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Silicon Valley's diversity problem, in one chart

Dylan Matthews is a senior correspondent and head writer for Vox's Future Perfect section and has worked at Vox since 2014. He is particularly interested in global health and pandemic prevention, anti-poverty efforts, economic policy and theory, and conflicts about the right way to do philanthropy.

The underrepresentation of women, African Americans, and Hispanics at big tech companies is fairly common knowledge at this point, and indeed something that firms like Google and Facebook themselves bemoan, at least publicly. But even those mea culpas tend to emphasize an external reason for the firms' lack of diversity: an absence of qualified candidates.

Laszlo Bock, Google's senior vice president of people operations, went out of his way to note that women, African Americans, and Hispanics are also underrepresented among computer science graduates nationally. He of course added that Google is supporting programs to try to correct that imbalance, but the implicit point is clear: Google isn't hiring enough female, black, or Hispanic candidates because there aren't enough female, black, and Hispanic programmers to choose from.

new USA Today investigation suggests that's a bit of a dodge, at least so far as racial diversity is concerned. It's totally true that women, African Americans, and Hispanics are underrepresented among computer science graduates, relative to the US population, but they're even more underrepresented among employees big firms (defined here as Apple, eBay, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Yahoo):

silicon valley diversity

(George Petras/USA Today)

Just 2 percent of tech workers at the firms were black and 3 percent were Hispanic, compared to 4.5 percent and 6.5 percent of new CS bachelor's degree recipients, respectively. So the problem isn't merely that not enough black and Hispanic candidates are graduating with CS degrees; the problem is that even given that, tech firms are less likely to hire black and Hispanic workers.

The same is true for white candidates, funnily enough. It's just that Asian candidates are being hired more than you'd expect based on the Asian share of recent CS graduates. But white workers still make up the plurality of these companies' staffs, where black and Hispanic underhiring nearly shuts those candidates out altogether.

Obviously, these firms have some senior staffers and it could be that previous years' and decades' graduating classes had even fewer black and Hispanic people in them, explaining the results here. But these companies tend to have pretty young workforces, mostly culled from recent classes with demographics similar to those represented in the chart.

Again, none of this is to say that encouraging African-Americans and Hispanics to get into tech is a bad idea. Programs like Access Code that focus on that are doing great work. But the USA Today investigation does suggest there are qualified black and Hispanic candidates that firms aren't hiring.

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