According to a recent USA Today study, only 3 percent of tech workers at seven of the leading Silicon Valley companies are Hispanic, while a mere 2 percent are black.
While tech firms sometimes attribute this disparity to a lack of minority workers in the pool of possible hires, Darrick Hamilton, a professor of economics and urban policy at New York City’s New School, says that excuse doesn’t cut it.
“What do dominant groups say? ‘We tried, we searched but there was nobody qualified,'” he says. “If you look at the empirical evidence, that is just not the case.”
The numbers suggest he’s right. As USA Today reports, data from the Computer Research Association shows that the nation’s most prestigious research universities turn out a fair number of minority graduates. In fact, 6.5 percent of all new grads with computer programming or engineering degrees are Hispanic, and 4.5 percent are black. That means Silicon Valley’s “big seven” are hiring top talent from these groups at only one-half the rate they’re entering the job market.
Tech giants like Apple have noted the lack of diversity and pledged money to improve education for minorities, but some experts insist that the problem lies in recruiting. Companies like Facebook and Google tend to draw from schools like UCLA, Stanford, and Carnegie Mellon — none of which are among the universities with sizable percentages of black and hispanic grads.
University of Florida at Gainesville computer and information science professor Juan Gilbert tells the Detroit Free Press that more companies should look to schools like his and Rice University in Texas, which boasts a large of Hispanic students.
“The premise that if you want diversity, you have to sacrifice quality, is false,” he says. “These are very strong programs, top ranked places that have excellent reputations. Intel has been hiring from my lab and they say our students hit it out of the ballpark.”