Some Thoughts On Workplace Diversity
Intel made news yesterday when they announced a $300mm fund to “to be used in the next three years to improve the diversity of the company’s work force, attract more women and minorities to the technology field and make the industry more hospitable to them once they get there. The money will be used to fund engineering scholarships and to support historically black colleges and universities.”
The diversity reports coming out of the big tech companies in the past year have shown very little inclusion of african american, latino, and other “underrepresented minorities” in the tech sector’s workforce. And we all know that women are very much unrepresented in the tech sector, particularly at the top levels of leadership.
There are many, including plenty of AVC community members, who will say “so what?”. And there are many who will debate the reasons for this. I don’t think either of these things are particularly debatable. Diversity is a good thing for many reasons. It opens up a company to a multiplicity of ideas, opinions, and connections to the market. And the reasons for this lack of diversity stem from two primary (and related and self reinforcing) things, not enough women and underrepresented minorities setting themselves early enough on a career path in tech and societal biases against tech as a “proper career” for women and underrepresented minorities. These two issues have to be tackled head on and in parallel.
I applaud Intel’s move and the leadership they are showing. I have no doubt that the other big tech companies will follow their leadership in some way.
I have been working on this problem for about five years now, mostly in NYC, and in partnership with many people and many efforts that are doing great work. There are too many to list in this post. There is no shortage of effort and impact. We just need more of it.
If I have one learning and one piece of advice for the big tech companies who are likely going to start making big investments here, it would be to start as young as you can and invest all the way up from there. What I mean by that is look at early childhood education, look at elementary school, look at middle school (this is really important), and look at high school.
While Harvey Mudd has been able to achieve gender balance in its undergraduate computer science program, I think its a big ask of higher education to solve this problem all by themselves. Too many women and underepresented minorities have made decisions that take them off the pathway to a technical career long before they get to college.
I believe the biggest impact we can make is in our K-12 system, where kids first find their passions, figure out what they are good at, and start learning the skills that will set them on their way. We need to invest in STEM (or STEAM) programs that work in the K-12 system, we need to overinvest in targeting them at young women and underrepresented minorities, and we need to sustain these efforts from elementary school, through middle school, into high school, and we need to guide these young people to a pathway that can give them challenging work and a good income throughout their careers.
The guide part is important. I’ve met a ton of guidance counselors and parents who don’t think “this is the right path” for someone, when it clearly is. That’s part of the societal bias at work. I don’t think we can change the societal biases without creating role models and we can’t create role models without opening up opportunities more broadly for the underrepresented. That is why we have to attack these two issues in parallel.
I will end with the observation that there are many terrific people and organizations working on these problems and having a big impact but in a few small pockets. We need to invest in them and help them scale. This problem is being solved already and the strategies and tactics are fairly well known and validated. We don’t need to invent new things for the most part. We just need to find, fund, and support.
If anyone out there wants to get involved in doing that, you can reach out to me and I will point you in the right directions.
Still strikes me as bizarre that superficial things such as culture and gender can be used as indicators for what someone wants to do or is good at. Those things are inherent.Diversity is one of those things that people have to experience to appreciate. It is very easy to hang with people who are like you. Diversity is like working out, its not natural but it is very beneficial.Best line of your long post is ‘diversity provides…….connections to the market.’ IF you have your head screwed on right, that line alone seals the deal.
Yes, but it’s possible to penetrate an ethnic market without any ethnic people on your team. I don’t subscribe to the view that to have empathy or understand you have to be xyz.
IT POSSIBLE TO DO SOMETHING BY ACCIDENT.IT BETTER TO DO IT ON PURPOSE.
building for specific niches is possible, but not always investible.
BUILD FOR ALL DEMOGRAPHICS EASIER WHEN HAVE KNOWLEDGE OF MORE THAN ONE.
Hi how do I log off
I don’t subscribe to the view that to have empathy or understand you have to be xyz.I agree. Not only that it could actually be a negative in some cases.For example instead of seeking many points of views you would tend to rely on a few points of views as being correct because you yourself have no clue. And if you have no clue you are going to be more likely to take someone’s word for it then to try to disprove that person. So if we worked together and you used to be a commodities trader I would take everything you said as gospel. However if I didn’t have you as a resource, I would seek several opinions and form a view from that. Now of course in a perfect world you could do both but my guess is that doesn’t happen. (Also noting the problem of the camel by committee paradox where it’s also possible that one clear vision is better than many.) This happens in movies when they hire consultants. And the consultant frames an image of a particular industry based on their most likely narrow experience. So if you watch a movie with someone that knows what is being done they will often find fault in it “that’s not the way it happens” as if they way it happened as they saw it was the “correct way” (not the consultants “correct way” when helping the director).
That guide part is HUGE. I can’t tell you the number of kids who’ve come through my class that were either never encouraged or even actively discouraged w/r to tech. Role models help tremendously but it’s a tough nut to crack when the first points of contact, parents, teachers, and counselors are pointing the kids in other directions.Another danger I see are the proliferation of programs that come with loads of hype but only superficial education. These programs exist both in and outside of schools. You know the ones — your kid will make an app in n weeks. If it were that easy, there wouldn’t be a tech talent problem.These types of programs are great at making an initial splash but if they don’t provide a solid foundation for the kids, they could be setting them up to fail. Kids go from a watered down introduction off to college and get hammered in their first year. Self doubt creeps in and they drop the subject. I’ve seen it happen time and again. We’ve got to get to under-represented groups but unless we do it right, we could be doing as much harm as good.You can do both — excite the kids and lay the foundation but it’s tougher and it takes time.
i agree with you on both Mike, as you probably know
Would agree with the need for substance after the splash, but I will have to say from my own experience that giving students a ‘win’ through a program that teaches the logic behind programming without having to learn programming can be the ‘gateway drug’ if you will to becoming addicted to the world of software development. Much like Scratch provides an easy-to-use tool for young children interested in game development as well as the foundational logic, introducing a platform for students which teaches the logic of mobile app development could mean more children believe it is possible to learn a difficult programming language in order to do a more difficult project. This is true for my women friends as well. When I ask my friends if they’d like to attend a weekend coding camp we’re hosting to build an app, the responses are mostly negative; when I ask if they’d like to volunteer to help the hungry find locations to receive food and use our platform to build an app to do that without having to learn to code, the responses are mostly positive. I think we need to be very careful that we don’t throw out innovative approaches because they don’t follow the path of how it’s always been done.
That’s why I like scratch for the early grades but dislike it for high school.My concern revolves around affects that I sometimes get to see well after some of these programs.I’m all for innovation but very often what appears to be good might not be and I’ve got real concerns about some of the programs with the most hype and funding.It’s important for educators to adhere to first “do no harm.”
Agree with you on that! Hype and funding means it resonated with people/companies with a megaphone and money; whether it builds early success, continued interest, and willingness by participants to access more difficult building blocks to gain more difficult skills is what makes it useful.
Why not enact similar policies to make the NBA more diverse? Right now it’s, what, ~80% black? And 100% male.As you say, diversity is good for many reasons, so professional basketball should benefit from more of it as well. We could start with k-12 schools, encouraging more girls and members of other underrepresented groups to consider professional basketball as a career.Granted, not all will have the chops to make it in the NBA, but not everyone has the chops to work at Google either. Some could play professionally in Europe. Others could become phys Ed teachers / high school basketball coaches.
i couldn’t care less about the NBA. it’s not the future of work or anything like that
And Silicon Valley is? The biggest tech cos have tiny work forces compared to industrial companies.
NBA doesn’t count. Merit based. As a white kid that played hoop and regularly showed up on all black playgrounds, I was discriminated against. As soon as I could show I could play, the discrimination ended, mostly…
I thought Silicon Valley was merit based too. My mistake.
It is, but it’s different than pro sports. There are things in personnel that are hard to measure, like culture. There is no meaningful comparison. If the Knicks were all Latino and winning, no one would care. If they were all white no one would care. Winning a game is not like winning a market.Plus the Knicks can’t play women, even though they play like women.
And culture doesn’t play a role in team sports? If players don’t get along and can’t work together they are less than the some of their parts.
You can’t compare pro sports to tech. It’s not rooted in reality.
And yet corporate execs use sports metaphors all the time, presumably because there are some parallels?
Look I use metaphors and analogies all the time. Simply because it’s an easy way to further a point that I am trying to make. It’s shorthand and conveys a concept. And because I have knowledge of something that lends itself to the metaphor. From what I know, and I could be wrong, corporate execs use sports metaphors because a) they are into sports and spend a nice amount of time caring about sports and b) they are able to convey something with strength “Fake Grimlock style” that is trite and makes their point using something that they love. Or for the reason I describe below. Etc. When I have a conversation with my wife about a concept that she doesn’t know about, I always try to frame it and use an example that she can relate to. For example when telling her why I didn’t want to open a rack mounted server and install a new hard drive (and remove the old one) I told her it was similar to how in surgery anytime you do an operation there is always the risk of messing up something else or death. So you have to weigh the pros and the con’s in each case and make a judgement. Not a simple “yes or no”. She immediately understood and could relate. Without the analogy she probably wouldn’t have is my guess. Of course there isn’t as much comparison as I implied but there is some for sure.
HUMANS WORK IN METAPHORS. THAT WHY.BUT SIMPLE AND SOUND TRUE NOT ALWAYS SAME AS IS TRUE.
BUT SIMPLE AND SOUND TRUE NOT ALWAYS SAME AS IS TRUE.Coming from the expert in that type of thing no less.Reason? Simple and sound true is like a Rorschach test means what you want it to mean. When there are more words, there is more chance to triangulate disagreement or find fault.Less words, less to think about. Like this:”“When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will own guns””(Technically of course I think you can’t own what you stole of course or what is illegal..)
I know right
I was going to say something like that. All that matters is that you can play they would forget anything else.To me the absolute truest form of “deserves it” always goes to sports stars.I mean the only way you could bring “luck” into it is by saying “they were lucky to be born tall” or maybe “they were lucky to be driven the way that they were”. Or maybe “their father taught them at an early age”.Other than that it’s really the truest form of “they deserve their success”.As opposed to “George Clooney” or “Brad Pitt” or even “Steve Spielberg” or “Steve Jobs”. Luck in those cases played a way way way larger role than it ever could in sports. No Jaws success no Spielberg legend.Best luck example is perhaps Gates. No question he would have made a great deal of money w/o his mom being tied in with the Red Cross and IBM’s president. But he’s a billionaire as a result of that connection. Doesn’t mean he didn’t work hard. But luck ratio is way out of wack and above average.Separately has there been any correlation between people who were successful in high school or college sports and entrepreneurship? I know of one women entrepreneur that was on Shark Tank twice, has three kids, and is churning away at another business. Highly motivated and she was got a college scholarship for swimming..I’ve always thought that played a role in what she was able to do (product is not related at all). I’m amazed at what she can do with three kids.
You make a good point on pros-no one can coach height, and no one can coach drive. I worked my ass off and got the most out of myself, but I wasn’t good enough. Athletics is great if approached correctly. If everyone gets a trophy and no one keeps score, you don’t learn the lessons you need to learn to be an entrepreneur. Someone asked me if I had a thick skin on Twitter the other day. Be the only white kid in an all black basketball world, you grow a thick skin quick. Or, work on a trading floor for a number of years!
I wish you realized how sad it is that in order to address the lack of minorities in tech you go to the NBA as a similar comparison. Truly sad. I guess all we’re good for is basketball in the mind of many.
There are talented minorities in many fields, including technology. I used the NBA as an example of a lack of diversity.
pretty simple to understand and get the broader point across.
I was not going to post, but…When I graduated with Comp Sci and Math degrees back in the 80s there were definitely more women in these fields then today.(1) In any case, I can applaud the goal to increase numbers, but we really need to focus on getting away from valuing people for the color of their skin or their below the belt plumbing.A more apt comparison instead of the NBA might be nursing. 90% of nurses in US are female.(2) Seems like we need some “diversity” there as well. Nursing pays well and employs 2.7M people in the US(3), which is 2.5 times the number of software developers.(4)I don’t see folks getting too worried about these stats. Good luck with your efforts though.(1) http://www.cra.org/uploads/…(2) http://www.census.gov/peopl…(3) http://www.bls.gov/oes/curr…(4) http://www.bls.gov/ooh/comp…
I think white kids from the suburbs are well aware of the opportunities in the NBA, and have opportunities to learn the game of basketball. If they have the talent, they will have infrastructure to make the league. If you don’t see a difference, try walking through the projects and asking kids what a data scientist does.
And how many “white kids from the suburbs” are in the NBA? Most of the whites in the NBA are foreigners, no? So maybe they’re not so aware. Or maybe they don’t feel so welcome on the courts where blacks are playing 21, and we need to work on making black 21 games more inclusive and welcoming to non-blacks.For that matter, how many white kids from the suburbs could tell you what a “data scientist” does? Probably not that many, considering that it’s a newish, bogus-sounding phrase (don’t all scientists work with data?).
Giving that extra stick (finance) to someone climbing up-the-hill on their education is a great pleasure …and doing it at their early age is even more full filling… the kick beats 6-shots of tequila !!! :-).
huge.tuition spiffs on performance, scholarships…
WHEN YOUR MARKET IS EVERYONE, YOUR TEAM SHOULD BE TOO.
SEE ALSO GRIMLOCK CHAPTER ON DIVERSITY IN ELISA SHEVINSKY NEXT BOOK.
Tell, Apple, the world’s biggest company by market cap. Their leadership team doesn’t look too diverse: http://investor.apple.com/c…
I honestly don’t care what color/gender the person is that puts my Tesla together.It’s just a complete non-issue.Everyone around here (literally) is a coal-power customer.Are you suggesting we ought to be fighting for more women crawling into the mine? Would that make things better? Should the Knicks team look like their fan bas?Or does this line of thinking only apply to high paying desk jobs?I’m going to stick with promoting merit as the ONLY reasonable factor in hiring.
Fair enough in a perfect world.But how would you address past prejudices that set people up to falsely believing that women or people of color aren’t good at a particular vocation?
By hiring on merit today, and therefore benefitting from the ignorance of whatever bigots remain.
Gary Becker’s 1959 study on the cost of racism shows mathematically that bigots pay a high price to be bigoted.
By sticking to a merit based system now and gaining the advantage that bigoted people give me.
Merit based systems alone only work when all other things are equal.
When in the entire history of anything has everything been equal? I would argue, never. So you keep trying to reach a place that is probably impossible. If you want to find bias/unfairness you can find in everywhere you look. It’s how granular you want to be.
It’s not just past prejudice, it’s present opportunity. If I went to a great high school and had an SAT tutor, and do marginally better on my SATs than someone who had neither, their results almost certainly have MORE merit. But without looking at the context, that’s obscured.
“It’s easy to fictionalize an issue when you’re not aware of the many ways in which you are privileged by it.” ― Kate Bornstein
So are you advocating more women in the coal mines?
I’m advocating more women and under represented minorities any where they want to be, and helping them figure out what they want without being cut off at the pass.Regarding coal mines (here I go, taking the bait), I’d like to see fewer of all kinds of people in them by eliminating the need for them.
We agree 100% on helping make sure qualified and passionate people aren’t cut off at the pass. We can leave it there for today!
without being cut off at the passThat’s the key. And it’s a hard thing to grasp when it has not affected you directly. Most reasonable people assume that anyone who is smart and motivated will succeed.
If they want to be there, they’re qualified, and institutional bias is preventing it, yes.
It’s all theater let’s call it “social” theater.And people typically talk out of two sides of their ass.”Steve Jobs is an asshole look at the way he treats people” while at the same time loving the products that that asshole has been able to create as a result of being who he is “don’t bring me shit and don’t bring me your problems”.I needed some java programming done in a rush. The small company that I typically rely on that currently “knows the code” told me that the guy who would do this is on “paternity leave”. Great! So he is on fucking paternity leave and now I can’t get done what needs to be done. So I will just tell the people that I have to answer to (customers and also the people that certify us) that we won’t be able to make the changes because “someone is on paternity leave”. And of course they will understand and say “no problem at all that’s cool because we think men should get paternity leave it’s a great idea”. We will stick with you!!!! We like your values!!!Just like you will stay with bourbon that isn’t perfect after you find out the reason is they hired someone not qualified because of diversity.I suggest than anyone actually running a smaller operation knows that all that matters is that someone shows up and does a good job at a fair price so that you keep doing business.
How we define “merit” should focus on and reflect the industry we’re discussing — in this case, the tech one because Intel’s $300 million investment is about what happens in tech inclusion not what happens in sports teams which are about physical attributes, physical agility and team strategies or coal mines which are about the sheer physical brute power needed (before we invented coal diggers and cutting machines).Can we please think of a system of merit that works better than the current way of ranking that’s supposed to be based on merit but is failing employees (regardless of gender and race etc.)?It may be helpful to include these links:* http://www.businessweek.com…* http://www.businessinsider….
I have to agree here. When looking at outcomes as a problem you have to start with assumptions:1. that it is even a problem2. that the problem can be fixed3. that it is a result of anything other than free choiceNow, these may all be true to varying degrees, but it starts out with these as assumptions rather than asking “why are there more men than women in STEM roles.”And to boot, the side advocating for more women in STEM roles refuses to acknowledge any element of free choice, and assaults the character of the individual who even *considers* it
I have two kids (boys) in middle school at the moment. Their type is not underrepresented in the tech community. Nevertheless, last year one of my son’s teachers told him that math “maybe wasn’t his thing.” This was lunacy – math was his favorite subject in elementary school and he had high aptitude (as an engineering undergrad, I had some experience in assessing this). My wife proceeded to find an alternate math program for him, and now he is excelling again at his favorite subject.But the lesson is this – if a kid who fits the profile of a STEM kid can be so easily misdiagnosed, it is not hard to understand how girls and underrepresented minorities can be steered wrong right off the bat.When I thought about our situation, it occurred to me that one reason kids could be dissuaded from the STEM track early on is that the teachers are not STEM people themselves. Here is a rhetorical question – are there enough elementary school teachers who like and enjoy math to adequately share with all students, of any race and gender, the wonders and vitality of math and science?
WHY EXPERT IN STEM NO BECOME TEACHER?BE SOMETHING ELSE 10X EASIER, PAY 3X MORE.
Also how rewarding is it to have “groundhog day” year after year?After all it’s not all about what is “easier” or “pays more”.Quite frankly I personally would find the idea of teaching high school or elementary kids not rewarding at all although many people do. I have no patience for something like that. The reason Heinz has 57 varieties and all of that.By the way there is no question that there are many people that go into teaching because they perceive it as “easy” not “hard”. Plus you typically get summers off and plenty of vacation time and a good pension. And in most cases the job is union protected and guaranteed or at least that’s the way it’s been.I know we have this meme about teachers and dedication but not everyone in the profession is in it for anything other than a job. (Just like doctors, lawyers and many other professions you have all types of participants).
“Plus you typically get summers off and plenty of vacation time and a good pension.”These things are not as true as perception would lead. The variance town by town and state by state is so fragmented that it leads to a natural spread of the qualified and good educators to places they can make a decent living. The same places we are in need of sparking are not usually getting the resources they need 🙂
In my early twenties I became a private AP Physics and Calculus teacher to local high school kids so that I could pay off my credit cards and afford the mortgage on my house. Over a year, that side business grew to double my earnings and ultimately replace my aerospace job. I loved teaching those kids. I love teaching anyone, really.At one point, I was tutoring at least 10 kids in the same AP physics class, which was taught by a tenured guy who honestly didn’t know the subject. So my kids asked why I didn’t become their teacher. I told them that I already was their teacher, and that I made 2x as much as their teacher did but had the freedom to do whatever I wanted each day (cause I could only tutor once they were out of class!). They understood, because I had taught them how numbers work! I felt bad for the kids in the class that I didn’t teach, because physics should be an exciting thing to learn and understand and I know that wasn’t the experience they were having.
your last point is dead right. a big part of what we are investing in is professional development of teachers to help them develop and then teach STEM stuff
Thank you. I would love to see a pairing model where folks active in STEM/STEAM careers work with educators to connect with students.Yes, teachers need that support, in a substantive way- more than one off professional development days or mini certifications. If they don’t come from a STEM background- students lose out.I’ve seen this firsthand with my sons. Their teachers are dedicated and deeply care about their students. However, when educators don’t have the industry experience, or their experience dates back decades- both students and teachers lose out. Students are at a disadvantage because their teachers don’t have active knowledge and their lessons and guidance comments reflect that. And the teachers lose out because they don’t know what they don’t know.Without common partners to help move things forward, it’s hard to change assumptions- especially for folks who are well intentioned when they guide students away from STEM or persist stereotypes on what those careers entail and who can be successful in them.Fixing it is a process that takes empathy, time and investment.
Part of what we offer to educators at http://www.appsforgood.org is the opportunity to get tech professionals into schools to offer the students professional support and feedback with their ideas, as well as inspiration.Check us out, and if you like us, join our community of over 800 expert volunteers. We’re primarily UK based but have a few US schools adapting our materials too.If you want to see the difference we’ve been making (and/or love infographics) have a read of our Impact report http://blog.appsforgood.org…
Thank you Orrin.I would love to share this with folks at several high schools in the NYC area. I’d also love to know more about how to give back and make a difference.
I’ve just added you on LinkedIn and will drop you my email there.On a side note I just discovered a US-focused organisation with similar goals to ours. They’re an out-of-school club model where we bake into the curriculum, but seem like a great opportunity in the US. Check out http://codenow.org/
Woman CEO at appforgood – very nice! I’d be interested in chatting, Orrin – we’re doing very similar things here but are civictech focused so would be happy to find collaborations that make sense. You can find me on LinkedIn, Twitter or elsewhere – won’t spam here w/ my info. 🙂
The focus of diversity seems to always be be on the “hard-ware” (getting more women into STEM etc.), there are “soft” barriers that need attention, women can’t always crash on a friends couch, we need a network / a support system as well.
It also needs to focus on what inspires women to get outside of their comfort zone. That’s what I’ve seen, at any rate.
Or what it feels like to be one of the girls at a higher-ed tech school. I went to Caltech and the undergrad class was only 25% female. It was 33% by the time I graduated in 2002.But, wow. It’s important to remember that the guys that these girls were having to interact with weren’t normal guys. They were super nerdy, not particularly socially-well-adjusted guys. I can’t imagine that my female classmates felt particularly well cared for or safe at times. I’m not sure how to fix that, but having a more diverse cadre of students working together from early ages would definitely help. By the time you’re 18, there are a lot of bad habits baked in!
I can’t help but wonder whether the girls were super-nerdy and not socially well-adjusted, too. ;)Although, just to arrive at Cal Tech, the young women you encountered had probably overcome obstacles that their male counterparts had not.BTW as a mother of middle and high schoolers I have observed that the Bill Gates effect has made nerdy boys (somewhat) more acceptable as a social group whereas for girls not so much.
I’m glad you made that point Fred. I know it’s uncool to say so, but I firmly believe the problem is supply side, not demand side.Like Andy Swan, my policy is to hire on merit alone. If that means my team is not diverse, so be it. My first duty is to my shareholders, no apologies given.The best solutions tackle causes, not effects. Hiring the wrong people just to promote diversity is tackling the effect. Getting kids interested in STEM is tackling the cause.Enlightened and motivated STEM teachers is definitely the game changer IMO.
I’m with you.I’ve never hired anyone but the best person for the job.You don’t fix the problem through hiring, you fix it by fixing the supply. Education and intern programs is where I’ve always put my dollars and my efforts to that end.
Well said Arnold.
Code.Org has launched a teacher training program:* http://techcrunch.com/2015/…
Tell your sons about brilliant.org. Largest social network of kids working with other kids to solve STEM problems. They’ll have fun.
You hit the nail on the head in that in the elementary grades is that, as far as I can tell, preparation is much more literacy based so right there you’re pulling from a pool that’s more exposed to the humanities and less towards math and science and many elementary schools have a math or science “specialist” who, at least in my experience, is a traditionally trained k-6 teacher with a few extra math ed courses, not a math person per se.It’s gotten worse since NCLB in the upper grades. Prior to NCLB, at least in NY, you could be a content major (math, physics, English etc.) and become a teacher. Now you have to complete an “approved program” which means you won’t be, for example, a math major, rather a math-ed major. This could be fine, but frequently results in a candidate who is less of a mathematician.All that being said, people who become teachers don’t do it for the money. Sure, I’d like to be doing a little better financially, but I’ve turned down numerous tech opportunities over the years all of which would have had a much higher upside money wise. This is one of the reasons why the corporate reform movement is all wrong. People who go into teaching don’t have the same motivations as people who go into business.Sure, we want to make a decent living, but it’s about having a career path and a way to get onto that path.
this happened to me. And on top of that, math was taught wrong, plus I cut deals with math teachers, and I was female in an environment that was extremely so so about women in STEM/Math in Allied Social Science.We spent less than one day talking about unit circles, and as a result I never learned calculus correctly.Meanwhile by 6th grade I was read for high school math, and had someone gotten me a tutor I would have finished calculus by 9th grade. But yeah, nope, that didn’t happen.
Love that you’re speaking on this topic, Fred. It means a lot. I think Kanyi at the Collaborative Fund posed a good (rhetorical) question in this regard during a recent Fast Company interview in asking whether or not big tech (and VCs) truly wanted to solve this problem or not. I see a lot of calls to support more women and minorities by starting earlier (K-12) and I agree that there’s a lot of value there, but I also believe that that is being used as a method by big tech and VCs to further delay actually addressing the problem and to continue to ignore many of the women and minority entrepreneurs standing (or in some cases pitching) right in front of them simply because they don’t look the part or what VCs often describe as “pattern recognition.” I know there are some tokens out there with guys I know like Tristan Walker, but hopefully soon big tech and VCs will go beyond the “my friend so-and-so” as a method to show they support minority entrepreneurs and actually have a developed point of view that helps them stop believing that meritocracy truly exists for women and minorities top to bottom. It is improving, but to believe the improvement will come by helping middle schoolers alone is not the answer IMHO.
Best way to help. Invest in minority CEOs of startups (that meet your investment thesis and criteria)
Agreed…if only it were that simple.
I agree and disagree. I agree diversity is important. Diverse experience, ideas etc. Women can look at things differently than men, and I value that. So can other races, creeds, etc. That’s to be valued. It helps if you can include different perspectives; it makes a stronger core.At the same time, diversity for diversity sake isn’t diversity. The people that you include also have to be qualified for the task that is in front of everyone. Just littering a room with a checklist of people with different genders and colors won’t do the trick, or even guarantee that you actually have the diversity that is productive. The duty of a public corporation isn’t to anything else other than its shareholders. It’s supposed to build value for them since they are assuming risk by holding the stock. Similarly, every startup I invest in better have investors interests at heart ahead of some perceived social good.That being said, I wholeheartedly agree with your K-12 approach. This isn’t a short term game. It’s a long term game that will be played well after we have all been dead and buried. It’s why I am for school choice, ending educational bureaucracy, and other programs outside of the government like charter schools and home schooling. For profit schools are also another approach.At the same time, I think we tend to focus on inner city minorities. The rural areas of the US have similar issues. I have been to deep rural areas of the US and those kids have the same trouble getting access to quality education as the inner city kids. This isn’t just an urban problem, it’s an American problem and properly called the civil rights issue of our time.It cannot be solved by a government program. It can only be solved by efforts like Fred outlines. Private money. Private efforts.Gary Becker wrote hundreds of papers showing the benefit of investment in human capital. When government does it, the money gets eaten up by bureaucrats. For example, $200B is used to cover the overhead to administer $500B in govt grants. Investment has to come from the hands of the private sector.Companies like Intel should set up private Intel schools with their own curriculum. I have said that for years. They have a huge interest in creating the next generation of STEM students, some of which will be their future employees.
This reminded me of Paul Graham’s last essay: “Let the Other 95% of Great Programmers In” – http://www.paulgraham.com/9…Guidance is important, and in reality we need to be guiding the whole world – but without trying to gain unfair advantage by leverage our offers for guidance, leadership, resources, etc.
Why encourage more American kids to pursue work in the field if we are going to invite the rest of the world to work here?It seems like the goals of increasing domestic diversity in tech and expanding work visas are at cross purposes. The only thing they have in common is lowering labor costs.
Dave, IMHO yes and no. Broadly visas are seen as a tool to lower costs. but in a lot of places the skill is not available easily and has to be imported. All work visas have a LCA process where the wages are determined by US Department of Labor and hence be it American or some other nationality the cost to company is same. The search process to find the right candidate from within America becomes very expensive and HR go out and get people from overseas.
better to be on the side of lowering labor costs that is eliminating other labor costs than to be the labor cost that will be eliminated. If that makes sense. Also think there is a big difference between having the skills and using them — the skills themselves are valuable.
I absolutely agree with you and mostly disagree with Graham on this. We are almost certainly setting up a situation of pulling the carpet out from under the very foundation we are seeking to build.The answer is to pay more for valuable programmers, which will create the conditions for creating more valuable programmers.
ALTHOUGH: I will back this visa plan if it is reciprocal. You can’t pretend to love free markets but keep half of it captive. We only offer visas to countries with a reciprocal visa agreement so that the labor is truly free to find a market 😉
there are network effects that happen with immigration, even when it’s one way. I don’t see too many US people clamoring to get out of the US. However, changing tax policy so it’s easy for them to work out of the US is a great idea.
Indeed. US citizens are some of the only ones who get “double taxed” working outside the country.
I would apply a stricter condition: you can send as many workers here as American workers moved to your country last year.
And watch what happens when the tide goes out.Solid Rock, Dire Straits:https://www.youtube.com/wat…
You learned your ABCs when you were a child, right? Do you think knowing your alphabet had any further benefit in other aspects of your life – did it enrich your life and allow you to be more productive?Development is like ABCs. Hiring other people who really know their alphabet from other countries just increases your competitive advantage, and reduces theirs.
Isn’t it stereotyping to assume that because someone is a woman or minority they have different ideas or experiences? That is the fallacy I see in spending effort to create diversity as opposed to simply finding the best people, regardless of sex, color, etc.
WHEN YOU DIFFERENT, WORLD NOT GIVE YOU CHOICE ABOUT HAVE DIFFERENT EXPERIENCES.
But I do have different experiences. I’m sure women do too. Doesn’t mean everything, but it does mean something.
It means something if you are using your perspective to create a product others may not have thought of (what Tristan Walker is doing with Bevel, for example). But if you’re coding the log-in page or processing payroll or whatever, would your experience as, say, a trans Latina offer you any particular advantage?
This is very very faulty logic because you’re basically saying you can only say being Black or a female helps you have a unique point of view if your product primarily servers Blacks or women. What if you founded Twitter and realized Blacks adopted your product at a higher and less expensive rate than people of other ethnicities?
not the point in the least.
You wouldn’t need to be black to notice that. I’m not black and I’ve noticed (and commented here on) the strong adoption of Twitter by black users.
Yes, and my point is that all you can do is notice it. You can’t personally try to explain it.
If you look at it from another angle, a lot of good talent is wasted because some women dont pursue career goals as aggressively as others due to family obligations etc. They need extra push to come out and work. and when they do its good for organizations and women too.So its a win win. So spending the extra effort is totally worth it.
A lot of good talent is “wasted” by pursuing a family? Sorry but I don’t think my wife could have had a bigger impact on the world spitting out code instead of teaching and nurturing our kids.
Oh come on now. You know that wasn’t the point being made by Supratim.
Thanks for seeing the point.See my response.
What you really needed to say was “had a bigger impact on the world spitting out code for some stupid photo app”
Andy, its more than just binary here. Here are two scenarios.1. A lot of women like to pursue a career in addition to raising kids. What happens is they lose to men working 18 hours a day when they have to cook, wash , raise kids and a zillion other things invisible to us men that goes in running a household and they quit their jobs. That is not fair.2. Many women quit jobs & raise kids. But after the kids are good to take care of themselves the women want to return to their professions but find themselves highly unemployable because they have been out of touch with latest technologies.Large organizations are increasingly coming forward to create a culture where women are encouraged to take up higher roles and are able to balance their family lives. Perks like work from home, onsite creches, free daycare etc go a long way in supporting working mothers.Another point is single mothers. If they can do a fabulous job of raising kids in addition to working then why cant married women. Infact the latter also has the support of the husband…
what if your wife could run rings around you doing what you do in terms of ROI and hard cash and we just don’t know. How would this impact your kids? (again, don’t know, but many people are raised wit working parents who are just fine) What if you were the one to stay hoe because she did do double, triple, roi calculation and she had triple the projected roi as well?also, it is worth mentioning that you have a non-trivial ROI for your kids as well – how would the cash balance if we were to put dollar numbers on it change if we made you stay at home more and she went back to work in terms of the long term earning power of your kids? Likelyhood not to do drugs? Go to college? Start a company? be in a certain income bracket? At what point do certain balances shift?It’s actually really hard to know in the US because we don’t structure social structures like jobs in a way to run large natural experiments on people to figure out these questions. But it is totally possible that you found a local maxima with your and your wife, not the absolute maxima, in terms of best longitudinal outcome for your kids.
um, why do they need just an extra push – what if those obligations are real, and where are there husbands, and where are the companies, the larger community they are in, and the government, the charities, ect?
Shana, i couldn’t understand your question. Could you please rephrase?
i’m saying it isn’t just an extra push, there are structural things that mean that women end up doing those labors
I cannot speak much from perspective of the US because I was not raised here but in India there is lot of diversity in K12 & even in graduate & post graduate Engineering Courses. What happens after that is women join tech companies, work for 2-3 years and get married and then career takes second seat. They either quit and raise kids or take up a easier job for financial safety and are not aggressive about career growth.This is very sad. One company called Infosys which I have closely followed did a very good job in bringing Diversity & inclusion. In every single town hall meeting I attended the founder Mr. Narayana Murthy http://www.forbes.com/profi… would ask the crowd to convince our lady friends, girl friends, wives to come work for Infosys. A lot of attention was paid to female colleagues work life balance, off hours home pick up and drops, mentoring, career growth etc to ensure women find Infosys a great place to chase their ambitions. Founder’s wife Sudha Murthy used to meet and mentor a lot of female colleagues personally across the dozen plus Infosys campuses( we are talking 160,000+ employees here) and that made a lot of differencehttp://www.infosys.com/sust…The company consistently ranked #1 as the best place to work for. When diversity is a topic that is spoken at length at shareholder meetings, town halls, founder interviews, its pretty clear how focussed & passionate the founders were.
Poignant you speak up for diversity today. #CharlieHebdo
The pipeline problem is a big one, but it seems like a cop out for Silicon Valley to point to that as the main driver. Underrepresented minorities with degrees aren’t being hired either, so getting more people STEM degrees doesn’t necessarily get them jobs. Also, the attrition rates of those people are also much higher and advancement much lower, so even if they get jobs, it doesn’t mean they will stay or succeed.Another main culprit seems to be the culture of encouraging VCs and founders to only invest and hire from within their networks. When you start with overwhelming white/male majorities and encourage them to only look from within their networks for talent (which are 90+% white/male), you end up with more of the same.
How many ways are there to say BINGO?
Successful diversity requires respect and trust, which can be acquired through accomplishment, though for which opportunity is required. Opportunities and lack thereof early on make significant impacts. An additional point is prejudice (good or bad in the eye of the beholder) is often associated with a name even before a person enters consideration. Multi-cultural diversity can also bring truly different perspectives, some of which are very valuable. Rather than embracing that, it’s interesting to see how sometimes that’s perceived as a threat.
Hard to see how anyone would perceive multiculturalism a threat, given the events in Paris today.
Sadly the threat of multiculturalism has been the source of many barbaric acts. Let’s focus on diversity in the workplace as unfortunately we aren’t able to settle those other problems here.
I bet this post will gather 800+ comments for all practical experiences
nope, it won’t
It didnt. 🙂 Your prediction came true!
I’m a Cuban American and while I agree with most or all of the points made, I’d suggest adding some “adult education”, meaning the parents. I was not only able but encouraged to pursue a highly technical career because my parents were highly unusual and technically oriented.My father was a PhD in Eng and my mother a BSE in Eng. Leaving Cuba in the early 60s, they saw first hand the opportunities that technical education gave them and a result their family and me.Teach and role model for the kids, but teach and get the parents on board. A mentor can influence them occasionally, but a parent influences them every minuute
How would you reach out and engage parents if you were a startup? What would you use to target them, and how would you structure the message?
I’m not sure how an individual startup would do this… I’d just suggest that in the K-12 educational help and role modeling that Fred mentioned, i’d make 100% sure to include the parents.. maybe even educating them (MOOCs)… building a family tradition of learning and technical skills
Support Suport!!! So true.
Guide part is huge. I see “bringing in” diverse professionals from all fields, from all around the world to mentor K-12 students.
via tech in classrooms
I tweeted this out a few days ago. So relevant to moving away from stereotypical prejudices of who’s good at STEM and who isn’t:”The Secret to Raising Smart Kids” on Scientific AmericanHINT: Don’t tell your kids that they are. More than three decades of research shows that a focus on “process”—not on intelligence or ability—is key to success in school and in lifehttp://www.scientificameric…tl;dr – We need to stop telling our kids they are smart in math and science. Start telling them they are capable and can learn math and science if they work at it…and when they do, we need to recognize and compliment their hard work. This makes them realize an open mind WRT learning, not a fixed mind that they are inherently good at math or bad at it. A fixed mindset sets them up for failure when they have a setback – leaving them with the fixed opinion that they are permanently bad at a particular subject.
A fixed mindset sets them up for failure when they have a setback – leaving them with the fixed opinion that they are permanently bad at a particular subject.Would add though that some kids actually thrive when told they don’t fit some pattern and it makes them actually try harder to prove others wrong. Not a reason to play reverse psychology but it’s not a total non starter like it’s always made out to be.  (If you watch the David Geffen biography on PBS you get a good idea of this in action because of what his mother used to say to him. I can assure you it wasn’t “you can be anything you want to be”.) And you know the world made out pretty well for thousands of years without all the touchy feely stuff that created the millennials in the last decade or so.
I think you said what the article says in different words. Setbacks are lessons (good ones) for those that don’t have a fixed mindset. They learn from the failure…or at least recognize that they could do better if they work at it harder (or more efficiently).
Practice makes perfect.People who’ve subsequently been labelled “geniuses” all spent years and years grafting away HARD at their craft. That includes Da Vinci, Newton, Einstein, Curie, Jobs etc.
this. There are many ways to get kids to ask questions – the core is to get them to ask questions.
“”The Secret to Raising Smart Kids” on Scientific American”Start with smart parents!
“I have been working on this problem for about five years now, mostly in NYC, and in partnership with many people and many efforts that are doing great work. There are too many to list in this post. There is no shortage of effort and impact. We just need more of it.”I’d love to know what you’re up to, Fred.
In November Fast Company had a nice piece, “What STEM Jobs Really Look Like” with several great graphics from the Bookings Institute.http://www.fastcoexist.com/…Of course cities are hubs of STEM activity & opportunity but cities are also home to tremendous educational inequality and our lowest performing STEM students. Fewer certified science teachers and shamefully equipped labs are just a couple challenges facing low income and under-represented STEM minorities.Of course, all students deserve a high-quality STEM education and there are lots of promising programs in play, one of the most successful ‘non teaching” “non content” strategies I have experienced at CityScience is connecting students with STEM professionals who have common backgrounds and experiences.Late last year, I visited an Urban League affiliate in Springfield, IL. While the students had very little awareness of Civil Engineering. They took to their guest speaker, asking more questions about the details of his career and how he got there than you can imagine. Debriefing with the staff and the civil engineer, we all marveled at the inquisitiveness that sprang from the students when they “can see themselves” in the field.So with that, I will ruthlessly self promote volunteering opportunities for under-represented STEM professionals in NYC who would like to bring their experience to classrooms and after-school programs.http://cityscience.org/inde…A very spirited discussion here this morning. Thank you all.
I often feel one group left out of diversity discussions are those brilliant types who cant hold work due to disability.
Great post, Fred. I have spent many years volunteering with at-risk youths, and the biggest deficiency in my opinion is their inability to dream. Most were athletes, and when I’d ask them what they wanted to do after basketball, the response was something along the lines of “maybe I could be an assistant trainer”, or “well, I thought about nursing because I think I might be able to get a job in that field”. They need constant reinforcement of what is possible, since too often their community tells them otherwise.It absolutely needs to start at the K-5 level. We need to provide outlets that highlight opportunities. They need a support system that helps push them through difficult times. My guess would be that 99% of the kids I worked with would be unable to tell me what an engineer does. Our society is wasting some brilliant minds.
I was lucky in my STEM education and in the fact that my family never got the memo “Little girls who wear pink dresses are supposed to have Barbies and not light sabers, computers, chess sets, the Millennium Falcon and the Star Trek ship”. I had 0 Barbies but plenty of toys to challenge my curiosities, problem-solving and sporty nature.Meanwhile, in what is K12, the Head of Maths in my mixed school was a woman as was the head of Computer Science as was the Head of Chemistry. Aged 12, I passed some tests and got into the Royal Society’s maths masterclasses where they taught us about Turing.It all contributed to my self-confidence as a person and the more STEM I learnt, the more I wanted to learn and the more it tooled me to make things (for fun as well as to solve problems).The diversity and social biases problem has its roots in the limitations of probability and it applies to all of us — as well as to systems across the board (economic, product recommendation, employee reviews, how we categorize the intelligence and ability of children in IQ and adults in GMAT tests).Probability has been a method and means by which we’ve classified and “pattern recognized” people, our thinking, our feelings, our language and our behaviors. Over the last 500 years, bit by bit we’ve proxied who we are, what counts and our values according to the tool of probability which was originally invented to measure the random behavior of rational dice.An example of its application can be seen in MS, Yahoo and other companies’ stack ranking. We force ourselves to “fit into the curve / logic boxes”.Well, I believe in people and our perceptions (subjective biases) rather than in probability as a means and methods of understanding us.That means doing my little bit towards diversity in technology by inventing and building scalable technology that’s male+female at the code and system level.Just as our intelligence is made from X+Y code in union, so should the intelligence of our systems be made of that wonderful harmony.
It’s kind of astonishing how much work there is to be done, systemically and culturally.My 5 year old daughter is showing a real love for video games (which not-so-secretly I’m excited about). The other day she had a girl friend over to play (same age) who refused to even try playing a video game with my daughter because, “video games are for BOYS.”Not only do we need to encourage girls and under represented minorities to get into STEAM, we need to help them unlearn the idea that to behave like a full human being is a crime against nature.Even one role model in a kid’s life can make a difference. I do feel a personal responsibility to get out there and make myself (as a woman in tech) visible to the kids in my community if I ever expect to see any change.
My step daughter is addicted to video games (minecraft) as is my step son. My question is can you tell me why you are so excited about her having a love for video games?
I think video games help brain development in particular areas. I love they train kids to try everything and to keep trying until they succeed (like in Minecraft or Zelda). Good problem-solving skills are built and also getting comfortable with lots of small failures in order to reach a larger success.Mind you, I don’t encourage them to play hours and hours a day. We limit it.Also, just anecdotally, I know SO many programmers whose interest was first sparked by video games (many many of them cite Minecraft specifically). I would never force my kids in a direction but I do want to expose them to lots of stuff so that they can find their passion and talents.I think if either of them start to display a worrisome addiction to video games, then we’ll start looking for ways to scratch that itch in real life (let’s make a robot!).
Agree with the anecdote I’ve seen that as well. That said correlation is not causation and all of that.Good problem-solving skills are built and also getting comfortable with lots of small failures in order to reach a larger success.Could be a rationalization. Couldn’t you make the case for many things the same way? And just like we both have anecdotes for “programmers whose interest was first sparked by video games” we can also correlate many “losers” who also play video games instead of doing other things. Further I think there is a downside as well which needs to be considered. Playing the game is so attractive and fun that it makes other things seem less fun to do. (Not that I think stamp collections are great (I never did that) but it’s pretty clear no kids are doing stamp collections today or for that matter doing many of the things we did back in the day for lack of excitement and to occupy our time).Here’s an example. When I was growing up there were no video games so I was able to get a great deal of enjoyment from doing photography (in a darkroom in my basement). As well as selling photographs to earn money. (I did photography for lawyers and a small amount of catalog work everything a-z all self taught pre-internet obviously). Also, a bit later when I used computers I had a great deal of fun creating programs to do things (without all sorts of help that is available today). Had these other things been available I might not have gone down that path and had brain development that I feel has benefited me (photography helped me in a way to start my first business for example). Computers helped me solve problems in that business. Negotiation skills from actually doing business. And so on.I’m not saying we can or should roll the clock back. But if you are going to dangle something so “rewarding” in front of a kid that it’s addictive (and it is, the games, just like slots, are designed that way) you are going to make it boring for them to do anything that is not as “rewarding” or takes “overcoming adversity”.The overcoming adversity because there is not immediate rewards is really really important. That helps me to this day because in the past that’s what I had to do spend untold hours all by myself getting something to work so I could finally “create” something that I could either sell or my father would say “that looks nice” (which was pretty rare “in those days in my family”). The ability to deal with frustration and keep trucking on. A “video game” somehow doesn’t, to me, to provide the same type of benefit.
yes exactly; beats watching tv
Your last paragraph is absolutely spot on, could not agree more. I also agree with Fred it has to start at K-12.Kids naturally look up to people that are like them. I work with my daughter (who literally is my spitting image) every day because she has a true aptitude to do what I do, but when you ask about aspirations my son, aspires to do what I do (he does not have the skill in Math that she does) and she wants to be like her Mom.So as much as I can do as far as teaching and mentoring being a role model is sub optimal.Anything that is done and spent in these areas is nothing but a great investment. Why wouldn’t we want more talent?The negative comments will come when their is a forced attempt to promote people on anything but merit. Ford once did this and said nobody other than women and minorities would be promoted. Dupont did the same. I know a great company that started when a huge group left in response. Dupont still needed the technical talent and had to pay double the rates of any of their other clients to get it.But lets focus on the positive. Any money spent in growing talent is nothing but good.
yup. my daughter got way into minecraft, and was informed by peers that it’s for boys — this came from boys who were playing it, and girls who were not
Not a day goes by in my house that I don’t have to make a statement that there are no things that are just for boys or just for girls. That’s how powerful media and culture are.
Sometimes more than once a day
pediatrician, a woman: went through a phase where her son insisted that doctors are men.head/desk
What’s your plan for encouraging the underrepresented MAJORITY?
I don’t know what this means.
You referred to “under represented majorities”. Surely you know who the majority is. Well, that majority — European Americans — is represented in Silicon Valley at less than their representation in the population at large. In per capita terms, compared to Asians, they are underrepresented by a much larger factor. -What do you propose to do about that?
This is great. I have two daughters, and I’m definitely interested in what they will have available to them in the future. My daughters (10 and 7) are both good at math — and yet they both say they aren’t.I was puzzled by this and investigated through many hours of discussion — in an oblique way, because if I press them on it, they think I’m being an a-hole and don’t answer my questions :-)In the end, I found out that it was basically “the boys” in their classes telling them that girls can’t do math. So despite getting A’s on almost every test, they had internalized the notion of “math is hard” and “girls aren’t good at math” and even used it as a lame excuse for not trying in challenging situations. Years of this, and you end up conditioned.I know we could argue that I should be instilling in them an “I don’t care what you say!” attitude and a lot of this is my fault for being a sub-par parent who isn’t training little “meritocracy minions”. But the reality is that my children spend way more time at school than they do with me or my wife these days. This is why teachers and the culture within the classroom is so important.
Culture and society are a tidal wave that parents fend off every day.
And for sure parents also fend off their own tidal wave of culture and society.
Fend away! It’ reverses the death by 1,000 cuts, one cut at a time.
Here’s what my Dad did to counter the boys at school who tried to bully me into believing I shouldn’t beat them in Maths, Computing, Physics, Chemistry, Design Technology exams.He showed me that real men are stronger than their child egos.(1.) He played chess against me and if I beat him fair&square he gave me credit for that.(2.) He took me to car auctions and we examined car engines together.(3.) He drove me miles to take part in chess and sports competitions as well as to girlie dance classes.(4.) He encouraged me to watch as many science documentaries as he did.(5.) Whenever he built a gizmo with his electronics kit, did DIY and crafted something he involved me.Dads can condition self-confidence in their daughters through positive action and inclusion too.I graduated high school with the highest exam marks in my year. Getting those grades was not about “the boys”.It was about realizing my own value and potential as a person. It was about my future and ROI to my parents and teachers who’d invested in me.
Very cool! Believe me; I do what I can.
When I was in 5th grade (1989 – where has my life gone! ;)), Apple (if I remember correctly) donated/subsidized a room full of refurbished Apple IICs to my elementary school. That sparked my fascination with computers and I followed that up till joining the tech world in 2005. My teacher was my physical education teacher with no particular degree in the engineering space, but was happy to point me towards the resources I wanted like Basic programming books, etc. My parents also indulged me (and my sister and brother) by breaking down and buying a Apple IIGS a couple years later. From there on that spark of interest that they flamed was enough to lead me all the way to leading a global tech startup.I guess my point being, that I strongly agree with the point that we need to focus upstream and also that it doesn’t take advance skilled engineers to help spark and flame this interest in kids.In relation to the story, I can safely say that Apple’s most likely $2k investment into my school at age 10, was pivotal to my (and most likely scores of my classmates) interest in technology throughout life.As an aside, I created a Basic program that had an old guy come out onto a basketball court, dribble a ball and shoot it, all while This Used To Be My Playground played in those beautiful melodious notes from the computer in the background. Unfortunately the height of my coding career.
Here is what I see: You have a funny accent (like mine), people do not listen to you. You have a british accent , even when you say crap, it sounds good. (I love british people, it’s just an example) Lots of talk. Very little results. People have good intentions to help minorities, intentions are not enough. Most of these top-down solutions will not make much difference, though they are better than nothing.K-12 System example is the right path overtime.You really want to make a difference? http://curiecenter.com (This is my own initiative)This is how is going work:1. Student Summer IntensivesThrough its education track, the Curie Center will partner with local schools to host a series of free long and short term “summer intensives” courses getting students excited about, reading, writing, math, design, technology and engineering. These summer classes will help to spark early interest in these fields and launch a new generation of change makers and leaders.2. Startup IncubatorShortly after completing the Summer Intensives, the center will host between 10-15 small teams for the course of four months. Unlike the Student Summer Intensives, these teams will focus on building actual solutions to problems, as opposed to just learning from courses.The teams will focus on building products and services that help improve the following areas:EducationParticularly for the development of products and services to help equip teachers in classrooms.Opportunities for girlsIn the Dominican Republic, one of every four teenage girls gets pregnant and drops out of school.Access to information and the InternetCurrently only 48% of all Dominicans have access to the internet. Additionally, at a poor, rural town called Mata Limon, 550 students share two computers to do their homework.Optimizing production of crops, manufacturing and other core economic sectorsIn a recent partnership with a US foundation a Dominican community was able to increase their rice production by 60% simply by learning about smarter fertilization applications, which also resulted on the reduction of pesticides by 67%.UnemploymentThe Dominican Republic has a 14% unemployment rate.The development and maintenance of datasets, transportation, mobile payments etc., among others.While all teams will work within these areas with focus in the Dominican Republic, the center will give priority to those teams with solutions that can scale globally. The hope is that the teams buildings these solutions can build global enterprises or simply allow other developing nations to adapt such solutions to bring change to their local communities.Finally, the center will ensure that it’s two main programs, Student Summer Intensive and Startup Incubator, can leverage one another. Students can eventually help the startups via internships and the startups can come and give back to the Summer Intensive community by teaching free classes at the center. The center also seeks to leverage the startup teams to become mentors to other startup groups as they become successful and acquire new experiences outside of the center.If anyone wants to help with their checkbook, email me: [email protected].
you ought to email Major League Baseball. They have a lot of initiatives down there, and this one might help them as well.
Music to my ears. We are actually going to be in NYC in a couple of weeks introducing high school girls to mobile application development, coding and civictech through our platform designed with non-developers in mind. When we can empower young people and girls to focus on their ideas and the logic behind coding instead of trying to learn a programming language first, we can inspire more of them to believe they can succeed in a STEM or STEAM field of interest. I’m pleased to see more companies like Intel and foundations like Kauffman and Knight begin to focus resources and support on initiatives to create more balance and diversity, but I agree that we need to address this in midschool and high school where we lose so many girls now. We also need to empower women returning to the workforce after raising a family – there is a huge opportunity to create new role models for their children by empowering those women to explore STEM opportunities through focused training and programs.
+1000! Lisa, who is “we”?
Thanks, Kirsten – APPCityLife is my company and the ‘we’ I referred to – here’s a link if you’re interested that explains why I’m enouraging our team to support more STEM initiatives this year: http://huff.to/1y2rQ1x
One of my nieces is almost 16. She’s about to leap into college. I very deeply want her to go into computer science or robotics engineering, two areas where she’s shown both aptitude and interest. She likes building robots and is considering starting a robotics club at her high school. She has an astonishing amount of patience when debugging, as I learned when I sat down with her and finished a Codecademy project. Having a teacher at your side really helps, is what I learned, even when the teacher (me) is only intermediate level. My last job was Android QA. I’m not a ninja/rockstar coder, but I can teach a complete novice. I’m buying her a Kano for her birthday, so she can build her own computer. http://www.kano.me/kitI want to put her in a Girls Who Code program over the summer, but then again she could just get started with some computer science classes in college. It will not break my heart if she decides to choose a different path — she is her own person leading her own life — but I’m doing what I can to nudge her in that direction. I want her to go to a college where it’s normal to be a female engineer (Harvey Mudd is a standout there 🙂 I love Maria Klawe’s work). She marches mostly to her own tune, but I don’t want her to be the only female in her classes.One of my concerns is the work environment, even if/when she gets a degree. There’s a really good Medium piece on what it’s like to be a black woman in tech. https://medium.com/thelist/… There are some responses which are also worth reading.Intel should be looking for kids like her and fostering interest there or earlier, maybe in elementary school. Her high school has a bunch of Chromebooks, which are more than sufficient as computers where you can learn to code. The basic materials are already there; we just need to use them.
Yep – if we’re going to encourage women and minorities to get into tech, let’s make sure it’s a place we can recommend.
When observing similar issues in all tech as a talent leader for tech companies, I noticed at home that my girls had no exposure to technology and engineering, other than playing with an iPad. The heroes on TV had more traditional careers like doctors and teachers, so that is why we created Ella the Engineer. Ella is a cartoon hero that codes.We have our first comic book coming out very soon, sponsored by Razorfish. We believe that at the time where counselors and teachers start to guide in school, it may be too late. We want to get kids interested in tech/coding and STEM early on…and one of the biggest forces impacting young minds these days is the media, so we created a cartoon hero.
Please make sure your cartoon hero doesn’t make the mistakes Barbie the engineer did or your product will die:* http://techcrunch.com/2014/…See how that got parodied on Twitter:* https://twitter.com/search?…
Yes, we actually discussed this on twitter and reached out to Matel directly to introduce Ella. Ella is super smart and a coder…she will have friends that help her solve problems that Glitch creates, but when it comes to coding and tech, its all Ella.In fact, our key advisor is a female tech leader at Razorfish. We want to make sure we get it right.
Fred, I truly appreciate your willingness to bring the topic up. Many of our fellow investors have chosen not to.While I agree with the desire to support earlier education initiatives in STEM and seeking to create a new group of future mentors, it is important to understand that diversity in tech is a right now issue. As an investor that is actively seeking out startups with more diverse leadership I get to see the role models for tomorrow building great companies today. Investments have to be made in these entrepreneurs now. They are tackling huge problems with technology and they represent the opportunity to create the narrative that lets today’s middle schooler know that tech success for them will indeed be possible in the not too distant future.There are many that prefer to debate the merits and benefits of companies deciding to focus on diversity. The debate is unnecessary at this point. Our country is rapidly becoming more diverse and that trend isn’t going to reverse itself anytime soon.Diversity isn’t just about having different faces in the team photo, it’s about having a collective appreciation and understanding of the people that matter to your company which includes founders, employees, and customers. Businesses that have that built into their DNA from the start don’t have to worry about trying to make up for it later. It provides them with authentic and natural access to untapped talent pools, new product ideas, and healthier work environments. Those things lead to competitive advantages and that’s simply good business. I say the sooner the better.
Self promotion alert, but there are software tools that help with diversity hiring: https://www.entelo.com/prod…We also very much agree with Fred that earlier is better, and our charitable efforts reflect that:https://www.entelo.com/hiri…
Re: “we can’t create role models without opening up opportunities more broadly for the underrepresented.” Agreed, but in the meantime, aren’t there existing role models? Should they be highlighted or choose to tell their stories more visibly? Role models are really important. They pave the way, and show what’s possible.
For eg. Who do you look up to, for e.g. Kirsten, as women role models?
Ooooh, thank you for asking.Caterina FakeSara ChippsHilary MasonKerri LemoieCindy GallopVeronika SonsevCynthia SchamesAna MilicevicNatalie Molina NinoAlex WolfAnita SarkeesianKimberly BryantGloria SteinemAmy GoodmanJoan JettThat’s the short list off the top of my head. There are many more 🙂 But it would make an amazing dinner party… I’m constantly on the lookout for women who are doing it their way with no apologies.Everyone has their own blueprint for a role model, I suppose. I tend to gravitate toward women who fight hard battles, don’t shy away from controversy and break rules.
That’s a great list. Thanks!
love: STEM -> STEAM
This was a cool article I saw today FROM 1998 “The Digital Divide / High-tech boom a bust for blacks, Latinos”http://www.sfgate.com/news/…
There’s a mismatch between the diversity you speak of and the diversity that is created through such an affirmative action program.”Diversity is a good thing for many reasons. It opens up a company to a multiplicity of ideas, opinions, and connections to the market.”Diversity of skin color is not true diversity at all. While people should not judge people by the color of their skin, thinking that people of different skin colors have different opinions is itself racist because it is ascribing an assumed value set to a particular ethnicity. This is an amazing hypocrisy.”And the reasons for this lack of diversity stem from … societal biases against tech as a ‘proper career’ for women and underrepresented minorities.”This is a cliche critique and a cop out for real debate. A real debate would specifically undercut the underlying reasons for these biases and the dynamics at play. It’s too easy to suggest vague platitudes stemming from wealthy liberal guilt will heal the injustices in the world. A more pragmatic move takes into consideration the long term effects of affirmative action and “underrepresented” ethnicities. A reasoned person would discover that these policies only exacerbate racism by promoting blame towards “overrepresented” groups and vice versa as it becomes the assumed reason that one wasn’t awarded entry into said college or position. Martin Luther King would be disappointed.
YES! I could kiss you for this post @fredwilson!!I just wrote a piece on EXACTLY this – the intersection of gender, STEAM, role-modeling and early childhood (and beyond) – for The Providence Journal in December.http://bit.ly/girlsSTEAM.More background on the invite to write this op-ed is on our blog.http://bit.ly/16MeganSmithS…I did not address the race issue, but I feel it will benefit from the same dual pronged approach. This is a big deal. It needs to be fixed as fast as possible, and at as early an age possible for the child. The parents and teachers need to be on board to societally adjust their messaging to gender and race neutral.
Nothing wrong with either of your stated reasons for lack of diversity and both are broadly accepted. But both miss something I feel would drive diversity into the tech industry much more immediately. Some systems are best re-imagined when there are people on the team who understand ecosystems and interconnectedness even if not a programming language. For example, I spend a fair amount of time with members of the data economy group at Intel Labs. Women are reasonably represented in this group of research psychologies, linguists and anthropologists. Not sure that any of them would do very well on product teams with immediate release deadlines but it seems worth considering. In any event, I worry that constantly pointing to the need to educate more young girls to write code or immerse themselves in STEM is a convenient excuse to allow decades to pass before we see diversity in senior positions.
Attracting diversity dilutes the product development efforts.Enforcing diversity would only compromise on the product quality in a wrong way.
There was a report recently about women leaving tech professions mid-carrier. That’s probably the rational for “counselors and parents who don’t think ‘this is the right path’”… Being a brave pioneer in breaking social habits has not been working for so many… for a long time already.The selective “find, fund, and support” should be designed as a trigger for the broad cultural change that should really occur.
Excuse me to be a little confrontational, but only working at pushing girls and minorities to choose the tech jobs won’t solve the issues.I am female, with 2 engineering degrees, the last one in IT. When I tried to get inscription for my IT cursus, I was discouraged by the director. The only girl at school in IT, I was set alone and mocked upon by all/most other male students. I wasn’t able to choose freely the subject of my graduation work. I started my career in underpayed and low IT jobs and in remplacements. I was mocked and discriminated by male collegues who leagued on Facebook to get me out of the jobs I had. Still. I keep my track and gather experience. Conclusion: your talk seams to me very empty. Society don’t have to push girls in studies if they cannot stay in the fitting jobs. Society has to understand the practical cases of girls who fall out of the jobs they deserve to have. PLEASE GET PRACTICAL!
Where exactly are you located? Where is all of this that you describe happening?
My IT engineering IT schooling took place in Belgium. I could not find a job for 2 years (I rationalize this by the 2008 crash and the fact I was older for a ‘young graduate’). My effective IT career took place in a nearby European country with higher competitive pressure (That’s who I rationalize my job cursus).
There was an article in the NY Times recently about the Harvard admissions process with respect to diversity. While they had made strides in being inclusive to under-represented minorities, they still gave a statistical preference to white people.http://www.nytimes.com/2014…If Harvard followed it’s stated intention to include more african americans and latinos, but still remain meritocratic – it would have a plurality of asian people, and white folks would be a minority on campus. The article went on to consider if the reason this didn’t exist is because Harvard was deeply uncomfortable about this outcome.I’m all for taking steps to increase diversity, but not in a two-handed way that promotes african american and latino participation in the tech workforce, but that punishes asians. If the outcome is a minority of white people… well then so be it.
Great discussion on getting a larger and stronger “top of the funnel” pipeline of underrepresented groups into tech. At a personal level I’m particularly interested in middle and high school programs such as Technovation where I’ve been a mentor. But if I put my marketing results hat on, the fastest impact on numbers and getting role models would be to fix the exit problem. We have an extraordinarily leaky funnel with more than half of our high-tech women leaving the field. http://www.latimes.com/opin…. We must urgently fix this.
Thanks a lot for this comment ! The “pull” theory seam vital when I consider my own practical experience. Or at least getting the thorns out of the way (I already anticipate some of the future comments).
Really great post and cannot agree more with the emphasis you put on ‘guide.’ Complex problems require comprehensive solutions. There are so many useful online resources (Khan Academy, Codecademy, Scratch, this list could go on for a while) for self-motivated students to ‘learn to code.’ However, coding is just one aspect of becoming digitally literate and the need to guide and support many more students, not just offer online solutions, is key. That is the approach we are taking with Embark Labs, creating dedicated learning environments for elementary and middle school students to learn essential tech skills guided by credentialed educators. We are just getting started but early feedback from students, parents and educators has been extremely encouraging.
So happy to see this being brought up as it’s incredibly important – great points here. We just launched Kithub, https://kithub.cc/, a DIY creative electronics kit – monthly subscriptions aimed at kids and teachers to promote creating and experimenting to build STEAM skills. It’s super simple so it’s not geared toward the kid or teacher already having the “aptitude’ – it’s to spark the imagination, fun and empowerment of it. Another issue for teachers is many require sponsors to get these kits for them as they don’t have the funds.
By the way, today’s Batgirl is a software engineer with a very diverse set of friends and coworkers. My daughter is a big fan 🙂
Fred, you’re partly right. The other thing that needs to happen is that organizations need to understand what it takes to create a comfortable environment for everyone.I left a career path to science in the 80s because it was “ok” for people to comment on my looks, my body, and my gender. It happened all day long, every day, in a lab at a major research university. It was exhausting.A woman I worked with back then continued along to prominence in her field. In her late 50s now, she runs a major research facility at a different university. She recently told me that she routinely finds a need to use a line that she remembers me saying to people back in the day, “Is that my body you’re talking about?” Seriously. In the 2010s.When I moved from STEM into banking, it was a relief. I could comment on a female-unfriendly event — like finding porn in a black car’s seat pocket — and find that some people would agree. Others would at least pretend to.Some of the “extreme” stories we hear from women in tech sound sadly like some of my early experiences.You’re talking about building a runway. Awesome. We have to make sure that we’re building structures that don’t push people off the early flight path.
Exactly. One of the female game developers I follow said the other day that everyone’s telling her to encourage girls to get into the field. She said before can do that, we need to make a place she can recommend.
You know what, I’ve started to tell young women the same thing about Bschool. I LOVED bschool, got a great education, and learned a ton. I also didn’t have to go into debt to finance it.But women from my cohort (class of 95) — and there are plenty of us “career primary” who are single and/or childless — entered fields like finance (i.e. we didn’t select “girly” careers) and yet very few of us are hitting the top ranks in those fields.Recently recruiter Egon Zehnder announced that they had set a “goal” for the FTSE1000 to have 25% female CEOs by 2025. (Doing this from memory, someone correct me if I’m wrong.) Elite schools were enrolling classes of close to 40% women in 2005; these were not pink MBAs. This means that they’ve basically written off a good part of another generation of female MBA grads from reaching the leadership roles they’re supposedly training for.How do these numbers add up??And why should a young woman get a 200K MBA if the payoff looks so lousy?#sigh
Not ok in 1985, or 2015:https://twitter.com/ericasw…
Argh. Love the picture, though 🙂
actually, for me it isn’t about diversity. its about core communication skills.Diversity if kind of pointless if no one can talk to each other – You just look different and have secret barriers. Beyond talk to each other, you actually need to do something more, create new dialogue, new knowledge – and therein lies the rub.Most people don’t care about creating a higher level of knowledge at all
Also, one thing: Being a serious professional doesn’t mean you are trying to kill geek culture either, which I think there have been backlashes about from a variety of places in the tech industry – and is definitely a part of the “diversity question” in place. It means wanting to ask serious questions about stuff, which frankly can get very very geeky….
Very well said Fred. It must start with the youth; the younger the better.People lament that there are not enough women in tech (for example) but (hypothetically) if a company you only gets 1 female resume for every 10 male resumes it’s effectively impossible to correct the imbalance. The under-represented need to want those careers before we’ll see those careers balance, and early education is where it starts.
Rightly said. As a hiring manager we made a lot of efforts to hire female. First of all females graduating out of engineering degree are far less. Even if we get few female resumes a lot of them turn out to be fake or exaggerated. I think a honest male applicant is more deserving than a female with fake resume.
Curious if the gaming studios and hardware manufacturers are engaged at all in this area? There’s a stigma that gaming warps the minds of today’s youth and installs anti-social behavior. There would seem to be a big opportunity for the industry to create an educational outreach program for teachers and/or parents demonstrating the learning and requisite skills needed for game development, and consequently turn a perceived negative into a positive. If positioned properly w/ incremental communications tools for educators and/or parents, gaming can, admittedly in moderation, be viewed in an educational light (and not just as mind sucking entertainment). It’s a way to get families and educators jazzed about STEM learning.
An investment in entreprenuership education is as important as STEM – we benefit as a society by creating business thinkers as well as engineers who can think like business owners. PsI am a woman in tech – I have always worked in tech – different tech sectors and in different roles – startup founder, corporate tech, investor and so on. my first tech career was in genetics . I wanted to be a genetic engineer. I was inspired by my high school biology teacher who took us on a journey through Watson & Crick’s discovery of DNA. She weaved the story in such a way that I was hooked ! I loved the idea of recombinant DNA being this living breathing thing. She inspired! The other big factor in my tech career was my parents – they had no expectation as to what type of career I should develop – they basically left it up to me . Having no family pressure on career choice is a gift. Having an inspirational teacher shouldn’t be for the lucky. I was lucky. Having an inspirational teacher is a right owed to every kid.
A great organization to check out is Minority Leaders for Tomorrow (MLT). They help students get into college, grad school, and professional development. They are trying to serve as a pipeline for tech companies. Help support them if possible.
All gods are menAll Popes are menAll the famous athletes are menAll the innovators are menAll the scientists are menAll astronauts are menAll pilots are menAll cabbies are menAll the best golfers are menAll the U.S Presidents are menAll the startup CEOs’ are menAll the VC’s are menAll the emperors are menAll the war generals are menAll international trade policies are signed by menAll laws were written by menAll machinery and automatives built by men……Wonder why we need diversity at all.
Here is how diversity would look like. Sorry to say but these are real life incidentsA MIT blonde at the dentistContext: dental hygienist cleaning my teeth.“What are you studying? Where do you go to school?”“I’m studying aerospace engineering and electrical engineering/computer science at MIT.”“Oh that’s cute. After you complete your degree, are you going into modeling ?—————-An MIT PhD grad blonde student“So you’re an engineering student? What do you do?”“I work in controls engineering, signals processing, and automation.”“Okay. But actually, do you do any real engineering?”———————
Fred–one additional very late comment on this topic.We forget the largest divide–which is not gender–it is income and how that impacts education at the elementary level.Middle class families make up for educational shortcoming by supplementing things on their own. Not the answer but a answer.Poor families don’t and that divide is one that public education needs to address.Case in point. My dad who ended up with a PHD in physics, was raised in a very low income immigrant family. Till third grade he was in special ed classes. No money and they never realized he needed glasses and couldn’t read because of thatThe income divide is greater than the gender divide and exacerbates it even more.Lest we forget.
As the mother of teenager daughters and as an angel investor, I see tremendous interest in STEM by girls. At the regional science competitions for middle and high school at least 75%+ of the participants are girls. The problem is squarely in corporate’s corner. The futures/opportunities they project to girls and young women are unappealing from a cultural, not intellectual, perspective.
As an entrepreneur and a high school teacher, I completely agree with the need for more of these opportunities in and out of the classroom.To be blunt, the last thing you want to do is to offer one day workshops or micro credentials. The real investment is in finding the educators that are dedicated and providing them with the resources needed to actually develop and teach the real world needs.This means technology in the classroom, access to open ed resources, networks of professionals, college programs and educators that can provide credit bearing opportunities to students in high school to lessen the burden of the ASTRONOMICAL cost of college, etc.I have been working with a very dedicated team of educators, districts, professional organizations and industry to provide these opportunities to students in Manchester NH through the SteamAhead Academy initiative, (http://www.steamaheadnh.com) Investment into programs that are established, (like this one and many others) will provide opportunity to develop systems that can scale to other districts, states, and environments.More info on SteamAhead:http://www.wsj.com/articles…http://www.unionleader.com/…Anyone interested in hearing more can email me directly at [email protected]–Didn’t mean to jack the thread or solicit…..just might want to get the ball rolling with interested parties 🙂
I will state what no one wants to say. The SINGLE biggest factor that affects the success of a child is a stable home with a Dad and a Mom (who stay married). Even Pres. Obama, no friend of conservatives, has mentioned the importance of a Dad in a child’s life. 70% of African American kids are being raise in single-parent homes. Most have estranged or non-existent relationship with their dads. Our society would like to claim that there is no difference between a father and a mother but the statistics destroy that argument. Look at the background of incarcerated folks and see how many had a father (or even a father figure).I’m sorry, Intel’s $300M will not change the diversity because the core issue is taboo and goes against some special interests.
Back in the early 1970’s my Dad and a few of his peers received a grant for a program named” Ten-Fold in Ten Years”. The purpose of the Ten-fold program was to increase minority participation in science / engineering on a long-term plan.One of the initiatives of the Ten-fold program was to “enlist” math / science educators in elementary and middle schools to act as “talent scouts”, similar to the recruiting efforts in sports.The Ten-Fold program was a unilateral success, however a great deal of that success was an ability to match promising students with science / engineering mentors that were willing to commit to long-term participation (from grade-school through college, and sometimes beyond).My Dad traveled extensively (often on his on dime) to recruit school teachers and science / engineering professionals to participate and make that long-term commitment.Back then, the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) was in it’s infancy, but was instrumental to the success of the Ten-fold program. NSBE is a mature organization with an excellent mission / charter for STEM achivement at all scholastic and professional levels.As with any non-profit, NSBE (NSBE.org) is in need of support and resources. You are not required to be an African-American to participate in NSBE or to become a member.Please do what you can.
Fred, you might enjoy reading Kat Banyard’s “The Equality Illusion”, just about the first half of the book. You will see things in a different light. Especially when you have a daughter.
I have two daughters
Fred: Thanks for writing this post. As much as I agree with you that increasing the STEM pipeline is important long-term, I would have to disagree with you on that being the principal reason for the lack of diversity in tech. Yes, the STEM pipeline is an issue, but there are a ton of other, shorter term issues at play:(tl;dr version: STEM pipeline is a smokescreen, LP’s, Tech companies, and VC’s have to held accountable for public subsidy of a structurally homogeneous industry, increase in diverse VC firms will start a faster cascading effect than STEM education)In fact, Jessica Guynn at USA Today just debunked the STEM pipeline argument with data that shows existing, minority STEM graduates are much less likely to be hired:http://www.usatoday.com/sto…In the same vein, USA Today also uncovered what many have known, which is that minorities are scare in non-engineering roles within tech as well:http://www.usatoday.com/sto…I would also add that the Endeavor project and HBR just released additional info that in NYC, 65% of founders have non-STEM degrees. The implication being that lack of a STEM degree should not be a barrier to inclusion in the tech industry, especially in the NYC digital commerce ecosystem:https://hbr.org/2015/01/the…This leads to the question as to why the NYC tech scene isn’t more diverse?So, though I appreciate your comments, the STEM pipeline argument is actually a smokescreen, and part of the problem, IMHO. It allows hiring execs, VC’s, and LP’s to get off the hook in the short term.Based on my experience as an entrepreneur, VC, and LP, the tech industry is doing a lousy job in multiple areas:1) Recruiting under-represented minorities and women (URMW) where they go to actually go to school, and through the affinity groups which are their support systems (NSBE, NSHP, SWE). For a variety of very good reasons, a lot of good URMW STEM students choose to matriculate at HBCU’s, Tribal Colleges, Women’s Colleges vs. majority-serving institutions.For example, 60% of black computer science graduates matriculate at HBCU’s. Tech companies have consistently ignored putting HBCU’s on the recruiting schedule (Google had their first HBCU recruiting event in 2011, 13 years after their founding and 7 years after their IPO).(2) Providing equal opportunity for line (vs. staff) opportunities with budget and P/L responsibility within existing companies. Even for those hired into tech, URMW almost invariably never have P/L roles. This is a governance issue for boards and investors.(3) Promoting URMW based on objective perfomance and not falling back on “bro-culture”, “team fit” and other euphemisms. I’ve seen this happen a ton of times, where URMW performers are not promoted into management roles, regardless of exceeding their objectives. Again, a governance issue for boards and investors.(4) Funding URMW-led or co-managed startups. CB Insights did a study in 2010 which showed that 87% of VC funding goes to white males, and even when URMW raised $, they do so at lower valuations in Series A.https://www.cbinsights.com/…As an LP for the last 14 years, I can tell you first hand that this type of homogeneous investing has not led to better than S&P returns. In fact, it’s led to copycat investing and “me-too” companies all chasing the same deflationary economics.(5) Retaining and promoting URMW VC’s. There’s long been a revolving door of URMW in the VC world; those URMW lucky enough to get hired as Associates almost never get elected to Partner, even in firms with NO liquidity events (so no objective data to judge their perfomance). NVCA has recently started a task force to address this, 12 years after I had the same conversation with the then-President of NVCA about this issue.This revolving door has been operating the entire decade the VC industry has lagged the S&P, so no one can argue that the homogeneity of VC has yielded higher performance in that period.Until the VC pool is more diverse, I don’t think we’re going to see a dramatic increase in diversity of the companies funded, leading to the “me-tooism” and mediocrity of VC returns we currently see.(6) LP’s investing in tech VC have to start making this a governance issue, especially LP’s investing public retirement money (CALPERS, CALSTRS, UTIMCO, NYSLRS). The essential fact is that URMW’s invested in public retirement programs are having their capital allocated to VC firms who aren’t investing in URMW-founded companies, aren’t hiring/promoting URMW investment professionals, and then investing in portfolio companies who don’t hire/promote URMW employees.If I’ve ever seen a transfer of wealth from the many to the few, this would be it.Many ask, “So, what? Why should I care?”. Those reasons are several:1) Public Pension fund money is fueling (some) of this behavior. If a VC firm or a tech company is a recipient of public pension fund capital, then there should be some responsibility to the public that goes beyond simply providing below-S&P returns.2) Capital Gains Exclusion: As long as the VC industry receives preferential long-term capital gains tax treatment on carried interest from the public treasury, and ESPECIALLY where the General Partner commitment is the NVCA-minimum of 1% of the VC fund, the public(URMW’s included) providing this tax benefit should get something for their money, like inclusion in the very industry they fund. This applies whether the LP’s are public or private.I wrote about many of these same issues back in 2011, and presented some potential solutions on my TBJ Investments blog:http://tbjinvestments.typep…Solutions? Long-term, I agree that increasing the STEM pipeline will be a significant help. But as the Kapor Center has so eloquently demonstrated, if a URMW STEM graduate ends up with only a 1% chance of getting funded, we’re going to see more of the same:http://kaporcenter.org/leak…One thing LP’s can do is increase allocations to, and selections of URMW-led emerging managers. IMHO, this will start a cascading effect far faster than trying to increase STEM education in US Public schools.I’m going to be in NYC this week speaking on a panel at the Wall Street Project. There are actually several panels on early-stage investing, so if you’d love to attend, I will move heaven and earth to get you an invite. BTW, both Intel CEO and Steve Ballmer will be speaking on these issues.Last, I would challenge you to look at your own portfolio; the companies you invest in, as well as the hires they make. Are they REALLY hiring the best people, REALLY casting a wide net, or are they falling back into bro-culture as well?Or, in the words of Voltaire “Il faut cultiver son jardin”…
Fred:Thanks for writing this post. As much as I agree with you that increasing the STEM pipeline is important long-term, I would have to respectfully disagree with you on that being the principal reason for the lack of diversity in tech. Yes, the STEM pipeline is a long-term issue, but there are several shorter-term forces at play.In fact, Jessica Guynn at USA Today just debunked the STEM pipeline argument with data that shows existing, minority STEM graduates are much less likely to be hired:http://www.usatoday.com/sto…In the same vein, USA Today also uncovered what many have known, which is that minorities are scare in non-engineering roles within tech as well:http://www.usatoday.com/sto…I would also add that the Endeavor project and HBR just released additional info that in NYC, 65% of founders have non-STEM degrees. The implication being that lack of a STEM degree should not be a barrier to inclusion in the tech industry, especially in the NYC digital commerce ecosystem:https://hbr.org/2015/01/the…This leads to the question as to why the NYC tech scene isn’t more diverse?So, though I appreciate your comments, the STEM pipeline argument is part of the problem, IMHO. It allows hiring execs, VC’s, and LP’s to get off the hook in the short term on what is a straightforward governance issue.Based on my experience as a serial entrepreneur, VC, and LP, the tech industry is doing a lousy job in multiple areas:1) Recruiting under-represented minorities and women (URM) where they actually go to school, and through the affinity groups which are their support systems (NSBE, NSHP, SWE).For a variety of very good reasons, a lot of good URM STEM students choose to matriculate at HBCU’s, Tribal Colleges, Women’s Colleges vs. majority-serving institutions. For example, 60% of black computer science graduates matriculate at HBCU’s. Tech companies have consistently ignored putting HBCU’s on the recruiting schedule (Google had their first HBCU recruiting event in 2011, 13 years after their founding and 7 years after their IPO).(2) Providing equal opportunity for line (vs. staff) opportunities with budget and P/L responsibility within existing companies. Even for those hired into tech, URM almost invariably never have P/L roles. This is a governance issue for boards and investors.(3) Promoting URM based on objective performance and not falling back on “bro-culture”, “team fit” and other euphemisms. I’ve seen this happen a ton of times, where URM performers are not promoted into management roles, regardless of exceeding their objectives. Again, a governance issue for boards and investors.(4) Funding URM-led or co-managed startups. CB Insights did a study in 2010 which showed that 87% of VC funding goes to white males, and even when URM raised $, they do so at lower valuations in Series A.https://www.cbinsights.com/…As the Kapor Center has so eloquently demonstrated, if a URM STEM graduate ends up in a segment that receives only 1% of VC funding, we’re going to see more of the same:http://kaporcenter.org/leak…As an LP for the last 14 years, I can tell you first hand that this type of homogeneous investing has not led to better than S&P returns. In fact, it’s led to copycat investing and “me-too” companies all chasing the same deflationary economics.(5) Retaining and promoting URM VC’s: There’s long been a revolving door of URM in the VC world; those URM lucky enough to get hired as Associates almost never get elected to Partner, even in firms with NO liquidity events (so no objective data to judge their performance). NVCA has recently started a task force to address this, 12 years after I had the same conversation with the then-President of NVCA about this issue.This revolving door has been operating the entire past decade the VC industry has lagged the S&P, so no one can argue that the homogeneity of VC has yielded higher performance in that period.Until the VC pool is more diverse, I don’t think we’re going to see a dramatic increase in diversity of the companies funded, leading to the “me-tooism” and mediocrity of VC returns we currently see.(6) LP’s investing in tech VC have to start making this a governance issue, especially LP’s investing public retirement money (CALPERS, CALSTRS, UTIMCO, NYSLRS). The essential fact is that URM’s invested in public retirement programs are having their capital allocated to VC firms who aren’t investing in URM-founded companies, aren’t hiring/promoting URM investment professionals, and then investing in portfolio companies who don’t hire/promote URM employees.All in the midst of the one of the biggest wealth creation periods of the last 50 years. If I’ve ever seen a transfer of wealth from the many to the few, this would be it.Many ask, “So, what? Why should I care?”. Those reasons are several:1) Public Pension fund money is fueling (some) of this behavior. If a VC firm or a tech company is a recipient of public pension fund capital, then there should be some responsibility to the public that goes beyond simply providing below-S&P returns, like aiding general employment. If VC firms can’t sign up for this, they shouldn’t be eligible to receive public pension funds.2) Capital Gains Exclusion: As long as the VC industry receives preferential long-term capital gains tax treatment on carried interest from the public treasury, and ESPECIALLY where the General Partner commitment is the NVCA-minimum of 1% of the VC fund, the public (URM’s included) providing this tax benefit should get something for their money, like inclusion in the very industry they fund. Similar to public fund eligibility; if VC’s want the tax treatment of LP money as if it were their own capital, there should be some benefit to the public good. This applies whether the LP’s are public or private.I wrote about many of these same issues back in 2011, and presented some potential solutions on my TBJ Investments blog:http://tbjinvestments.typep…In the short term, one thing LP’s can do is increase allocations to, and selections of URM-led emerging managers. IMHO, this will start a cascading effect far faster than trying to increase STEM education in US Public schools.I’m going to be in NYC this week speaking on a panel at the Wall Street Project. There are actually several panels on early-stage investing, so if you’d love to attend, I will move heaven and earth to get you connected to the people who can issue an invite. BTW, both Intel CEO Brian Krzanich (who committed the $300M for diversity) and Steve Ballmer will be speaking on these issues.Last, I would challenge you to look at your own portfolio; the entrepreneurs and companies you invest in, as well as the hires they make. In development of my own teams in the past, I’ve made it a clear goal to recruit as diverse a team as possible, and not leave it up to chance.Or, in the words of Voltaire “Il faut cultiver son jardin”…
Sorry, Fred. Looks like Disqus posted this twice. You can delete the “Guest” post. Thanks.
No worries. We don’t aim for perfection in the comment thread. Though we do clean up spam