The United States is a first-world and wealthy country as opposed to other countries in the world, however, the United States is currently struggling with its wealth distribution. Income inequality is the uneven distribution of income, money, and general wealth in a society, population, or group.
The Gini Coefficient is a powerful measure of income inequality, invented by Corrado Gini. The scale or coefficient is a number between 0, where everyone earns the same amount of money, and 100, where one individual earns all of the money within a population. (What is income inequality, anyway?). The United States is a 45 on the scale which is poor compared to Sweden, on the scale with 23, which has the most equal distribution of income. The country that has the greatest income inequality is Lesotho and South Africa which averages on the scale with about 62 (CIA World Factbook).In the United States, the top 10% of wealthy Americans make up to 9 times more annual income than the bottom 90% of poorer Americans; this drastically increases with the top 1% of the wealthiest, where their average income is 200 times more than the poorer majority of Americans (Income Inequality).
The gap between the rich and the poor has been growing steadily for over 30 years in America and it shows no signs of slowing down. The rich continue to live a life of luxury and the poor majority struggle to make a living. This is especially true in California and the Bay Area, income inequality has become one of the most prominent issues of our community.
There are the rich and then there is the poor. Middle-class people exist, but they are stuck in between. They make enough to make a living in the Bay Area, but not in live in luxury like the wealthy. There can be many causes for this problem but one of the major contributors is the advancement of technology and the racial composition of those who work in the tech industry in the Bay Area.
Technology is inevitably linked to the increasing inequality gap in America. Christoffer Hernæs, a writer for TechCrunch, states, “The disparity between the rich and everyone else is larger than ever in the United States, and few places is this skewed wealth distribution more visible than in and around Silicon Valley… has led to the conclusion that the tech sector is greatly contributing to increased inequality.” It is important to look at who is working in the industry and the racial groups that corporate giants are hiring. Not surprisingly, it is found that the tech sector in America struggles with its racial diversity. Racial diversity at work is defined to be people of different ethnic backgrounds, ideas, opinions, perspectives, and social experiences who are present in a workspace. Corporations in Silicon Valley and large tech companies, like Facebook and Microsoft, still struggles to diversify their workspaces. The issue still continues for years and so far, there seems to be no change or solution to the problem.
The Economic Employment Opportunity Commission, a U.S government asset, data shows that more than 63% of the private tech industry is made of White Americans, and for U.S High Tech Industries this percentage is higher (68%). Both Black and Hispanics make up 7% of the industry’s participation. People of color in management positions are even fewer in numbers and they are very underrepresented nationwide (Diversity in High Tech). This connects to the overall inequality of people because the tech industry is becoming more like a party, where the only factor that decides who can attend is race and ethnicity. Because the tech industry is an extremely lucrative business and a large part of California’s economy, combined with the fact that it struggles with racial diversity, it can be seen why America is struggling with wealth distribution.Furthermore, my research question is “How does the lack of racial diversity in the tech industry create social and economic problems for people of color in the Bay Area and for those working in the industry?” My initial interest in this topic comes from my career interest.
I want to work in the technology and science industry because it is my personal interest, but I start to notice the lack of diversity that tech sectors in California had. I once interned for the City of Oakland’s Information Technology Department and, from experience, I know their community is diverse. It is baffling to me to find out that large companies, like Intel and Google, struggles with this problem. As an advocate for diversity, I want to understand why these companies refuse to hire people of color and how this will affect them (socially and economically) in the Bay Area. From further research, I found that a lack of diversity in the tech industries in California creates a system of under-representation, a divide in power, a culture of discrimination,and large income inequality between people of color and people of non-color.Findings Section Black and Hispanic workers in technology are the most underrepresented group in their field, which means that are not getting hired by large corporations. In recent years, large tech companies are not hiring Black and Hispanic students to work in the technology, despite having the same qualifications as many other contenders. The New York Times states, “The pipeline problem is not a myth.
Black and Hispanic students are underrepresented in computer science and engineering programs, relative to their share of the population, while Asian students are overrepresented”. The pipeline problem refers to how tech managers recruit their workers, and because people of color are not hired often, they become the underrepresented, the minority, within their company. The article “Why Tech Degrees Are Not Putting More Blacks and Hispanics Into Tech Jobs” explains why Black and Hispanic are not getting into technological occupations, despite having the same degrees as other men. The article explains, “Among young computer science and engineering graduates with bachelor’s or advanced degrees, 57 percent are white, 26 percent are Asian, 8 percent are Hispanic and 6 percent are black, according to American Community Survey data.” The diversity is lacking in the tech department, and even though Black and Hispanic students have the same degrees as White students, they are not guaranteed a job after college.
Systematic bias and recruitment bias could be the blame for this, which leads to further inequality for people of color. “Research has found that during hiring, managers are biased against black-sounding names on résumés, for instance, and interviewers weigh too heavily whether they’d want to hang out with someone. Software can help remove human bias, such as with new tools for stripping résumés of biographical information, offering blind auditions to job applicants or analyzing job postings for language that excludes certain groups”(Bui and Miller).There is a system of bias and discrimination that people of color must face in order to enter the technology workforce. This system of biased recruitment only separates all people even further by preventing them to even working with each other and learning from each other. This is also a contributor to the lack of racial diversity in tech and removing such a system can result in a more diverse workplace.
The system continues to keep people of color from working in these jobs and letting other, more “qualified” people in. People are being judged constantly with this system of racial bias, it is difficult for Black and Hispanic students to land a job as opposed to a White student. This issue in society is just another cause of social disparity that all people face and it is causing further segregation, creating a world where everyone of all culture is disconnected.
Only in a diverse environment is where people of all ethnic backgrounds and experiences can learn from each other, learn how to work together, and it will create unity. Diversity is the key to social progress.The tech industry, and especially Silicon Valley, says they will work to diversify their companies and workspaces, but they have not made progress. CNN Money, probed twenty U.S tech companies to discover the composition of the workforce and they released public access to the diversity of the companies.
On their interactive website, they organized data on people based on their race, gender, company, and job position/power. On the organizer, filtering race to Hispanic employees at Intel, we can see that there are zero Hispanic employees in high management positions and there are 1,724 out of 10,970 that works as a technician. Similarly, there are zero Black high-level managers and even fewer technicians, 722 out of 10,970. Both are very small compared to White employees at Intel, where 35 out of 41 are high-level managers and 6,683 are technicians. CNN Money reveals the true composition of workers at Intel, and by far, the number of White workers outnumbers the number of Black and Hispanic workers.
The data tells us that Silicon Valley is still not diverse and this is just data from only one of the major tech companies, revealing that much more is just like this. Diversity is still a struggle to fix and many tech companies find no answers. This affects the people of color in the Bay Area because not many residents work for any of these lucrative companies and they have no influence in these companies. They are almost never hired into any high management positions and this can affect their impact in California. People of color are in no position of power and this can affect society because the rich and powerful have all the influence in the industry, making their own decisions without having the opinion of people of color.
Today, decisions that affect all of society are being made by only the most powerful people, most of which are White and very few are the minority, which is no different in the tech industry. So the question is: Why does the tech industry struggle diversifying their workspaces? Aaron Saunders, a professor, author and CEO of Clearly Innovative, share his ideas about why the tech industry is struggling with its diversity in an interview “Being Black in the Tech Industry”. Westervelt, the host, asks, “Silicon Valley tech companies have pledged to do more to create a more diverse workforce. Why do you think it’s taking so long and it’s so hard for them?” “Because there aren’t any black people there. I mean, you’re – you know what I mean? It’s real simple. As well-intentioned as they are, right, it’s still challenging for a room full of non diverse people to figure out how to address diversity, right?” Saunder responds.
Aaron explains why it is taking so long to diversify the tech industry and he simply puts that the lack of diversity in tech is causing the lack of diversity. This is like an endless cycle, where the non diverse people are trying to solve a problem that they have no experience in solving. The lack of diversity is a social problem only creates more complications in the future because it creates additional conflict that one group of people cannot solve alone. To tackle the larger social and economic problems that society faces, diversity is the first step since mixing experiences and cultures can change how one group approaches a problem. Additionally, Aaron Saunders claims, “I think as an African-American when I discuss tech and tech diversity, I definitely am coming from a different place than most of the people that I’m talking to because you’re discussing things with them that they simply can’t wrap their head around…” Diversity offers new ideas and perspectives on a problem, which can greatly benefit the community as a whole. People of color have their own opinion and expertise to share in technology, and this is valuable since these are ideas and experiences that are different from everyone elses. People of color who work in the tech industry does not have a pleasant social experience in their workspaces, instead, they are greeted with a culture of discrimination and stereotypes by their coworkers.
This lack of racial diversity in companies inevitably creates separation and exclusion between people of color and people of non-color. This leads to the final decision of an individual to leave the company. The Kapor Center, who aims to diversify workspaces, conducted the Tech Leavers Study to find out why women and people of color are leaving the tech industry.
“Unfairness or mistreatment within the work environment was the most frequently cited reason for leaving, with 37% of the sample indicating that unfair treatment was a major factor in their decision to leave their company. Underrepresented men of color were most likely to leave due to unfairness (40%)”(Scott, Klein, and Onovakpuri). The study finds that unfairness in the workspace was the biggest factor that leads to the departure of minority tech workers and it also reveals that men of color were most likely to leave because of it. People of color are being discriminated everywhere in society; They are displaced, labeled, and stereotyped even in their own workspace which negatively affects them socially.
Discrimination is a huge issue in today’s society and, in tech companies, it is no different. Further research in the Tech Leavers Study reveals that with the loss of minority workers comes with huge setbacks for the companies themselves. “Using conservative estimates based on the percentage of tech employees leaving due to unfairness in this study, unfairness alone will cost tech companies $16B per year in employee replacement costs.” Unfair treatment of minority workers costs companies sixteen billion dollars, and this is using safe approximations. Tech companies are a very profitable industry and they only want to make more money, so it would make sense that they should try to fix discrimination. However, this study was conducted in 2017, and this alone shows the reality of the issue.
Discrimination is a difficult problem to solve and the only real way of fixing it is to diversity workspaces. That way, people of different background and ethnicities can at least interact with one other and learn how to work together. Technology is a lucrative industry, but when the industry itself is not diverse, it causes income disparity for people of color, especially in the Bay Area.
It is already evident that the lack of diversity causes economic disparity in the United States, but the MIT Technology Review offers additional insight. The article “What Role Does Technology Play in Record Levels of Income Inequality?” brings to light how Silicon Valley is attributing to the income inequality.”The anger in Northern California and elsewhere in the United States springs from an increasingly obvious reality: the rich are getting richer while many other people are struggling.
It’s hard not to wonder whether Silicon Valley, rather than just exemplifying this growing inequality, is actually contributing to it, by producing digital technologies that eliminate the need for many middle-class jobs” (Rotman).Technology is creating an economic wedge between the wealthiest of Americans and the poorest. Silicon Valley’s wealth is as prodigious as ever and, connecting back to the lack of racial diversity, many colored residents in California are just not making as much money the rich. Combined with the disappearance of middle class jobs, the gap between the rich and the poor is larger than ever.
Racial economic disparity (finish this). Source of Open MIC… and Interview with Phifer Turner