By: Myra Thomas –
While pundits and analysts debate about diversity in Silicon Valley, one thing is very clear: Black Americans make up a very small percentage of tech workers. At Facebook, Google, and Yahoo, that number is a bit less than 2 percent of their respective U.S. workforces; at Apple, it’s closer to 7 percent.
According to the National Black Information Technology Leadership Organization (NBITLO) and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, blacks hold less than 8 percent of all information technology jobs in U.S., and fewer than 3 percent of IT leadership positions.
Many executives and pundits have argued that the educational pipeline remains one of the chief impediments to hiring a more diverse workforce, and that as long as universities aren’t recruiting a broader mix of students for STEM degrees, the corporate landscape will suffer accordingly. But black IT entrepreneurs and professionals tell Dice that the problem goes much deeper than simply widening the pipeline; they argue that racial bias, along with lingering impressions of what a “techie” should look like, loom much larger than any pipeline issue. Statistics from the NBITLO indicate that only two out of five black people who graduate with a computer science or management information systems degree actually land a career in the field, even when the industry says it’s begging for workers.
According to Greg Greenlee, a systems and network engineer at Cincinnati-based Appica and founder of Blacks In Technology, a networking and media organization, a combination of “conscious and unconscious bias” can often keep minority IT professionals and computer science grads from a job. “People seek out people in their circle or in their comfort zone and community,” he said. “They might not always mean to discriminate, but they end up doing it.” That can be a very real problem, because networking is often one of the best ways to find a job or move up the ranks.
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