Research Mercury News put out a couple weeks ago regarding the lack of minorities in Silicon Valley has sent a ripple through the tech community. To give you a brief overview it generally outlines statistics that we all pretty much know: Lack of entrepreneurship by minorities in Silicon Valley and the lack of minority employees in Silicon Valley. When laid out statistically the findings are…well..sad and disappointing. Particularly nuggets from the article like these:
…the combined work force of 10 of the valley’s largest companies — including Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Cisco Systems, eBay and AMD — shows that while the collective work force of those 10 companies grew by 16 percent between 1999 and 2005, an already small population of black workers dropped by 16 percent, while the number of Hispanic workers declined by 11 percent. By 2005, only about 2,200 of the 30,000 Silicon Valley-based workers at those 10 companies were black or Hispanic.
Of the 5,907 top managers and officials in the Silicon Valley offices of the 10 large companies in 2005, 296 were black or Hispanic, a 20 percent decline from 2000, according to U.S. Department of Labor work-force data obtained by the Mercury News through a Freedom of Information request.
In 2008, the share of computer workers living in Silicon Valley who are black or Latino was 1.5 percent and 4.7 percent, respectively — shares that had declined since 2000. Nationally, blacks and Latinos were 7.1 percent and 5.3 percent of computer workers, respectively, shares that were up since 2000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Between 1999 and 2005, Hispanics were a declining share of the work force in a majority of the 10 large Silicon Valley companies analyzed by the Mercury News — slipping to 5.2 percent of all workers at the 10 companies in 2005, from 6.8 percent in 1999. The black share of the work force at the 10 companies dropped to 2.1 percent, from 2.9 percent.
Whats even more interesting is a guest post over on TechCrunch by Vivek Wadhwa expanding on some of the thoughts in the Mercury News article, specifically how it relates to Indians. He is also referenced as an expert in parts of the original article by Mercury News. While I agreed with most of the thoughts there, this statement particularly concerns me:
Is the Valley deliberately keeping these groups out? I don’t think so. Silicon Valley is, without doubt, a meritocracy. In this land, only the fittest survive. That is exactly the way it should be. For the Valley’s innovation system to achieve peak performance, new technologies need to constantly obsolete the old, and the world’s best techies need to keep making the Valley’s top guns compete for their jobs. There is no room for government mandated affirmative action, and our tech companies shouldn’t have to apologize for hiring the people they need. But at the same time, without realizing it, the Valley may be excluding a significant part of the American population that could be making it even more competitive. False stereotypes may be getting in the way of greater innovation and prosperity.
Why is Affirmative Action okay in every other industry and region but somehow when we take into account Silicon Valley it should be ignored. Bogus. As I’ve mentioned many times before there is no innovation without diversity. Caroline Simard from the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology echoed this though in the article:
“If everybody around the table is the same, the same ideas will tend to come up. If you have a diversity of race, gender, age, educational and different life experiences, people will attack a problem from different perspectives, and that will lead to innovation. In an industry that thrives on innovation, like high tech, it’s especially important.”
In terms of entrepreneurship I think many minorities are calling Silicon Alley and other areas along the Eastcost home to their ventures. While I couldn’t find any public data to support this (outside of knowing where many of the audience that visits this site comes from) if this is infact the case Silicon Valley could face a real threat from strat-up’s based outside of the area. This would require the same type of vibrant community The Valley is known for.
Speaking of community I found an organization Wadhwa mentioned in his article fascinating and much needed. The organization is called TiE (The Indus Entrepreneurs):
Their mission was to give back to the community by fostering entrepreneurship. They would hold monthly events, teach entrepreneurship, and provide mentoring and support. And they would facilitate Indian-style matchmaking between entrepreneurs themselves and with investors and corporate partners.
Organizations such as TiE are very much needed for all minorities in order for them to succeed, even if only for those who participate to be able to draw from a knowledge bank that would otherwise go untapped. Needless to say I strongly believe in the value organizations such as these can give. This is one of the main reasons this spring we’ve decided to partner with Innovation Generation to have our first conference, The New Media Entrepreneurship Conference. My goals for the conference are to:
- Facilitate open discussion about how to increase the likelihood of success of minority start-ups in new media.
- Formulate an action plan to increase the number of minority new media start-ups and increase the number of successful start-ups that survive.
- Develop a policy framework for advancing and stimulating the growth of minority new media start-ups.
We hope to achieve these goals by focusing on 3 core issues that minorities face when embarking on entrepreneurship in the new media space: Accesing Capital, Growth Strategies, and Mentorship.
Many of you know how much I like to go to conferences, they are informative however I’ve noticed they often lack any follow through in the concepts that are discussed. This is what will set The New Media Entrepreneurship Conference apart. Based on the discussions at the conference (really more like a think tank) I’d like to see an action plan come out of it so that we can see some real change in how minority entrepreneurs are succeeding and surviving in the landscape. I am totally interested in hearing your thoughts and comments on this however I’d like to get back to the topic at hand first.
Do you think it is necessary for Silicon Valley to be diversified, if so what are some ways to go about doing this? Is Affirmative Action really the way to go?