The status of Black representation in big tech

The status of Black representation in big tech

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Given how large tech firms employ tens of thousands of Americans, one would think that the composition of their workforces would more or less mirror the US population. However, despite Alphabet, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, and Twitter promising in 2014 to increase diversity among their hires, it appears upon first glance that the needle hasn’t moved very much for Black representation in six years*.

Let’s look at the numbers

According to the population estimates and projections of the US Census Bureau in 2017, non-Whites will make up over 21% of America by July 1, 2020 — with Blacks comprising over 12 percentage points. Yet large tech companies are far from that 12% mark.

For instance, in 2014, Black representation at Facebook was only at 2%. Facebook’s 2019 diversity report has that number at 3.8%.

Company Percentage of Black representation
Alphabet 3.3%
Apple 9%
Facebook 3.8%
Microsoft 4.4%
Twitter 5.7%

Another metric that indicates improvements in diversity is leadership representation. This is because of the following reasons:

  • The potential for career advancement into leadership roles incentivizes staff to stay and grow with the company. A glass ceiling, on the other hand, would turn off applicants and depress retention rates.
  • Leadership determines the direction of the company and greatly influences corporate cultural policies. Managers and directors who are insensitive to implicit bias or refuse to acknowledge it are likely to perpetuate it in the organization and in the products they create. To illustrate, Google discovered that if a job post had a qualifications summary that was over 54 words, the number of women who apply for that post goes down dramatically. If a manager remained unaware of this (or preferred male applicants), then overly long summaries would continue to turn off female applicants.
Leadership representation
Company Percentage of Black representation
Alphabet 2.6%
Apple 3%
Facebook 3.1%
Microsoft 3.5%
Twitter 5.3%</td>

Apple shows the starkest disparity between overall representation and leadership representation at 9% and 3%, respectively. And Microsoft admits that their progress toward increasing Black leadership representation is “incremental but slow.”

All in all, part of the reason why percentages are slow to change is the so-called “denominator problem.” Since these tech companies were predominantly White when their staff counts were already very high, changing the racial makeup of their organizations is difficult.

Additionally, though hiring practices may change to promote diversity, tech companies still need their hires to meet their qualifications. This means that diversity is not just an internal issue, but also an external talent pool issue.

Tech companies are immersing themselves in the communities they are in

Diversity brings with it different perspectives that increase the potential for innovation and problem-solving. Therefore, it’s smart for tech companies to invest in underserved communities and increase people’s chances of making it in their companies.

For instance, Google, together with Chicago public schools and Chance the Rapper, invested in computer science education programs for students. The Alphabet subsidiary also vowed to place more Black employees at senior levels and hopes to fill 30% of leadership roles with staff from groups underrepresented in tech by 2025.

One of Facebook's many racial equity initiatives is providing 100,000 scholarships to African American students so that they could get digital marketing certifications via the Facebook Blueprint program. And since the launch of Twitter’s Engineering Apprenticeship Program a year ago, Twitter has begun accepting graduates into its engineering teams.

Umbrella believes that technological progress and societal progress go hand in hand. By helping local businesses thrive with the help of our IT services, we’re striving to make life better for people in Kansas City. To learn more about how we can help your business leverage tech, contact us today.


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