The Silicon Valley’s diversity debate has recently re-surfaced. Leslie Miley a former Senior Engineer at Twitter was one of the only African Americans in the company’s senior leadership. He recently wrote a blog post about his deep frustration with the lack of diversity at Twitter that caught my attention.
Miley’s sentiment reinforces the workforce demographic statistics that tech giants like Google, Facebook, Apple and Yahoo released last year, which revealed that an overwhelming percentage of their workforce are white males. The lack of diversity when it comes to African-Americans, Hispanics and female employees is a huge problem, especially when these groups make up their user base.
In 2014, 27 percent of African Americans, 25 percent of Hispanics and 21 percent of women use Twitter according to the Pew Research Center. African Americans account for more than 25 percent of Twitter’s user base, but only two percent of its workforce in the U.S.. Sixty-seven percent of African Americans, 73 percent of Hispanics and 77 percent of women use Facebook, yet only 31 percent of women and four percent of Hispanics hold positions at Facebook.
It is no surprise that diversity is an issue here, but what is being done about it?
Step one, admit you have a problem. Step two, recognize your past errors. And, step three, do something about it!
All of these tech companies have formally acknowledged the issue and say they are committed to establishing a more diverse workforce, but what actions have been taken to date since the 2014 statistics were released? Facebook’s latest diversity report shows little progress, as is the case with Yahoo and Google, which show small gains.
It’s unlikely that these numbers will even out overnight, but that’s where people are hoping unconscious bias training will come into play. In the past couple of years the demand for bias-busting solutions has gone through the roof in the form of consulting firms and anti-bias hiring software. Google led the way with an unconscious bias training video they released a year ago. Since many of the anti-bias hiring software companies and training programs are so young, how are they supposed to effectively field-test their product? Are the companies that are adopting these procedures routinely measuring the programs’ effects? Is unconscious bias training really affective, or a temporary band-aid solution.
The biggest contradiction that comes to my mind about unconscious bias training is that you can’t train something you can’t control. Sure, you can be more aware of the issue, but understanding implicit bias doesn’t give you the tools to actually do something about it.