No Blacks? No Women? What Tech Companies Don’t Want Us To Know

March 29, 2013  |  

 

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.

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