How Silicon Valley Can Foster Diversity

Written by James O. Rodgers

Silicon valley diversity

Silicon Valley has a diversity problem. Everyone has heard the numbers: 83 percent of Google employees are male, and 91 percent are white or Asian. Similarly, about 69 percent of Facebook employees are male, and 91 percent are once again Asian or white. Twitter, LinkedIn, and Yahoo all report similar makeups.

These companies are missing out on opportunities to be more successful and effective. See, diversity is the key to innovation. Diverse employees bring diverse perspectives to the workplace. These fresh perspectives bring a broader range of ideas and insights to the table. Diverse employees can think outside of the box, challenging the established norms and solving problems in new, exciting ways. When a company has more ideas, more life stories, and more insights in the workplace, it has a better chance of coming across the next breakthrough idea.

It’s clear that Silicon Valley needs more diversity – but how to get it?

Recruiting for Perspective

Silicon Valley can build diversity by employing radical selection. Radical selection is an approach to recruiting that selects talent based on the perspectives people can bring to the company.

When considering candidates, tech companies need to move beyond simply evaluating technical skills – of course, those are important, too. But, in addition to technical skills, companies need to look for diversity of perspective. Employers need to ask themselves, “What background, life story, or perspective can this person bring to our company? What value can this perspective add to our company? How is this perspective new, fresh, challenging, or innovative?”


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Look for Talent in New Places

Tech companies can also foster diversity by expanding their sphere or recruitment. Many employers keep returning to the same colleges and universities for new talent. This means they keep recruiting from the same populations, so of course their workforces maintain the same makeups over time.

It doesn’t help that many of the prestigious schools that Silicon Valley returns to again and again for new employees lack diversity to begin with. As an example, look at Stanford, a major source of tech talent. Only 3.9 percent of Stanford students are African Americans; 10.2 percent are Hispanic; 0.3 percent are American Indians; and 0.4 are native Hawaiians or other Pacific Islanders. The vast majority, of course, are white or Asian.

Tech companies looking for more diverse talent should start to recruit outside of the normal candidate pools. For example, they can look for technically adept students at historically black colleges and universities, or participate in job fairs at public and community colleges.

Be Aware of Biases

All humans carry unconscious biases. It’s simply part of our nature: we like to be around people who are similar to us. The same holds true in many hiring efforts: interviewers tend to favor candidates who share their interests, beliefs, and backgrounds. Companies end up hiring these candidates, and the workforce makeup stays unchanged.

Hiring for diverse perspectives requires that employers be aware of their unconscious biases. They need to stop and think: why are we interested in this specific candidate? Are we simply attracting more of the same kinds of people and perspectives? Can we hire a candidate who has the skills and also brings a fresh perspective to the table?

By retooling their hiring efforts, tech companies can increase diversity in their workforces – and, more importantly, reap the business benefits.