Silicon Valley Is Male, White, And Asian For A Reason


Yesterday, Slate came out with an article bemoaning the lack of diversity in Google’s ranks. They’re unhappy with the fact that there are too many white and Asian males in Mountain View, California.

Within tech jobs, just 17 percent of employees are female. Ninety-four percent are either white or Asian, while just 1 percent are black and 2 percent Hispanic. The only job category that is balanced in terms of gender is “non-tech” (52 percent men, 48 percent women); racial and ethnic disparities are bad across the board.

By releasing its own data, Google may put pressure on other tech firms to do the same. Maybe then we can start a real conversation—with concrete statistics and numbers—about fixing Silicon Valley’s mentality.

Whenever this kind of article comes out, I just have to roll my eyes. It is absolutely galling to see a journalist/writer/blogger criticize the fact that tech companies are predominantly male, white, and Asian. When is somebody in the media finally going to admit that the reason why Silicon Valley is mostly white and Asian males is because white and Asian males make up the vast majority of engineers and software developers?

A company like Google would love to hire more female and non-Asian minorities as software developers. The problem is there just aren’t that many of them out there to begin with. And there are even fewer who are good enough to work at Google, one of the premier software companies in the world.

Software development is hard. A B.S degree in computer science, the traditional route for prospective developers, requires a solid understanding of advanced math (calculus 1-3 plus discrete mathematics), logic, and sheer, dogged determination it takes to read and comprehend stuff like this:

Image by Jay Sun
Image by Jay Sun

To hack it as a CS major in college, you need to have a damn good fundamental base of education, which means you had to be good in high school, especially in the subjects of math and science. And guess which kinds of people are most capable in math and science? White and Asian males.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not arguing that white and Asian males are inherently more intelligent than other kinds of people. There are plenty of sociological and economic reasons that explain white and Asian males are more likely to go into and excel in math and science. But that’s another article for another day.

I’m tired of journalism, English, and liberal arts majors who glance at my profession and say that we’re flawed because there aren’t enough girls and non-Asian minorities in the fold. Trust me, I would love to see more black, Latino, and female developers in my line of work. But not enough of them have both the desire and ability to become CS majors and software developers.

The end result is that we see a highly skewed demographic that works in technology. That’s not Google’s fault. It’s the fault of parents, teachers, and the rest of society that steer girls and non-Asian minorities away from math and science at an early age. If this is a “problem” that you want to see solved, pick up a CS book and learn why an O(n log n) algorithm is more efficient than an O(n^2) algorithm.

Otherwise, software will remain a field dominated by white and Asian males and no amount of ridiculous über-progressive handwringing will change that. TC mark


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