Tech’s Meritocracy Myth?

Feb 6 2013 @ 8:28pm

Jamelle Bouie makes the case that “an implicit network, not overt racism” discourages African-American and Latino-American participation in tech writing:

The roots of this problem lie in more fundamental racial disparities that are found across American life. “Careers and career paths in technology are often integrated in a kid’s DNA to some respect,” says Kee. “Having a mom and dad that have gone to college, being exposed to the workings of technology — not just the consumption and purchase of it — all help contribute to an interest in ‘tech’ as a career. As it stands, black kids are still less likely to have those influences.” … If Bill Gates had been born black in the Seattle of 1955, Microsoft might never have been founded.

Jason Calacanis dismisses Bouie’s concerns as “unfounded”:

This idea that Silicon Valley is in some way a closed, secret society is laughable. Ninety percent of the people in Silicon Valley were not born there — they moved there. The industry is driven by investment and investment is driven by metrics, not where you went to school.

Anthony Ha weighs in, agreeing that there is racism in the tech industry, “even if it’s usually subtle and non-malicious.” Rebecca Greenfield brings gender into the discussion:

Silicon Valley likes to think that it exists as some paradigm for equality, rewarding intelligence and hard work over class, race, sex, and pedigree. But that’s not quite true. … Money and an important (Stanford) education can buy access. Also, think about all the Harvard people Mark Zuckerberg hired to work at Facebook and then think about what it takes to get in to Harvard. Meanwhile, the notable lack of female and black faces out there suggests that other barriers — not hard work and smarts — have limited entry of minorities and women.

Calacanis and Bouie continue the discussion with others on Twitter.