Posts Tagged 'ageism'

Tech Diversity Includes More Than Gender

Let’s not limit the #GoogleMemo debate and tech diversity issue simply to gender. While Google engineer James Damore ignited a firestorm around the already simmering gender diversity in tech issue, gender isn’t the only area where tech companies are lacking accountability.

The tech industry has a lot to answer for in terms of racial, ethnic, age as well as gender diversity. Yet, it’s pace to address those issues has been almost glacial.

Flashback to 2014

This issue first burst into public consciousness around 2014, with the public release of diversity data (i.e., racial, ethnic and gender breakdowns of tech workers—note age data was not included.) For an industry so ubiquitous in contemporary society, the results were both shocking and shameful. Those results looked something like this, as we reported in a previous post.

USA Today reported that one percent of Google’s tech staff are African-American, while two percent are Hispanic. Yet, these groups comprise 12 percent and 16 percent, respectively, of the total population. Asians, who comprise 12 percent of the US population, represent 34 percent of the company’s tech workers. Similarly, 83 percent of Google’s tech workers internationally are reported to be male. When non-tech positions are included, male workers still dominate, at 52 percent

In the same year, a Tech Times story described Apple’s workforce as composed of 70 percent men, 30 percent women. It also described the ethnic make-up as 55 percent White, 15 percent Asian, 11 percent Hispanic, 7 percent Black, 2 percent Mixed Race, and 9 percent undeclared.  *These figures were said to include employees of their retail stores.

Back then, we noted that Fortune magazine offered the most extensive review of tech companies and diversity.

Fast Forward to the Present

Since then, both the EEOC and the Congressional Black Caucus, as well as Rev. Jesse Jackson,  have drawn attention to and prompted some action on this issue. Yet, except for some high profile hirings at companies such as Facebook, Google, Twitter, Intel, etc., the overall diversity profile of major tech companies remains largely unchanged.

Yes, the leaders of these companies—sensitive to optics and wary of regulation—have taken some steps aimed at diversity. These include sponsoring tech boot camps, hosting gender and diversity meetings, and even developing some campus partnerships with universities serving largely underrepresented groups, especially African-American and Latino students. (Not to mention the high-profile hirings mentioned above). Yet, very little has happened operationally in these companies—except apparently to make even the discussion of diversity more contentious among insiders.

Diversity Doesn’t End with Gender

The truth is due to the size and impact of tech companies on American and global cultures, diversity in tech is effectively the civil rights issue of our era. African-American, Latinos, and non-native tech adults (read, older) cannot afford to relent on this issue. It has been shown time and again that diversity in tech isn’t simply a “pipeline” issue that will be resolved with more STEM classes for young people, more boot camps, or more  diversity meetings—all of which are overall helpful. What will move the needle and change the daily picture in these companies is more diverse hiring—including African-Americans, Latinos, Baby Boomers, etc.—individuals already educated, trained and with valuable work experience in the fields needed throughout the tech sector—in both tech and non-tech positions. Only then can we expect to see the kind of dynamic culture shift that a diverse world demands and that an industry that prides itself on “disruption” should wholeheartedly embrace.

P.S. Over the past few years, we’ve written a lot on diversity in technology and public relations. Please be sure to check out our earlier posts.

Don’t Undervalue the Expertise of Baby Boomers

In PR, technology or anything else

Proud to be in business

 

It certainly wasn’t the first time it’s happened. We were sitting in a seminar about PR 2.0, digital PR and content marketing, etc., when one of the panelists began holding forth on marketing to Millennials. As she began talking about Gen-Xers, then Millennials (she, herself, clearly being one of the two), she announced how much they love “authenticity,” and conversely, hate “marketing and spin.” She then gave the requisite nod to Baby Boomers, asking if there were any “Boomers” in the room, adding condescendingly, “I love them.” So it began …

As she continued, she gave an example of “marketing spin” from a high-end, luxury auto brand, describing its auto-industry jargon as almost unintelligible. This, she more or less declared, was the kind of marketing-speak perpetrated by Baby Boomers that Millennials had come to deplore. Sprinkled in between were plaudits about the necessity for transparency in business, with a passing reference to her own marital woes and even infidelity. At another point she laughed and denounced what appeared to be an obvious misspelling of the word “command” (spelled ‘COMAND’) on the auto company’s website. In the meantime, from the start of her profanity-laden presentation, some of us couldn’t help but be struck by the continuous misspelling of the word “Millennials” (displayed throughout her slides as “millenials.”) Need we say more?

It’s become vogue in some circles of media, PR and technology to bash Baby Boomers as somehow out of step, out of date, and whose expertise is now expired (even if one of them happens to be your boss). And sadly, except perhaps at the C-suite level—these same industries of PR, social and digital media, and technology, etc.—are giving increasing deference and higher visibility to those espousing such cliché notions. Well, we understand why—it’s all about the dynamics of marketplace. According to the Case Foundation, Millennials now make up a majority of the workforce: 53.3 million, or 1 in 3 American workers. Nonetheless, we wanted to be among the first to denounce the underlying fallacy behind this trend of ‘dissing’ Boomers. (BTW, think we’re alone? Check out this post about the “age” problem in the advertising world.)

Sure, at this site we’re mostly Boomers, but that’s not the critical point. The critical point is today we’re giving more and more credence to and putting more of these “youth” marketing (or should I say anti-marketing) masterminds on a pedestal, not bothering to question in even the slightest the real value of what they’re saying or the consistency in the standards that we normally apply to good marketing and good business. (Is it really necessary or appropriate to explain your marital infidelity or use profanity to punctuate each point to demonstrate “authenticity?” Isn’t one misspelling in professional copy as bad as another?)

Without pillorying anybody, we simply want to point out that while Baby Boomers have been party to many things that need fixing in this world, they’re also responsible for some of the advances that have radically changed the world for the better on many fronts—socially, politically, economically, technologically, culturally, etc. And while others or now picking up the mantle, many Boomers continue to be engaged and involved in advancing our respective fields. We’re not all on the march to retirement. We know, for example, those of us behind PRDoctorChicago, take considerable effort to stay current in communications technology and trends, not only for our own expertise, but for the benefit of our clients.

So, despite the growing trend to associate everyone over 40 in PR, media and technology as modern-day dinosaurs, let’s recognize that many Boomers in these fields have gratefully accepted the challenge to learn new skills and up-end old ways of thinking to help pioneer a whole new communications industry; and that while these industries have no doubt evolved, we’ve evolved right along with them. Today many Boomers not only bring newly acquired technical skills and understandings, but also have the added value of proficiency in judgment and critical thinking that come with experience. Increasingly, gauging from business and industry headlines, these are assets in uncommonly short supply.  So, to our way of thinking, in a few words, the tagline to Robert DeNiro’s latest feature film, “The Intern,” says it all: “Experience never gets old.

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