Silicon Valley‘s diversity problem is well-known. As Bloomberg reported last fall, Black and Hispanic people combined only had 6 percent of the tech jobs at four industry giants: Apple, Google, Facebook and Twitter.
If you want to know why it’s been so difficult to diversify the workforce in Silicon Valley to include more Black and Hispanic people, ask longtime tech veteran Ken Coleman, as we did during the First Annual Diversity Affluence Brunch in Silicon Valley, in Palo Alto, Calif. earlier this spring. The event was attended by nearly 150 guests who are, primarily, affluent African and African-American business leaders, innovators and influencers in technology, innovation and social impact.
Now the chairman of business analytics company Saama Technologies, Coleman has spent roughly four decades working in the technology arena, at companies such as Hewlett-Packard, Silicon Graphics, and Accelrys.
Among the culprits: the myth that the industry is a meritocracy and that the lack of diverse candidates reflects a lack of qualified candidates. “Even in technology half of the decisions about promotions, appointment, etc. are subjective and subject to all the prejudice and racism that any other industry has,” observed Coleman, adding, “We have done a good job with [placing] East Indian and Asians. We just happen to forget about women, Hispanics and Blacks and Native Americans.”
However, just because minorities are disproportionately outnumbered in Silicon Valley “doesn’t mean there is no diversity at all and there are no Black people in technology,” Coleman reminded. “There’s this myth that there’s only three of us —that’s not true, [it’s just that] there’s not enough of us.”
He also said “enormous progress has been made.”
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