Why ESPN’s The Undefeated Will Drive Diversity in Silicon Valley

As noted in the 2nd part of this DiversityWorking.com article, the motive behind ESPN’s The Undefeated is being questioned and criticized as promoting segregation or being racist. This is the 3rd part, which examines the lack of gender and racial diversity in Silicon Valley and how business ownership by women and BIPOC community

Data on Silicon Valley Diversity

Silicon Valley, home to many American and global tech giants, is widely known for its gender and racial diversity issues. Efforts to improve the diversity situation seem to be slow-moving. A report last month gave the following figures illustrating how the country’s main tech hub is still overwhelmingly white and male:

Analysis of employees at the leading tech firms that report such figures reveals, on average, 71 percent are men, 29 percent are women, 60 percent identify as white, 23 percent Asian, 8 percent Latino, and 7 percent black.

To boost the promotion of diversity in Silicon Valley, no less than President Obama himself has given his full support, especially for tech startups, as noted in one of DiversityWorking’s articles

As of August last year, women were reported to comprise 30% of the tech industry workforce despite representing 59% of the total workforce and 51% of the country’s population, according to data from the US Census Bureau.

Another presidential initiative involves $118 million in funding for economic and research programs that can provide minority girls and women with equal opportunities to prosper and overcome structural barriers.

Women and BIPOC Representation in STEM

A  US Census Bureau study found disparities in the STEM workforce, based on the 2011 American Community Survey (ACS).

Some of the findings include:

STEM Employment of Women:

  • In 2011, 26% of STEM workers were  women and 74% were men, even if women made up almost half of the working population.
  • Women remained significantly underrepresented in engineering and computer occupations, occupations that make up more than 80% of all STEM employment.
  • Women’s underrepresentation in STEM is a result of their significant underrepresentation in engineering and computer occupations, rather than math and science occupations.
  • In 2011, women representation in the different STEM jobs were broken down into:
    • 3% of engineers
    • 27% of computer professionals
    • 41% of life and physical scientists
    • 47% of mathematical workers, and 61 percent of social scientists.

STEM Employment of BIPOC Communities:

  • In 2011, non-Hispanic Whites and Asians were seen to be over-represented in STEM: Though non-Hispanic White comprised 69% of the total workforce, they dominated with 71% of STEM jobs, and Asians held 15% of STEM jobs compared with 6% of all jobs, the study reported.
  • Blacks only had a 6% share of STEM jobs. 
  • Both American Indians and Alaska Natives had a dismal 0.4% share of STEM jobs. 
  • Other races only had a 1% share of STEM jobs.
  • The same was true with Hispanics being underrepresented. In 2011, although they made up about 15% of the workforce, only 7% of them had STEM jobs.

This curated article takes a close look at the diversity situation in the tech industry.

Despite the grim picture, however, it is said that there is much hope for tech diversity to increase, according to Diversity Outlook for the Tech Industry.

Initiatives for Diversity in Silicon Valley

Many tech companies/organizations certainly do their committed best to drive diversity in their workplaces, yet efforts towards this goal collectively fail to show improvement in the diversity landscape of Silicon Valley. There should be more sincere, vigorous endeavors towards increasing the representation of women and people of color in the workplace.

Diversity events are a way to boost tech diversity and among these was last year’s Tech Inclusion 2015 .

Meanwhile, this article features some of the best practices, shared by David Chavern, President of the U.S. Chamber Center for Advanced Technology and Innovation, and Founder of the Center for Women in Business, that tech companies can integrate into their own diversity initiatives to put more women in leadership positions. Chavern promotes the idea that more women leaders in tech contribute to success.

Indeed, women are a force to reckon with in STEM, as exemplified by the country’s women scientists.

One way to vigorously increase diversity, not only in STEM but across all industries, is to encourage, promote and  support business ownership by women and minorities.

Diversity in entrepreneurship makes for a vibrant economy, more so when people who put up their own
companies or businesses are fueled with passion, drive and motivation to help others, especially their own. Just like African-Americans.

Here is an excerpt from a Business Journals report:

When asked about their motivations for becoming a small business owner, a large majority (72 percent) of blacks cited the desire to be their own boss, compared to 52 percent of whites and Hispanic buyers and 38 percent of Asian/Pacific Islander buyers. African-Americans were also the most likely to be motivated by better income opportunities and better lifestyles as small business owners. […]Although small business ownership remains a male-dominated career path, business ownership is growing among women, especially within the minority demographics.Women made up 39 percent of African American buyers, by far the highest percentage of all ethnic groups.

Studies on business ownership by minorities and women show how beneficial these enterprises are:

  • Black-owned businesses can reduce incidence of youth violence, one new study shows. Sociologist Karen F. Parker of the University of Delaware found a growth of African American-owned businesses was strongly linked to a reduction in black youth violence between 1990 to 2000.
  • People are challenged to support businesses run by someone of the same race, as this article reported regarding the need for black people to support black-owned businesses in order to survive. –
  • In relation to the aforementioned challenge, this Huffington Post article says at some level, residents within a community do indeed economically enhance that community when there is a significant amount of patronage of local businesses. It talks primarily on African-American owned businesses wherein, from a historical lens, it can be said that black spending can help boost Black employment. 
  • Businesses owned by women and minorities have the potential to land federal and state contracting opportunities, through the support of the Small Business Administration.
  • The 8(a) Business Development Program assists in the development of small businesses owned and operated by individuals who are socially and economically disadvantaged, such as women and minorities. (Wikipedia)
  • In its just released data, US Census Bureau reported that the number of minority-owned enterprises in the U.S. grew by 38 percent between 2007 and 2012, according to the 2012 Survey of Business Owners just released by the Census Bureau. The number of woman-owned firms jumped almost 27 percent nationally in that time, while the number of veteran-owned firms grew by 3 percent. An encouraging news indeed.

Racial and Gender Diversity in Media Ownership

In terms of ownership, there is also limited gender and racial diversity in media. The downside to this is that news stories are permeated with negative stories of people of color, and women are underrepresented in the news – according to Free Press.  

This lack of accurate coverage — or of any coverage at all — relates directly to media consolidation. Mergers have kept female and minority media ownership at low levels […] As consolidation cuts back on the number of TV and radio station owners, women and people of color have fewer chances to become media owners and promote diverse programming.

Women and people of color have their own narratives to share, their own issues and challenges; thus, who can better tell their stories than they themselves, with their own perspectives nuanced by their personal experiences?

A Work In Progress white paper co-written by an academic team from the University of Connecticut offers a different take on promoting diversity in media ownership, an excerpt of which reads:

“…First, because businesses themselves are only interested in reaping the economic rewards of diversity initiatives, social movements need to push for real inclusion and economic equality for marginalized groups in the business world. Second, trends such as media consolidation and the dearth of critical narratives around the business case for diversity suggests a need for social group diversification in business media ownership and production that can open up further space for discussions addressing corporate diversity and inclusion as a social problem rather than an economic imperative.”

Diversity Driven by The Undefeated

To paraphrase Mark Zuckerberg, reported to have admonished his employees for crossing out ‘black lives matter’ and writing ‘all lives matter’ on the walls at MPK, it can be argued that just because ESPN’s The Undefeated is intended to be a fully Black media that it seeks to create division nor exclusion from others. It does not mean it is being racist or promoting segregation.

As explained above, Black Americans do have every right to own and run their own companies. They have the right to equal opportunity. The Undefeated will increase equal opportunities for Black people.

The Undefeated, a timely addition to the dismal list of Black-owned media outfits, will be a vehicle of social change, promoting diversity not so much for the money, but more so for the upliftment of  African-Americans, women, other people of color, and marginalized sectors of American society.