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Is There A Lack Of Diversity in Information Technology? part 2

Dabbling at Diversity, by Kathleen Melymuka, originally appeared in Computerworld on December 11th, 2000. The author states that some feel that many Silicon Valley IT companies take a passive approach to diversity. One recruiter is quoted as saying, "when they realize what it takes to walk the walk, they don't have the resources - or the commitment - to do it" (Melymuka).
The author brought up some statistics she found in the San Francisco Chronicle: "African-Americans and Latinos make up 8% and 14% of the region's available workforce, respectively, yet they make up only 4% and 7% of the employees at 33 leading Silicon Valley firms" (Melymuka). In addition, under-representation is a big problem with Native Americans.
Melymuka points out that the same study showed that there that there is an over-representation of Asian-Americans who happen hold "28% of the Silicon Valley jobs despite making up only 21% of the overall workforce" (Melymuka). Just because some companies employ people whose ancestry is Asian in disproportionate numbers that does not necessarily mean that the company is doing enough to ensure Blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans are fully taking part in company affairs.
Part of that high level of Asian representation is due to the fact that the IT industry is allowed to import tech workers from overseas (mainly workers from 3rd World Asian countries that have obtained an H1-B visa). This program tends to upset American Black and Hispanic workers who feel these foreign guest workers are being given preferential treatment over American citizens.
Some feel that the IT industry is doing as much as it can. Ruben Barrales, the CEO of a San Jose California non-profit collaboration of high-tech companies and local governments, feels that "There's lots of diversity in the IT world" but that African-American and Hispanic students get shortchanged in math and science so they "are not reaching high academic performance along with their peers in the Asian and white communities," which hurts them when they try to obtain jobs in the IT industry (Melymuka).
Government, business and educational groups are trying to increase minority representation by offering scholarships, internships, co-ops and IT training to people that live in technologically underserved areas. It is an indisputable fact that many companies are making good-faith efforts at increasing diversity, so it may be true that not enough qualified minority candidates are available to them.
Everett Chavez, director of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, states that "we just can't crank [qualified minority candidates] out fast enough" but not everybody agrees with that assessment (Melymuka). Critics like John W. Templeton of the Oakland CA Coalition for Fair Employment feels that African-Americans are more likely to work for Bay-Area companies that reach out to them since there are more "more black programmers at area banks than in Silicon Valley" (Melymuka).
This article makes it sound bleak for minority workers who want to work in IT, but many minorities who successfully get hired by IT firms report very few problems with their employers. Sam Sekaquaptewa, a Hopi Indian who works for Cisco Systems stated that Cisco "seems like a color-blind place to work... If you perform well, you'll do well" (Melymuka).
The article also has a sidebar titled "Diversity 101", compiled by Simmons Associates Inc., a diversity consulting firm, listing some diversity initiatives that companies can undertake:

  1. Establish networks with minority colleges.
  2. Offer internships and scholarships.
  3. Sponsor job fairs in minority communities.
  4. Develop partnerships with minority student professional groups or corporate organizations.
  5. Develop partnerships with minority organizations.
  6. Develop community outreach programs.
  7. Tap all known Web sites where resumes of diverse groups of individuals might be found.
  8. Ensure that all interviewing practices are fair and legal (Melymuka).

The article also provides a helpful list of links to various groups working to increase minority, handicapped, and gay/lesbian representation in the technical industry.

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