What it's like to be black and work in tech

via Medium

via Medium

twitter-blackMark S. Luckie writes that about two percent of his colleagues shared his skin color.

So why aren’t there more Black people roaming the campuses of technology companies?

The most impactful detriment to diversity in Silicon Valley is the idea of “culture fit.” Employees are actively encouraged to suggest friends or former colleagues for open roles. The premise is if the employee and the candidate have a congenial relationship outside of the company, the new recruit is more likely to work well with other staffers. The recommended candidates are given preference or special attention during the recruiting process. It should come as no surprise then that there aren’t more applicants of color to select from.

Silicon Valley's diversity problem is a good illustration of the fact that racism is structural, that it works through us rather than becoming us. Most pale-skinned techfolk of the coast try hard to be inclusive and self-aware. They generally occupy a point on the map somewhere between liberal and libertarian, where there is always at least a principled objection to racism in play. But their environment remains singularly, spectacularly lacking in diversity because of systemic problems that have nothing to do with how inclusive you want to be.

Of course, there are plenty of individuals in this milieux whose personal biases do get in the way. And when you combine their presence with structural inequality, the bottom falls out entirely and creates those special media moments that illustrate, but subtly distort, the overwhelming nature of the problem.

Tech sexism seems to work somewhat differently. I've met more than one bro who would be mortified at being cast as racist, but who couldn't care less about being cast as sexist. Sexism seems acceptable in tech circles in a way that overtly-expressed racism isn't. Being seen as sexist isn't as much of a challenge to the culture, perhaps?