Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Excuse Season Rapidly Approaches

As we move into the second half of July, tech companies are probably preparing their public diversity reports, as they’ve done for the past two years. Last year’s numbers were a scant improvement across the board from the previous year’s figures, with Facebook — in particular — performing poorly. Yours truly:

More companies released their full EEO-1 reports this year than last year, demonstrating a desire for more transparency but also revealing in much greater detail just how few improvements they’ve made. Facebook, for example, hired precisely 36 black Americans this year, out of over a thousand new employees.

Based on a report yesterday in the Wall Street Journal, those numbers aren’t much better this year. Georgia Wells writes:

The share of Hispanic and black employees in the company’s U.S. workforce didn’t budge from a year ago, remaining at 4% and 2%, respectively. The percentage of women at Facebook inched up 1 percentage point to 33%.

Facebook blamed its problem on the “pipeline,” meaning the number of women and minorities entering the tech industry.

That’s bullshit. The Washington Post busted this myth almost exactly one year ago. Cecilia Kang and Todd C. Frankel reported then:

“It’s not even remotely a pipeline issue,” said Andrea Hoffman, who runs Culture Shift Labs, which helps companies find minority and female talent. Her company recently hosted a brunch in Palo Alto, Calif., for minority job-seekers in tech and finance. The 200 seats were snapped up, and she had to make a waiting list for 200 more.

“For anybody to tell me the talent isn’t out there,” she said, “I know emphatically that’s not true.”

Wells asked a similar expert the same thing this year and got a near-identical response:

“There are a ton of opportunities to increase demographic representation in tech companies with the people that already exist in the workforce,” said Joelle Emerson, chief executive of Paradigm, a diversity consultancy that works with many Silicon Valley firms.

She added that there are more black and Hispanic computer-science graduates than are offered jobs with tech firms in the U.S.

It might be another year of middling progress in corporate diversity in the tech sector. Brace yourself for recycled excuses.