24 comments

  • Goran Peuc, over 3 years ago

    My question is, how many black kids are steered towards computers, engineering, programming, and even digital design? Say you take 1000 white kids and 1000 black kids, ages 5-10. What's the comparative percentage in both groups regarding interests which would eventually lead those kids to become coders.

    Can we start looking at the root of the problem, instead of looking at the resulting situation. Maybe Apple / Twitter / [whoever] cannot have more than 5% (or whatever the actual low number is) of black developers because there simply are none available?

    19 points
    • Mattan IngramMattan Ingram, over 3 years ago

      Like the article said, the problem lies in many places. Similarly with the Oscar nominations situation we need more leading minority roles to even get nominations in the first place.

      I do think the complaints about the playground equipment and stuff like that are misplaced considering a few paragraphs later one of the students said she finally felt like she found people she got along with, so that strikes me as more subjective than a core cultural issue.

      I'm optimistic things will continue to improve, perhaps just not as fast as they should.

      1 point
      • Tom BradyTom Brady, over 3 years ago

        There are a lot more white people in the US, so there will generally be more white coders. http://www.economist.com/blogs/prospero/2016/01/film-and-race

        5 points
      • Ix TechauIx Techau, over 3 years ago

        The biggest problem with these things is that people often overlook the fact that certain demographics are simply not interested equally in all fields. And there is nothing wrong with that. I'm female and I don't see it as a problem that most car mechanics are male...I simply have no interest in becoming a car mechanic. I don't care how cars work. And I'm pretty certain this goes for the vast majority of females. For me it has nothing to do with feeling discriminated against, or that I believe in some conspiracy among men to keep me out of the car mechanic career.

        1 point
        • KeVon TicerKeVon Ticer, over 3 years ago

          I think the article is more about the idea that even after you boil down the black and latino populations to those who want to have a career in the tech industry, those people are still met with barriers to entry (that tech companies don't always perceive or understand) that aren't there for others. Even if we accept your assumption that most women wouldn't want to be mechanics, should the ones that do want that career face unnecessary barriers men don't face?

          People aren't claiming there is a conspiracy. People are claiming that the perception that somehow entire demographics aren't naturally predisposed to interest or success in an industry is the kind of harmful thought pattern that keeps those who do have the qualifications and desire to participate in that industry out.

          0 points
          • Ix TechauIx Techau, over 3 years ago

            But you are saying that as if it's fact that black people are actually met with a barrier that white people do not face. I don't know this to be true. I've heard throughout my career that women are supposed to also be discriminated against in the tech industry, yet, and I know this is just personal anecdote, I haven't experienced any form of barrier that my co-workers haven't. We talk about this all the time.

            It seems silly to me to immediately think there is a conspiracy against black people just because they aren't represented in equivalence to the population split.

            Or in other words: do you see it as a problem that the vast majority of car mechanics are men? If so, why is it a problem?

            0 points
            • KeVon TicerKeVon Ticer, over 3 years ago

              I don't think it's a problem the vast majority of mechanics are men. I also don't think it's a problem the majority of engineers are white. I think any intelligent person gets the logic that white people, being the majority of the US, would be the majority of employees in most workplaces. The issue people are raising is that for black people and latino people, their representation in tech companies is much lower than their representation in the general US population, and even their representation in engineering schools at elite colleges. 13 out of 100 Americans are black, but less than 1 out of 100 engineers working in Silicon Valley are black, roughly the same for latino. In most startups that means either 1 or none.

              Maybe I'm not understanding your original argument. It sounded to me like you are saying that a big reason black people and latino people are underrepresented in the tech industry is that some demographics aren't as interested in tech as others. What I'm saying is that even if that is true, which I don't think it is, this article is meant to address the issue of black and latino people who are interested in and pursuing technology still not being able to make it into the field and the few that do rarely stay. It could be because too few are prepared for these jobs for whatever reason, it could be too few have access to the same resources, it could be that they feel unwelcome, or anything else in between. But I think to suggest that a big reason the numbers are so low is from lack of interest is intellectually dishonest and does more service to washing your hands of the problem than trying to solve it.

              Also, I think the article this post links to is almost completely about black people describing the barriers they face in entering the tech industry that are specific to them being black. Everyone doesn't get discriminated against, we can agree on that. Again, I'm not claiming conspiracies against black people. I'm just saying that if someone is experiencing a problem and they are explaining to you why they think they are experiencing the problem, maybe we shouldn't be so quick to discount their experience because we haven't experienced the same thing.

              0 points
            • Mattan IngramMattan Ingram, over 3 years ago

              As you said yourself, your experience is anecdotal. You cannot say something does not exist based on that, particularly when there is so much hard evidence that prejudice, bias, and other barriers still do exist. It's not about matching population numbers.

              It's not a problem that car mechanics are mostly men, but it is indicative of gender roles that still exist in society that really may not be inherent to any biological differences between men and women. It IS a problem that there aren't enough women and minorities in powerful positions in tech or movies because those have a direct impact on our society, it's services, and it's stereotypes.

              0 points
              • Ix TechauIx Techau, over 3 years ago

                What hard evidence would that be? Important to remember that percentages aren't necessarily proving anything. The fact that most car mechanics are men doesn't automatically mean there are gender roles that control things.

                0 points
                • Mattan IngramMattan Ingram, over 3 years ago

                  Actually it does. There is no evidence that men biologically prefer certain activities or topics over others. So if it is not a biological imperative, then what is making more men become car mechanics than women?

                  0 points
                  • Ix TechauIx Techau, over 3 years ago

                    Well...there is no evidence either way. It could very well be that men are genetically programmed to be more interested in how things work, or it could be that this is conditioned or taught. There is no scientific evidence to fully support either view.

                    0 points
                    • Mattan IngramMattan Ingram, over 3 years ago

                      But there is. In cultures where such gender roles definitely don't exist, you do not see men and women following stereotypical behavior. Look at matriarchal societies in history or the shifting % of men and women in various professions over the years.

                      Heck people used to think men were inherently better at math than women, and the test results agreed until society stopped telling women that and then all of a sudden women started doing as well as men in tests.

                      I don't deny there is the possibility of genetic/gender proclivities, but until I see hard evidence for it you have to assume there aren't. Ockham's razor and all that, what explanatory benefit does biology have when sociology does a good enough job on its own?

                      0 points
                      • Ix TechauIx Techau, over 3 years ago

                        There is an indication that it can be cultural, but there is no hard evidence either way. Until then I am open minded as to why certain groups of people are drawn to certain careers. Do you have an example of a matriarchal society where the majority of car mechanics are women?

                        0 points
    • Taurean BryantTaurean Bryant, over 3 years ago

      This is just a way to divert blame and responsibility. By and large, majority of these companies diversity numbers don't even match with the racial breakdown of university graduates. Yes, the "pipeline" needs improvement but more often than not its treated as a scapegoat. We have a company culture issue more than anything.

      (and thats not even taking into account the completely lack of representation in leadership positions)

      1 point
  • Darrell HanleyDarrell Hanley, over 3 years ago

    I feel as though I'm one of the few that actually read the article. The issue here isn't that there are a lack of black developers, but rather that institutions with black student bodies are often ignored by Silicon Valley, and that because those institutions are ignored, they don't get knowledge infusions from the valley, so their programs fall behind. No one wants to hire developers with an out of date skillset and have to educate them, so the cycle continues.

    This solution is really twofold. One: Silicon Valley institutions have to actually engage with minority developers and the institutions that they attend, and not just pay lip service like appearing in a job fair. They need to dedicate resources to improving these institution's computer science programs with the same sort of synergistic collaboration valley firms have come to build with Stanford, or the design industry has built with schools like SVA. Two: Silicon Valley has to stop having biases to certain educational institutions and recruit beyond from just a few select schools in a serious way. There are tons of talent went to school that was not Stanford or MIT, but for a long time you weren't going to get a callback from Google if your degree didn't come from such an institution.

    I do not believe that development should be part of the standard educational program like some people are proposing. Not everyone should be a developer and I think its odd to expect most people to require that skill in a world where we are aiming to make everything as simple and skill free as possible. I would argue that a bunch of companies from the Valley should instead come up with a common curriculum for undergraduate and perhaps graduate programs and create a comp-sci accreditation body. This way there is a base level of what is expected from a computer science degree. This accreditation body would prevent situations described in the article, like having a program taught the same way for 25 years.

    7 points
    • KeVon TicerKeVon Ticer, over 3 years ago

      You hit the nail on the head with the idea that this is a cycle. I went to Howard for undergrad CS and I went to CMU for grad school and the environments really were like night and day. The 2 schools cater to 2 completely different demographics. CMU is focused on taking students who are already technically talented / experienced / exposed to CS concepts and programming to an even higher level, while Howard is focused to taking students starting from scratch to a level of employability. Maybe those aren't their explicit mission statements, but those are generally the types of people that end up in either place.

      It feeds into itself because it would be foolish for top tech companies to ignore the incredible amount of talent that comes out of top CS schools, so they shower them in attention. Hackathons, tech talks, tutorials, and other general events hosted by top tech companies were commonplace at CMU. The students who are best prepared to enter these companies based on their academic achievements alone also end up being the students who get the most extra help from those companies (it's easy to show how you're interested in programming interesting things on your free time when Facebook threw a hackathon at your school last month you only needed to show up to.) Again, I don't blame the companies for this, or the students for taking advantage, it only makes sense for both parties.

      Students at the top schools not only get more attention, but also way more "insider" information. A student at CMU, Stanford, Berkeley, MIT, etc. knows exactly what it takes to get a job at Google, Apple, Facebook, etc. because they personally know (many) people who have done it. People who can put it in terms of "Oh, you passed Professor Jones' algorithms class with a B? You'll be fine in the interview." At non-elite schools, maybe all you have to work with is the short email Google sends you about trying TopCoder challenges to prepare for the interview because you don't actually know anyone who has made it in before.

      To sum it up, I see it like this: at those top schools, the students worked really hard to get there, and continue to work even harder to succeed there. What they don't have to spend very much time or energy on is being noticed by companies, gathering the type of "outside of class" experience companies like to see, or figuring out if they actually are gaining skills that are competitive for the workplace because the culture of the school just kind of naturally generates that for them and they need only participate. For students at non-elite schools who are also working hard just to do the coursework, these can be major roadblocks. Some of this can be helped by tech companies "spreading some of the love," but it is a tough sell for companies like Dropbox, which is great a great company, but is much smaller and less stable than a Google or Apple. They're probably hesitant to take what is seen like a chance on recruiting candidates that aren't sure shots.

      5 points
  • Amin Al HazwaniAmin Al Hazwani, over 3 years ago (edited over 3 years ago )

    I could also suggest to listen to the latest episode of Reply All podcast ft. Leslie Miley (ex-Twitter’s only black engineer in a leadership position)

    3 points
  • Eric REric R, over 3 years ago

    “When I went out to lunch or something with my team, it was sort of like, ‘Soooo, what are you guys talking about?’ ” she says. “It could be something as simple as, like, what they watch on TV or what kind of books they like to read. And those are just not TV shows that I watch or books that I read.”

    Is this really something people get offended about?

    1 point
    • KeVon TicerKeVon Ticer, over 3 years ago

      Not offended necessarily, but not finding anything to relate with your coworkers, which you company encourages you to do to get a full time position, can be disheartening over time.

      2 points
    • Tony Jones, over 3 years ago

      Well yes....if you don't get hired because you don't like Star Wars.haha

      1 point
    • Laurens SpangenbergLaurens Spangenberg, over 3 years ago

      In high school I was the awkward and shy guy without really any friends that always liked completely different things from everyone else. While I'm not offended by that fact, it did felt terrible at times.

      1 point
  • Jared KrauseJared Krause, over 3 years ago

    I was unaware of the ban on black coders in Silicon Valley. That's insane! It's 2016 for crying out loud!

    0 points
  • Lucas CobbLucas Cobb, over 3 years ago

    I feel that a technology based education will rectify this problem (elementary / middle school & High School). I have seen tech based curriculums trickle into more rural school districts which have a primarily minority based student population over the last few years and appreciate that these tracks are becoming popular. Hopefully there will be an influx of minority coders / developers in the next 10 or 15 years (or sooner preferably) based on the above.

    It all starts with education and awareness.

    0 points
  • Oskar GdaniecOskar Gdaniec, over 3 years ago

    "It’s too white." Serious? It's Racism.

    Interesting fact: African-Americans population in USA - 13% Black prisoners in American prisons - 40%

    It seems that African-Americans don't have problem with joining american prisons. :)

    0 points