Invisibility of Blacks and Hispanics in Tech Can No Longer Be Ignored

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The shareholders of one America’s largest and most celebrated corporations frowned upon a proposal to move more aggressively to recruit Black and Brown talent, and the world did not take notice. Even usually woke Black Twitter – which is always quick to side-eye such slights – was fast asleep.

A whopping ninety-five percent of Apple, Inc. shareholders voted against shareholder Tony Maldonado’s call for a greater, bolder focus on adding more color to the company’s nearly all-white senior management team. The March 2, 2017, vote was the second time in as many years that Apple shareholders overwhelming voted down Maldonado’s proposal.

Sadly, it’s not surprising that no one raised a big stink. Technology companies’ reluctance to embrace racial diversity is the new reality, and, seemingly, they get a pass where others do not.

Remember the viral controversy that was Speaker Paul Ryan’s selfie with a horde of nearly all-white Congressional interns? What about last year’s #OscarsSoWhite brouhaha? Well the companies that produce the mobile phones and apps we use endlessly are just as guilty – if not more so – of excluding People of Color (and women) of opportunities for employment and advancement. Blacks hold just 1 percent of the jobs at Uber Technologies, Inc., where women are also greatly underrepresented at just 14.4 percent of the workforce. A mere 2 percent of the employees at social media giant Facebook are Black – a stat that led one editorial writer to call out CEO Mark Zuckerberg for his recent diversity lecture at an HBCU.

In comparison, Apple’s workforce – 56 percent White, 9 percent African-American, 12 percent Hispanic, and 19 percent Asian – is a virtual Utopia. But like its tech competitors, Apple lacks People of Color in its top-tier executive suite.

These companies have succeeded in making huge profits and building global brands without truly embracing diversity, so they may see little value in changing from their business-as-usual model. The lack of color around their boardrooms is, nevertheless, taking its toll.

Each time a supposedly colorblind piece of artificial intelligence churns out racist outcomes; when the bad guys in video games have melanin and the good ones do not; and when a batch of new emojis and filters don’t celebrate the features of the majority of the world’s inhabitants – it is quite obvious that there are no diverse voices around the decision-making table.

If the present reality is a harbinger of what’s to come, the future of work for people of color will be bleak – bleaker than today, even. Jobs in innovative technology are secure, lucrative, and increasing each year. The outlook for workers in other industries – including transportation, manufacturing and retail – is foggy, partly because tech firms are perfecting products and services that are increasingly making human workers obsolete. (Read our report on what driverless vehicle technology could mean for those who work as drivers.)

People of Color have long been locked out of industries and advancement; the racial wealth gap is evidence of that. They simply can’t afford to be left behind in the Information Age, which has the potential to be the most prosperous era ever.

Tech inclusion will be a main topic of discussion at our upcoming 2017 Future of Wealth Summit, where a knowledgeable and diverse group of speakers will take on the topic. We are seeking to not only address the problem, but to facilitate solutions as part of our larger, ongoing strategy to push digital inclusion to the forefront.