Where are the Hispanics in Silicon Valley?
Many are part of the area’s “invisible workforce” — cleaning and guarding buildings for companies primarily made up of white and Asian males.
But a new analysis by USA Today Monday reveals this disparity is not necessarily due to a lack of educated minority candidates for the white collar positions. In fact, top universities turn out black and Hispanic computer science and computer engineering graduates at twice the rate that leading technology companies hire them, according to the news site, which based its findings on the Computing Research Association’s annual Taulbee Survey of 179 U.S. and Canadian universities that offer doctorates in computer science and computer engineering.
The survey findings reveal a decline in computer science bachelor’s degrees given to whites — from 66.9 percent in 2010-2011 to 61.2 percent in 2012-2013. The percentage of degrees awarded to Hispanics actually went up 5.4 percent to 6. Increases were also present among non-resident aliens, Asians, blacks and multiracial graduates. Trends were similar for information degrees, although Latino numbers declined in computer engineering.
Technology companies blame the severe shortage of blacks and Hispanics on the pool of job applicants, but according to Darrick Hamilton, professor of economics and urban policy at The New School in New York, these findings show that claim “does not hold water.”
“What do dominant groups say? ‘We tried, we searched but there was nobody qualified.’ If you look at the empirical evidence, that is just not the case,” Hamilton told USA Today.
In May, Google admitted on its diversity blog that the company is “miles” from where it wants to be with regard to a diverse workforce and claims to have been “working with historically black colleges and universities to elevate coursework and attendance in computer science.”
Where 61 percent of the company’s employees are white, and 30 percent are Asian, only 3 percent are Hispanic. Apple’s employee make-up, while still predominantly white, is 11 percent Latino, falling only slightly behind the company’s Asian workforce at 15 percent. Granted, CEO Tim Cook included Apple’s more than 32,000 retail staff members in those figures.
One reason for the disconnect could quite possibly be that the colleges from which minority students are receiving degrees are not the same schools the tech giants are recruiting from.
According to Wired magazine, Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and other well-known tech companies look to universities like Stanford, MIT and UC-Berkeley for graduates to fill their open positions. Compare this list with a study by Excelencia in Education of the top 25 colleges producing Latino graduates with STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — degrees. Among them are Florida International University, University of Florida, California State University – San Bernardino, University of Phoenix and several University of Texas campuses – El Paso, Austin, Pan-American and San Antonio.
“That is the major disconnect,” said Juan Gilbert, a professor of computer and information science at the University of Florida in Gainesville. “The premise that if you want diversity, you have to sacrifice quality, is false.” His department currently has 25 African-American Ph.D. candidates, and Rice University in Houston has a large number of Hispanic students, USA Today reports.
“These are very strong programs, top-ranked places that have excellent reputations,” he said. “Intel has been hiring from my lab, and they say our students hit it out of the ballpark.”