. Give me a bit about your background.