Google has just released data on the ethnic and gender background of the people who inhabit the Googleplex…and Shockingly it turns out that they are mostly white guys….by a large margin 60% white 70% male. The second largest (30%) ethnicity claimed is Asian which includes people in many cases imported directly from the Indian subcontinent. If you are lucky enough to ever visit the Google Plex the evidence of your own eyes will confirm the data….it is dazzlingly white and male with a very strong Indian/Asian component. Indeed Google serves some of the best Indian food you will find anywhere in their cafeteria.
My company has a healthy mixture of folk. We are based in SoCal (as opposed to Silicon Valley) so we are lucky enough to have a wider range of employees..but a quick headcount reveals broadly similar data. Like Google it’s not that we try to hire in any particular direction but we can only employ people who apply and are qualified for the work at hand. If the graduates in computer science and math are predominantly white or Asian males that’s going to wash through in the employment demographics. It’s an industry wide problem and not one that is amenable to immediate correction.
We aren’t the first industry to be plagued by this kind of problem. For example a generation ago the medical profession was overwhelmingly male now it’s much more balanced; in 2012 47.3% of people entering medical school were female. The tech industry focused around Silicon Valley is a much more recent industry than medicine. The high profile, high value jobs it’s famous for have really only been around for 20 years…if that. Before the tech boom the same math and computer graduates would have ended up spread over IT and education and been unremarked…another white nerdy math professor….no big deal. Now that our industry regularly mints billionaires barely old enough to rent cars it looks a lot more dramatic…but it’s really more a quirk of fate rather than an evil plot. I expect this to level out probably even faster than medicine.
The fabulous wealth and opportunity our industry represents will attract the best talent and I’d expect that talent to reflect the gene pool pretty quickly. Women will catch up perhaps in a couple of graduation cycles and minorities will catch up as fast as their societal challenges allow. It’s always been tougher for a very smart kid born into poverty to achieve the same things people dealt a better hand expect as their birthright….but it can be done and I look forward to that brave new and much more diverse world.