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Posted under: Technology News

New Studies Show Tech Isn't Really Getting More Diverse, And That Employees Are Getting Tired Of Diversity Initiatives

“Culture doesn’t change rapidly,” an anonymous black Facebook employee said.

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We've had our eye on Silicon Valley diversity hiring issues for a while now, and reported that diversity in tech appears to be getting worse.

After being hit with hard numbers, some major tech companies vowed to step up and improve (such as Facebook), but we all knew the undeniable proof would be in the pudding. 

In May, members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) took a trip to the Valley to check on the tech titans' diversity progress. And they were less than impressed.

“I’m not about diplomacy,’’ Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA) said during the visit. “I’m not urging; I’m not encouraging. I’m about to hit some people across the head with a hammer. I know how to do this, and I know how to do it well.’’

After learning only 1 or 2 percent of workers at certain prominent tech companies are black, Waters was "floored" and threatened regulation. 

Following the CBC's visit, Bloomberg compiled the latest tech diversity data from eight of Silicon Valley's largest tech companies and found that between 2014 and 2017, the percent black people in technical roles rose by only 0.6 percent.

Little has changed from the previous 2014 data.

“It’s a very complex and comprehensive problem,’’ Allison Scott, chief researcher at the Kapor Center for Social Impact, said.

According to Scott, some tech companies, finding hiring ethnic minorities too much, have opted to hire more white women. “Some tech companies have thought, if I can bite off a manageable thing — gender diversity — then I can get to race, and that’s a really problematic way to think about it,’’ Scott said.

Maxine Williams, Facebook’s global head of diversity, said hiring minorities is hard, and Facebook is doing the best it can.

“We're on the journey, in the struggle,” Williams said. “We know the data on how being a minority affects your ability or willingness to show up. It can be isolating. What I have learned is there's no one silver bullet. All I know how to do is have this comprehensive suite to meet people where they are."

The "comprehensive suite" Williams is referring to consists of employee resource groups, recruiting programs and company events. 

John Rice, the founder of nonprofit Management Leadership for Tomorrow, which hopes to help more minorities secure leadership roles in tech, says there are plenty of talented engineers of color. According to Rice, the problem is getting tech talent of color into the right rooms.

“So much of the way business works out here is through networks,” Rice said. “That’s a structural impediment to fostering diversity. What changes perspectives is people from underrepresented groups making money for the company.”

Some black talent told Bloomberg things didn't get any easier once they were in the door.

One black Facebook employee who requested to remain anonymous said he felt "very lonely" at the office. He also said William's "comprehensive suite" hasn't helped him find any mentors or sponsors to help him grow his career at the company. He is a member of a black resource group, but still said he feels he doesn't fit in.

“The world is whirling around you, but you’re not in the loop,” he said. “You don’t know what’s going on and that breeds anxiety.”

According to an Atlassian survey of 1,500 people who work in tech, diversity fatigue is becoming an issue as tech workers were found to be less motivated to try to make their environments more diverse. Many even responded they believe it's the government's responsibility to increase diversity, not their company's.  

“Culture doesn’t change rapidly,” noted the anonymous Facebook employee. “You can improve the metric, but I think you would still have a broader cultural issue in the company that wouldn’t be solved.”

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Tonja Renée Stidhum is a writer/director made of sugar and spice and everything rice. She has the uncanny ability to make a Disney reference and a double entendre in the same sentence.