Diversity Reports Only Mask Silicon Valley's Employment Problem

By Mike Elgan  |  Posted 2015-08-23 Print this article Print
Diversity Reports

The pressure to move the needle on women in tech roles can incentivize tech companies to move that needle by who they hire abroad, by hiring more women engineers from China and India and fewer men from those countries.

But does hiring large numbers of women from China and India and moving them to California help America's gender gap in tech?

If so, then the gender gap could be closed in a month. All we would need is legislative permission to waive the H-1B visa requirement for women, then brain-drain the world of its best female engineers.

But this doesn't solve the problem, does it? U.S-born girls and women are still being culturally excluded from full participation in technology and computer science.

Likewise for minorities. If employees hired in, say, Latin American countries or Spain are brought to California to boost the "Hispanic" number, and if black employees are hired from African countries, the Caribbean and elsewhere to boost the "black" number on diversity reports, then how does a global brain-drain from those countries help minorities born, raised and educated in this country?

The same goes for increasing women and minorities in leadership positions. When companies are just trying to boost those numbers on a diversity report, it's vastly easier to hire managers and leaders from abroad rather than creating an accepting workplace culture and actively cultivating women and minority leaders from within the existing ranks.

In fact, all diversity reporting that makes no distinction between "imported" workers and "domestic" workers incentivizes actions that work against diversity. Worse, they're taking the pressure off the companies (including Hollywood and others who profit from manufacturing cultural gender and racial stereotypes) to do more of what they should actually be doing, which is to help solve the cultural problem here at home.

So what's the solution?

As it stands, diversity reports incentivize the solving of the diversity problem through hiring abroad, which fixes the report but not the problem.

First and foremost, the public and the press need to stop taking diversity reports at face value.

Second, we need to stop using diversity reports as the metric by which gains in diversity are measured, at least until they're fixed. Instead, we should judge companies on the quality and size of the educational programs and other such programs they create and maintain.

Third, we need to fix diversity reporting by having separate reports for employees who immigrated as university students or post-grad in one report, and U.S.-born employees who were trained in the U.S. education system in another report.

Because it's only that second report that reveals the problem we have with diversity in technology.

The mixing together of foreign-born workers with U.S.-born workers in diversity reports provides a smoke-screen for Silicon Valley to hide the full scope of their diversity problems and incentivizes the exclusion of American women and minorities in favor of simply hiring abroad.


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