The workforce of an organization will reflect the talent pool that is available and not the customer base it is serving
A social media giant recently acknowledged that it has been hiring too many white and Asian men to fill high-paying technology jobs, just like several other major companies in Silicon Valley. About 70 per cent of the workforce (3,000 people) is composed of men. In the U.S., nearly 90 per cent of the company’s workers are either white or Asian. Just 10 per cent of computer programming positions and other technology jobs are held by women worldwide. This scarcity of women, black and Latino workers mirrors similar situations at other Silicon Valley companies. Are the companies justified in not diversifying their workforce or should they have made adequate efforts to do so?
Recently, when Twitter came up with its diversity report, there was a huge hue and cry across the Silicon Valley. However, the report is not unique and representative of other technology companies. The employment statistics reported for Twitter is as follows: 70 per cent of employees are male. While in the technology section, the number is 90 per cent, it is 79 per cent in leadership roles. 59 per cent of employees are white, while Asians comprise 29 per cent. Hispanic/Latinos (3 per cent) and African Americans (2 per cent) make up a very small number.
The argument that Whites and Asian males dominate the Silicon Valley companies is unfair from the American demographic perspective. Companies are getting criticized for things that are really beyond their control. But, diversity experts argued that personnel engaged in the development of products and services should reflect the customer base they serve. The second argument they put forward was that while almost 87 per cent of Americans use Internet and other related technology products, less than 1 per cent of the population is engaged in the tech sector, which in turn is dominated by White and Asian males
This argument is well founded, but the labour market reality should match the needs of the corporations. While it is important to have diversity in the workforce, one can’t ignore the supply side. Diversity gurus will never support hiring of diverse workforce by compromising merit. Instead of looking at the customer base alone, one needs to look at the supply side. To begin with, the workforce should reflect the pool of candidates that is available for various functions. Therefore, one needs to look at the output of the educational institutions and figure out if any biases/stereotypes are coming in the way of hiring diverse talent.
If the supply is short, it will have to be augmented by the combined efforts of educational institutions, NGOs, industry and the government. Simply blaming the industry alone will not help overcome this problem. Shortage of supply from certain ethnic groups or gender may be due to historic reasons, cultural barriers, beliefs etc. One has to tackle these issues. The focus should be on creating an inclusive work environment and ensuring the supply of diverse workforce matches the needs.