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Silicon Valley: A Culture of Exclusion

There are over a billion people on Facebook. These are people of all genders, ages, religions, ethnicities and political leanings. These are people representing nearly all of the industrialized, democratic countries from across the globe. These are people who reflect the communities in which they live.

Twitter boasts over 500 million people. These are people with a proven interest in current affairs. These are people engaged in their communities. These are people who demand to be heard. In fact, in recent years, Twitter has established itself as the cornerstone of modern activism. This is particularly true among its large base of African-American users; often referred to as “Black Twitter.”

With such a wide range of users from all corners of the nation and the world, digital platforms have proven that input from a variety of thoughts and perspectives can create a shift in the right direction. Yet, the companies that build these vastly diverse online meeting places have not learned the lessons their users are teaching and lack the diversity of the very online communities they created.

Numbers recently released from some of the most popular tech companies’ reveal there is, shockingly very little Diversity in Silicon Valley.

When Google released its diversity numbers this past May, figures showed that 30% of its staff was female and 70% male. Only 1% of its technology staff was reported to be African American and 2% Hispanic. The majority of its tech staff comprised of Asians (34%) Whites (60%). Similar numbers were also found among other iconic tech companies that are headquartered in Silicon Valley such as, Facebook, Twitter and Yahoo.

These are the very companies that make Silicon Valley the mecca of all things techie, to thousands of geeks, hackers, programmers, tech junkies and internet entrepreneurs the world over.

Now that technology plays such a vital role in the everyday life of almost every man, woman and child in the U.S., it’s no wonder why over 40 minority organizations who have historically advocated for civil rights, social justice and economic inclusion have now started calling for Silicon Valley to do something about its culture of exclusion.

Silicon Valley is the birthplace of innovation and home to many of the companies that develop the technologies that we’ve come to rely on to enhance our lives, boost our productivity at work, keep us connected to our love ones and provide us with personal entertainment.

It is absolutely vital to the strength of our economy and for competitiveness in the marketplace that women and minorities of all ethnic backgrounds be included in the creative process; as their input and ideas will be critical to the overall customer satisfaction and end user experience.

Even in the 21st century, our nation is still healing from the emotional scars of the hard lessons learned from the dark days when discrimination, segregation, and inequality were as much a part of corporate culture as board meetings and office Christmas parties. We know all too well that creating barriers or by not removing barriers that exclude a particular race or gender from our national workforce, be it public or private, is simply not good business.

Allowing racial disparities to exist in an industry that is literally making the once impossible, possible and changing how we see and communicate with the world, runs contrary to the word innovation. It represents a colonial mindset when a small but dominant segment of our society thought that they (rich white men who owned land) were the only ones suited to lead our newly formed nation and growing industries.

Although some of the most brilliant minds in the country are leading companies that are working on groundbreaking and life-altering projects and concepts, the dismal diversity numbers show a revived sense of ignorance regarding equality in the workplace by some of the top executives in Silicon Valley. Their apathy runs contrary to everything our civil rights heroes fought for and the very thing that those who became martyrs gave their lives for.

The solution to taking Silicon Valley’s employment diversity numbers from 1960 levels to modern day standards and ending the corporate culture of exclusion can be found by modeling practices used by the very companies that built the infrastructure and provided the pathway that most all Silicon Valley companies use as their foundation and the gateway through which their products and services move to the marketplace.

Yes, I’m talking about the Internet Service Providers (ISP), the giants of the telecom industry, Comcast, Verizon, AT&T and others.

These telecom companies often work closely with Silicon Valley firms and provide the very lifeblood (the internet) that make these tech firms invaluable to today’s ever-connected society. Many of them through their own internal and industry-wide challenges and missteps with employment and equal opportunities practices have gone through a corporate evolution and evolved into corporate citizens who are committed to employment and supplier diversity, philanthropy and cultivating a culture of diversity and inclusion within their organizations.

During a speech at the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council, Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League said,

“If you look at telecom companies like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast, they have diverse boards, philanthropy and diverse executives. Certainly, they are not where we’d all like them to be, but they have demonstrated the power of diversity. It’s one thing to talk about Apple and Google and others, but you have to talk about those that have embraced diversity historically and have made tremendous strides, underscoring that no one is where we want them to be. But it’s a start and that’s what’s important. That’s where we need to be in the tech world.”

According to estimates from the U.S. Department of Commerce, jobs in the technology sector are projected to grow by 17% percent by 2018. Making the tech industry an inevitable keystone of the U.S. economy and an economic engine that produces products and services that are such everyday fixtures in our society that they not only enhance the quality of our daily lives, they are the very things that define modern living.

As publicly held companies, the executives and board members of these tech leaders should be agents of economic diversity and inclusion, they bear a greater responsibility than privately owned companies. By not taking immediate steps or aggressive actions to increase the low to almost non-existence numbers of women, African-Americans and Hispanics that are not present in their offices and executive board rooms, Silicon Valley’s corporate leadership is making a bold statement to the world.

They are saying, “If you are a member of a minority group which we have chosen to exclude from our corporate culture; then we feel you don’t possess the skills that we’re looking for. Therefore, you are of no value to our organizations. Your ideas, concerns, and experiences as users of our products and services are irrelevant and your money as consumers of our products and services does not matter.”

About the Author

Michael Bailey – is an internet entrepreneur, New Media Strategist and founder of TME Media Group; a full-service marketing firm that specializes in developing multimedia marketing and public relations strategies for businesses and government agencies. Follow him @theminorityeye 

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Michael Bailey

Michael Bailey is the founder of The MinorityEye and serves as the Chief-Curator of Information. He leads the editorial staff and works as a multimedia journalist who specializes in producing news stories and personal profiles that highlight the cultural, social, economic, and political experiences of minorities living in South Carolina and beyond. His extensive media, business, and political background has made him a well-respected voice and an often sought-after commentator on issues impacting people of color.

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