In recent years we have been reminded time and time again that women and people of color are woefully underrepresented in America’s tech companies. Many of the most recognized names in the industry (e.g. Google, Amazon and Facebook) have publicly pledged to increase the diversity on their campuses and boardrooms. Unfortunately, most of these announcements have only come in the wake of unsavory comments made by senior staff regarding women’s abilities (Google) and criticism of companies with boards of directors made up almost entirely of men and exclusively white (Amazon). Succesful corporate efforts to increase diversity have historically been slow to materialize, but there are hopeful signs of small progress being made to address the matter.
This being said, we must still consider whether this failure to truly reflect the diversity of consumers within the industry stems from failures in the corporate hiring and promoting process or if there is a more systemic failure that begins in primary school and stretches to search committees looking for new CEOs. Are companies, especially in the high tech sectors dominated by colossus like Google and Amazon, wilfully picking white males from a deep pool of highly qualified women and people of color, or is there a genuine shortage of such candidates to even consider?
It would be foolish to think that a lack of diversity comes from only one or the other, but where does the lion’s share of blame rightfully fall? Do we fault companies for an unwillingness to hire women, PoC and LGBT+ candidates or should we focus our ire upon a social and educational system that too often fails to inspire and enlighten these underrepresented groups to pursue the training required to get into these industries? This is the dilemma and the answer, if there is an answer, is unclear because we usually hear about these issues as if they are separate problems that do not inform or impact one another. The dearth of serious training and educational opportunities for young women and people of color in technology fields reduces the number of eligible candidates applying for positions and, as a result, these people do not always see themselves as viable and valuable assets. The solution, of course, is not a simple one as it requires both bottom-up inspiring and mentoring as well as top-down standards enforcement and requirements. Since the problem is now in the open and there appears to be no shortage of voices discussing it, we can have hope that there will be meaningful change by the time today’s first graders step into tomorrow’s workforce.