By: David Honig –
The composition of the workforces at America’s leading high tech companies leaves much to be desired. This became glaringly evident after the San Jose Mercury News published an article last year that revealed just how few minorities are employed by tech companies in Silicon Valley, our country’s leading high-tech hub: African Americans and Hispanics made up a smaller share of the valley’s tech workers in 2008 than they did in 2000. Even more astonishing, many of the largest and most well-known companies have consistently refused to disclose their hiring practices or the composition of their workforce.
Silicon Valley is not alone – nationally, a mere 7.1 percent of computer and mathematics workers are African American, yet they represent 12.8 percent of the total U.S. population. Likewise, Hispanic Americans make up 15.4 percent of the U.S. population, but only 5.3 percent of computer and mathematics workers.
But it gets worse.
Not only do African Americans and Hispanics occupy lower levels of employment in the high tech sector, but they are also typically underpaid compared to their White and Asian counterparts. In fact, a 2010 report by the National Science Foundation disclosed that the full-time salary for African Americans and Hispanics with science and engineering bachelor’s degrees was 25.8 percent lower than other racial groups. By not providing competitive wages, firms create disincentives for underrepresented minorities to apply for jobs in the high tech sector. These atrocious gaps in minority high tech employment and salaries are deplorable, and we cannot ensure social equality in the digital era unless they are addressed.
Policymakers must educate large and small businesses alike about the benefits of minority employment. For instance, a diverse workforce is critical for facilitating creativity and innovation. Research has found that a diverse workforce invites a wider range of attitudes, beliefs, and ways of thinking – all of which can provide new and varied perspectives for creative tasks.
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