The Rev. Jesse Jackson wants President Barack Obama to do something about the lack of diversity in the tech industry, calling it “the next step in the civil rights movement.”
“The government has a role to play” in seeing that women and minorities are fairly represented in the tech workforce, the Rev. Jackson told the USA Today editorial board this week. He said the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission needs to examine Silicon Valley’s employment contracts, and he wants Labor Secretary Tom Perez to push for a review of H-1B visas, which allow U.S. companies to hire foreigners for specialty jobs. The Rev. Jackson says data show Americans have the same skills as foreigners and should receive priority consideration for high-paying tech work.
At first glance, the Rev. Jackson has a point.
According to recently released company data cited by USA Today, men comprise 62 percent to 70 percent of the employees at Google, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo and LinkedIn, while whites and Asians comprise 88 percent to 91 percent. No more than 4 percent of employees at any of the companies are Hispanic, while no more than 5 percent are black.
The numbers are dramatic, but they only tell part of the story.
The number of Asian employees at the companies mentioned ranges from 29 percent to 39 percent. If these companies were truly racist, would they be hiring such large numbers of Asian employees? The last time we checked, Asians were still considered a minority group. But instead of celebrating an incredible achievement by a minority group, the Rev. Jackson and other race-baiters consider it an injustice. If they could successfully demonstrate that significant numbers of highly qualified black and Hispanic applicants were being systematically rejected by tech companies, we would agree that a grave injustice is occurring. As far as we can tell, however, that claim can’t be made.
Internet and social media companies are part of an unbelievably competitive industry that has profoundly changed the way we live and work, because they place a premium on hiring the very best candidates they can find, and then work just as hard to retain them. It’s the ultimate meritocracy: With rare exception, the absolute best rise to the very top and get unlimited opportunity.
Jesse Jackson will never agree with this, but the solution to the hiring gap is not to shame private companies into adopting racial quotas and preferences in their hiring practices — a system that colleges and other government institutions are increasingly abandoning because it creates a new set of problems, such as underqualified applicants being placed in positions where they lack the tools to succeed.
No, the solution is for black and Hispanic leaders to work in their own communities to encourage parents to do whatever they can to keep their kids in school, for leaders and parents to encourage kids to gain the skills necessary for high-tech careers, and for all parents to educate their children — especially their daughters — about opportunities in the tech sector.