Silicon Valley is many things – innovative, futuristic, cutting-edge. What it is not is diverse. Too few women and minorities work at the firms that are building the tech gadgets and services that we can’t live without. Women account for less than 30% of high-tech employees, and African Americans and Latinos combined are only 5% of the workforce. This dynamic is similar across the country’s high-tech sector and highlights a troubling issue that must be addressed.
Why does diversity matter? This is not about affirmative action or mandating quotas – it is about assuring equality of opportunity and preventing the further concentration of lucrative jobs, venture funding, and other entrepreneurial opportunities in the hands of a small group of people who all look alike. Diversity is also beneficial to innovation and overall economic growth.
Unfortunately, the deck remains stacked against women and minorities. Even government officials have been quick to reward the industry with contracts and other funding without seizing the opportunity to address dangerous patterns that are contributing to the creation of a homogenous digital workforce. Instead of blindly rewarding tech companies despite their deplorable diversity track record, the government has a responsibility to hold the industry accountable for its actions or inactions.
The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is well positioned to spearhead change. Its recently released Diversity in High Tech report observed a “striking…degree of sex and race segregation” in Silicon Valley and similar patterns elsewhere. To help build momentum toward solving these problems, the EEOC should use its authority to hold field hearings, gather additional information, and analyze Silicon Valley’s gender and racial profile. The Office of Federal Contract and Compliance Programs (OFCCP), which is part of the U.S. Department of Labor, also has the power to address these issues. Many high-tech firms and Silicon Valley companies are federal contractors. The OFCCP has the authority to ensure that federal contractors and subcontractors provide equal opportunities for employment. It must hold these firms to account for their dismal hiring record.
These necessary actions won’t happen in a vacuum. We must take a stand and ensure that government officials are doing their part to open the doors of opportunity for women and people of color in Silicon Valley. Now is the time for us to rally our voices and demand that our representatives in Washington use their power to hold the high-tech industry accountable. We want to see a tech sector that represents the rich diversity America has to offer.
Join us in making sure our public officials really understand the importance of tech diversity!