Despite transparency, Latinos urge tech companies to step up diversity efforts

Despite transparency, Latinos urge tech companies to step up diversity efforts

Nearly two years after the nation’s largest tech companies started to publish their employee diversity numbers for the first time, Latino insiders in Silicon Valley – America’s tech hub – say the industry is not doing enough to ensure its workforce is diverse.

For years, the tech industry guarded its diversity numbers, until public pressure forced companies to reveal what many suspected: a dismal reality in which few women, African-Americans and Hispanics worked in jobs, and especially in leadership roles, in the nation’s most desirable tech companies.

In fact, Twitter has zero Latinos in leadership roles.

While public pressure has forced more transparency over the past couple of years, America’s most prestigious technology companies are still overwhelmingly white and male, and their efforts to diversify are coming under question.

“[Apple] can do better and should be trying to do better. Apple does not have the reputation to reach out to Hispanic led and managed organizations innovations to help them solve this problem. We have solutions that can help them solve this problem.”
– Ron Gonzales, CEO and President of the Hispanic Foundation of Silicon Valley

Several Latino activists who live and work in the heart of California’s Silicon Valley say that while companies have certainly appeared to have made diversity a top issue, more can and should be done to reach out to the Latino community in its own backyard.

The region that’s home to Silicon Valley is 27 percent Hispanic, an estimated 39 percent of the K-12 student population is Latino – and yet only 4 percent of the high tech work force is Hispanic.

All of this begs the question: If tech companies aren’t effectively recruiting and cultivating Latino talent in their own backyard, how legitimate are their national efforts to diversify?

“No … we haven’t seen a proactive effort from tech companies to recruit Latinos since they’ve released the numbers,” said Laura Gomez, CEO and founder of Atipica, a tech startup offering tech companies solutions to tackle diversity issues.

Before becoming an entrepreneur, Gomez worked many years as a product developer at Google, YouTube, Twitter and Jawbone. She also was an undocumented Mexican immigrant who arrived in the U.S. when she was just 10 years old. She grew up in Redwood City, California – just 20 minutes outside of Silicon Valley.

Today, she heads a company dedicated to providing software and services that will better ensure tech companies diversify their employee pool.

She says that while transparency by the tech companies has identified the scope of the problem, it has not yet led to any tangible changes on the ground, despite the ample pool of qualified Hispanics.

Gomez says since the summer of 2014, she has been to at least a dozen Latino tech events hosted by Silicon Valley companies. But, she said, recruiters have not been present.

“These are well-disguised marketing events that just so happen to be held at tech companies, but there isn’t a mandate internally to try to recruit,” she said.

Apple under-fire

Apple is one of the most valuable companies in the world. And with nearly 60,000 employees, it is, in many ways, one of the most scrutinized.

Just this month, Apple released its federal report showing that it has added 24 percent more Hispanic workers over the past year. Eight percent of Apple’s technology jobs go to Hispanics, which is four times more than Google (2 percent) and more than double what Twitter has hired (3 percent). However, the majority – about 43 percent of the company’s Hispanic workforce – are considered sales workers.

Apple CEO Tim Cook promises more will be done. But just 10 minutes away from Apple’s soon-to-be-opened headquarters in Cupertino, Ron Gonzales, CEO and president of the Hispanic Foundation of Silicon Valley (HFSV), is wondering when and how.

The HFSV is a philanthropy that has been dedicated to helping foster STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education and tech careers in the Latino community for more than 25 years. Gonzales, the former mayor of San Jose, says Apple has yet to reach out.

“Apple is a hard company to reach out to. It seems impenetrable. It’s easier for me to literally yell at the castle than for me to break through wall,” said Gonzales, who has been leading HFSV for the past 6½ years.

Apple did not respond to requests for comment from Fox News Latino.

The HFSV started a new scholarship called the Latinos in Technology Scholarship Initiative nine months ago. The initiative will provide 500 high school juniors who want to major in STEM fields a $10,000 college scholarship for three years, along with internship opportunities.

So far, Intel has pledged to cover a quarter of the initiative while offering internships for each student for two summers and a full time job upon successful completion of a degree.

Gonzales views this as an amazing opportunity for all tech firms and yet, he says, “It’s been a lot harder” than he thought it was going to be to get the support of other tech companies.

“They can do better and should be trying to do better,” Gonzales said, while noting they’ve made some strides in Hispanic employment.

According to Apple’s own data, out of a total of 103 executive and senior management positions in the company, only one is Hispanic.

Cid Wilson – president and CEO of the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility (HACR), a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., dedicated to the inclusion of Hispanics in Corporate America – says that while Apple’s overall Hispanic employee hiring is going in the right direction, the company needs to do more to increase the number of Latino senior managers, executives and board directors.

“This week, Apple’s board of directors announced its opposition to a shareholder’s motion that would commit the company to increase its diversity of senior management and its board of directors,” Wilson wrote in an e-mail to Fox News Latino. “That concerns us greatly, given the message that it sends to us and to the Hispanic community around the country. It’s especially concerning given the fact that there are no Hispanics on Apple’s board of directors.”

Over the past two years, most major tech companies like Google, Facebook, Intel and Apple have hired diversity officers and rolled out diversity web pages touting their transparency while laying out mission statements promising to do more.

“We are proud of the progress we’ve made, and our commitment to diversity is unwavering. But we know there is a lot more work to be done,” Cook wrote on Apples diversity page.

STEM of the problem

For years, the root of the problem has varied and is largely dependent on perspective. Tech companies say there are not enough qualified STEM workers in the U.S., and a large majority of those who are skilled are white men.

Others, including Latino activists, say there are enough qualified minorities in the pipeline ready for work but they are just being overlooked.

“It’s both,” Gonzales said frankly.

Latinos are the fastest-growing and largest minority in America’s colleges, but data shows while the number of jobs, types of degrees and level of student interest in STEM careers has continued to increase since 2000 – gender and racial gaps remain unchanged. In some cases, they have gotten worse.

In fact, according to the advocacy report by “Change the Equation,” African-Americans and Latinos are less likely to pursue careers in engineering, computer science or advanced manufacturing than they were in 2001.

The challenge is keeping minority students in K-12 grade levels who initially show interest in STEM fields to continue pursuing the careers in college.

Frank Carbajal, who organizes the Silicon Valley Latino Leadership Conference at Stanford University, believes the push to promote STEM education in the Latino community is important, but mentorship and networking is at the heart of making sure qualified or interested students at any age are not overlooked.

“We need to have more folks who are Latino and African-American fill those roles so that they can provide mentorship,” Carbajal said.

Carbajal said his group has seen more interest from tech companies over the last few years. He’s hoping that if more representatives, of any race, from tech companies offer their services as real mentors it can make a difference in making sure Latinos network properly and don’t get lost in the mix.

“The ones who are graduating from top-tier schools and they haven’t been recruited to top companies have created their own leap of faith and started their own [companies],” Carbajal said. “We are very resilient. If we don’t find ways to make it through the front door, we find ways to make it through.”


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