Many of the ethical issues that tech companies wrestle with, from data breaches to gentrification, could be solved with a more diverse group of people making decisions.
Last week, members of the Congressional Black Caucus visited Silicon Valley, on a trip largely dedicated to pushing major tech companies to increase the racial diversity of their workforces. That is an important goal, but it’s not enough for the Apples, Twitters and PayPals of the world to employ a particular number of members of racial minority groups.
By Leah Wright Rigueur and Bärí A. Williams, Columnists
Last week, while in West Virginia for a roundtable discussion, President Donald Trump made a sharp detour from his scheduled remarks on taxes to rail against alleged voter fraud in elections. “In many places, like California, the same person votes many times,” he told his audience. “They always like to say, ‘Oh, that’s a conspiracy theory.’ Not a conspiracy theory, folks. Millions and millions of people.”
OAKLAND, Calif. — Last month I spoke at a gathering of African-American technology professionals. I’m a transactional lawyer at a tech company and my husband is an engineer, so the industry is at the center of our lives. We have careers that allow us to help create products and tools our grandparents would never have thought were possible and to provide the kind of life for our family that they couldn’t have imagined. And it’s important to us to ensure that other people of color have a chance to contribute to the field and reap its benefits. With all those things on my mind, I left the conference energized and inspired by the ways in which tech is changing the world and the possibilities it holds for our community.
Discussing her work at Apple at an event last week about fighting racial injustice, Denise Young Smith, the company’s vice president of diversity and inclusion, said, “There can be 12 white, blue-eyed, blond men in a room and they’re going to be diverse, too, because they’re going to bring a different life experience and life perspective to the conversation.”
It’s almost that time of year when America’s top tech companies release their annual reports offering the public a glimpse into the number of underrepresented employees across their ranks.While they offer a glance into how companies are faring in the diversity department, they don’t tell the full story.
These vital lessons resonated with me and they can help guide you, as well.
The beauty of the Black family, since arriving on these shores, has been multi-generational families and extended communities to comprise your village. Grandparents, in particular, are people you saw at least three times a week, if not everyday. The backbone of those families are Black women, and fabulous matriarchies. My lineage is no different. My grandmother was my favorite person on earth, and before beginning a nine-year battle with Alzheimer’s and succumbing in 2014, she imparted much wisdom.
It’s almost that time of year when America’s top tech companies release their annual reports offering the public a glimpse into the number of underrepresented employees across their ranks. Uber kick started it when the ride-hailing company released its figures this Spring; during the summer months ahead, other tech companies are expected to release their reports. While they offer a glance into how companies are faring in the diversity department, they don’t tell the full story.
The Uber fallout of recent weeks makes something my grandmother used to tell me more important than ever now: “To get something you don’t have, you’ll have to do something you haven’t done. You’re a black woman. So, to do that, you’ll have to work twice as hard to get half as far.”
However, the onus isn’t just on us. There are two things tech must acknowledge and fix to make a change...