In 1869, African-American men gained (or did they?) the right to vote in the U.S. Years later, women won that right. Despite this, jobs across the technology sector seem easier to get if you happen to be white and male, and Apple's public employee diversity report seems to confirm this.
We are making progress
Apple CEO, Tim Cook, says he is not at all happy about the speed of the progress made:
"Apple is committed to transparency, which is why we are publishing statistics about the race and gender makeup of our company. Let me say up front: As CEO, I’m not satisfied with the numbers on this page. They’re not new to us, and we’ve been working hard for quite some time to improve them. We are making progress, and we’re committed to being as innovative in advancing diversity as we are in developing our products."
I don't think Cook's kidding.
He seems committed to the values that may give humanity a slight chance to move forward -- he recently followed the UN Human Rights feeds on Twitter -- and his values seem more closely related to Robin Williams' role in Dead Poets Society than the public statements most CEOs make on such matters. I applaud and support him for this.
All the same, right now it seems most Apple employees are white and male. Sure -- I've heard the arguments about ability and FUD-focused excuses, such as those who say (for example) that one reason one underrepresented group (women) won't take these 24/7 jobs in tech is because they are too smart to work that way -- but I don't buy them. It's a structural challenge.
I suppose I could move this post forward to some kind of fantasist excursion to get Apple off the hook on its revelations, but what precisely is the point? After all, we sit at a moment in technology when we can seriously expect a future in which robots will replace many of the jobs we do today -- so is it truly appropriate that our economic set-up still favors those who happen to be male, white (and while Apple doesn't say it) straight? Does this not imply that come the singularity the majority of the human race will be completely separated from the resources they require to make it through the night?
Apple's report shows that 70% of the company's employees are men and 55% are white. It staggers me that just 7% of Apple's employees are black, 11% Hispanic and 15% Asian. (Two percent of employees identify as more than one ethnicity while 9% chose not to declare this in Apple's survey.)
The sexual divide endures in Cupertino: 70% of workers are male and just 30% female.
It's not just Apple, of course: Twitter, Facebook and Google and everyone else have similar trends in their work place diversity -- but is that acceptable? Is it really an appropriate time within the many thousands of years of the human race that even today if you want a job in the most profitable industry on the planet it helps if you happen to be male and white?
When it comes to women's representation, it upsets me that the analysts at Deloitte believe that it could take until 2075 for women to achieve parity with men on tech firm boards.
Is that the best we can do?
Cook promises better:
"Together, we are committed to diversity within our company and the advancement of equality and human rights everywhere," he wrote.
But to quote Malcolm X:
"I believe in the brotherhood of all men, but I don't believe in wasting brotherhood on anyone who doesn't want to practice it with me. Brotherhood is a two-way street."
That also includes sisterhood in my book.
Innovation is definitely required.
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