The racial reckoning of 2020 has forced nearly every major company and publicly traded entity to address the inequities within them and perpetuated by their activities. While Big Tech has responded with pledges to commit millions of dollars to diversity and inclusion funds and initiatives, it remains to be seen whether this money will have an actual effect on how the companies conduct business.
The social movements of this year, following the incendiary death of George Floyd in May, are coupled with the persistent threat of the coronavirus pandemic, which has devastated the global economy and completely upended the status quo. While many industries have suffered under lockdowns, quarantines, and new public safety measures, the technology industry has avoided much of this economic pressure due to a quick adoption of remote work.
Twitter was the first Big Tech player to offer employees the opportunity to work from home “forever.” Recently, Google announced plans to delay reopening its on-site campus until at least summer 2021. And while this flexibility is certainly a boon to workers and their families fearful of being in closed spaces with large numbers of people, it could give Big Tech a chance to address one of its other glaring issues: a lack of diversity.
What’s Causing the Lack of Diversity?
One of the major reasons for the tech industry’s homogeneity (in which black and brown workers represent less than 10% of the employee populations) is the opportunity clusters that house the lion’s share of tech headquarters.
Silicon Valley (and, by extension, the rest of the San Francisco Bay area) and Seattle host tons of opportunities, many of which are unattainable to most candidates due to the high cost of living. It cost a family of 4 over $12,000 a month to live comfortably in San Francisco in 2018, while the average salary of a black person in the U.S. hovers at around $54,000/year (around $4,500 monthly).
Barring outliers, it’s almost impossible for someone who is not already wealthy to live and work in the Bay Area, limiting the plethora of opportunities there to those who are already wealthy.
This issue disproportionately affects younger workers from lower- and middle-class backgrounds who have the credentials and knowledge but lack the proximity and connections to tech founders and influential workers to even get their feet in the door. This lack of access perpetuates the cycle of underrepresentation, lower salaries and earnings over time, and lower net worth that plagues black and Hispanic workers…
Source: HR Daily Advisor