How Millennials Can Fix The Diversity Crisis In Silicon Valley

Written by Anna Johansson

Silicon Valley has a major diversity problem (in case you haven’t heard). Tech is the fastest-growing sector in our economy, and Silicon Valley is the headquarters, yet less than 18 percent of computer science graduates are women. Silicon Valley is dominated by male CEOs, managers, and leaders, and a culture that puts males above women.

Sexual harassment, sexual discrimination, and an overall attitude of misogyny are frighteningly prevalent in the area, with new reports detailing everything from flippant comments to outright discriminatory practices keeping women from achieving positions of power in the region.

On top of that, reports suggest that the race gap in Silicon Valley is even worse than the gender gap. White women, despite the unequal opportunities, were still 31 percent more likely to be executives than Hispanic men, 88 percent more likely than Asian men, and 97 percent more likely than Black men.

Millennials Can Fix the Diversity Crisis
How Millennials Can Fix the Diversity Crisis in Silicon Valley. Photo:

Merely looking at the problem and complaining about it isn’t enough. There needs to be a serious change in the tech sector, or the diversity problem could continue indefinitely—and millennials might be the ones best equipped to do it.

Why millennials can fix the diversity crisis

Why do millennials have the power to correct this course and bring more opportunities to women and ethnic minorities in the valley?

  • New solutions. Whatever efforts Silicon Valley may have already taken to solve its diversity crisis, they aren’t working. New research shows that things are getting worse, with the number of black men and black women in management positions sharply declining between 2007 and 2015 (as well as the number of Hispanic and Asian managers). Any new people who come to the table with solutions stand to have a higher rate of success than the people who have been making the decisions thus far.
  • Perspectives on diversity and inclusion. Millennials think differently about diversity and inclusion than their older generational counterparts, as evidenced by an oft-cited Deloitte study. While older generations tend to focus on filling quotas and hitting key numbers, millennials are more concerned with ensuring that minority groups have a voice during important decision-making meetings, and ensuring that everyone in an organization has a chance to learn from one another and grow. This attitude could shift the focus in the industry from hitting a certain number to maximizing the influence of previously underrepresented groups.
  • The next generation. Some insiders from Silicon Valley have made the argument that the diversity in the area isn’t due to discriminatory practices, but due simply to the fact that there aren’t enough qualified candidates from minority group to fill the positions they have available. If that’s the case, millennials may be perfectly equipped to address the issue—because they’re starting to become parents.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          One study suggested that the pivotal time to build girls’ interests in coding is when they’re still in middle school. If they learn to see that computer programming and computer science are fields for women, they’re far more likely to pursue that as an eventual career. Nurturing young girls, as well as children of ethnic minorities, to be interested in computer science, could one day shift the balance of people who graduate with computer science degrees—and therefore, the entire tech workforce.

The counterarguments

Of course, there are a few counterarguments to these philosophies and approaches. First, millennials may not be able to add something “new” to the equation, since they’re at least partially responsible for creating this gap in the first place.

 Posted with permission of Forbes Media LLC.

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