Analysis: Minorities Getting Tech Degrees, but Companies Slow to Hire Them


A new USA Today analysis has discovered that twice as many black and Hispanic students are graduating with computer science and computer engineering degrees as are being hired by leading technology companies.

While technology companies are blaming the statistics on the shortage of black and Hispanic workers located in the Silicon Valley, Darrick Hamilton, professor of economics and urban policy at The New School in New York said the claim "does not hold water."

"What do dominant groups say? ‘We tried, we searched but there was nobody qualified.' If you look at the empirical evidence, that is just not the case," Hamilton said.

As technology becomes a larger part of the economic growth in the US, tech companies are facing increasing pressure to offer more diversity in the workplace. Historically, tech companies have been predominantly made up of white Asian males. If this continues, the companies risk losing touch with the customers, who make up a diverse globe.

Of the seven Silicon Valley tech companies to release staffing figures, an average of 2% are black and 3% Hispanic.

However, data from the Computing Research Association shows that of last year's recipients of bachelor's degrees in computer science or computer engineering from prestigious universities, 4.5% were black and 6.5% were Hispanic.

An even larger gap is seen between Silicon Valley companies and graduates of all US colleges and universities. According to statistics from the National Center for Education Statistics, blacks and Hispanics make up 12% of all 2012 computer science graduates.

African-Americans account for 12% of the entire US workforce; Hispanics account for 16%.

While Facebook, Twitter, Google, Apple, and Yahoo all declined to comment on the situation, LinkedIn released a statement saying that it is working with companies to "address the need for greater diversity to help LinkedIn and the tech industry as a whole."

In May, Google wrote on its Diversity Blog that the company has "been working with historically black colleges and universities to elevate coursework and attendance in computer science."

Apple CEO Tim Cook also wrote about his company's efforts to improve education on their diversity blog. Saying the company "recently pledged $100 million to President Obama's ConnectED initiative to bring cutting-edge technologies to economically disadvantaged schools."

All of the companies remain confident that they are hiring all of the qualified black and Hispanic workers they can find.

However, Janice Cuny, director the Computer Education program at the National Science Foundation, said the tech companies simply do not want to see the qualified individuals right in front of them.

"There are these subtle biases that make you think that some person is not what you're looking for, even when they are," she said.

While there are elite computer science programs that see large amounts of African-American and Hispanic students graduate, tech companies historically do not recruit from these schools.

"There's a lot of things that can be done to fix the problem, but a lot of them are things that Silicon Valley and technology companies don't do," Justin Edmund, the seventh employee at Pinterest, said. "If you go to the same prestigious universities every single time and every single year to recruit people … then you are going to get the same people over and over again."

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