When will Apple invest in educating Latino computer science majors as they have done for both female and black students? Apple recently published their workforce diversity numbers showing still little progress in hiring underrepresented minorities in software engineering roles. Hispanic and Black tech employees remain at around 8% each of the Apple workforce compared to their 2015 diversity statistics.
These numbers motivated Apple to address the tech talent pipeline (though a call to diversify their Board leadership was rejected as “unduly burdensome”). Last March, Apple initiated a $50 million tech diversity initiative with $10 million for a women’s organization and $40 million for historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). According to Apple’s Inclusion & Diversity webpage, the latter commitment yielded a Faculty Summit for HBCU professors as well as a summer internship program for over 30 HBCU students of which eight were hired. Apple’s diversity “Creating Opportunities” webpage states that they are “committed to finding and supporting the next generation of tech talent. And we’re investing in programs so that people everywhere have the opportunity to realize their potential”. I added the italic emphasis to point out the self-imposed blind spot about Hispanic/Latino students. Apple has not made any similar investment partnering with a Latino advocacy group thus ignoring the people that will tip the U.S. to a majority-minority nation by the 2040s.
California is almost 40 percent Latino, so we may rightly ask what message does Apple convey when it disregards such a large customer base in its own home state? The myopia does not end there. Only one historically black college resides west of Texas but that California school is specifically a medical and health institution. This means that perhaps none of the $50 million initiative will go toward minority males pursuing computer science degrees in California.
Would such a gap in Apple’s strategy be tolerated in their software, hardware, or retail divisions? Of course not. So it’s appalling that Apple ignores the economic imperative of educating such a large fraction of the future workforce especially from Apple’s home state of California.
Why does Apple allow its diversity efforts to be duds similar to the Lisa computer, the Newton, and its MobileMe service? Perhaps we should ask the leadership. Apple’s departed director of worldwide inclusion and diversity, Jeffrey Siminoff, is a white, gay male similar to CEO Tim Cook who has won well-deserved recognition for his LGBT advocacy.
More importantly, the $50M initiative announcements prominently featured human resources lead, Denise Young Smith — a black woman and HBCU alum. But can these leaders recognize the needs of the growing national Latino community? These actions by Apple’s leadership show a lack of empathy in diversity planning so it would behoove them to learn quickly and to justify why diversifying leadership is “unduly burdensome.”
Workforce monoculture is a longstanding problem in Silicon Valley despite renewed calls for action including a recent federal report from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The tech industry has a disproportionate amount of funding and media attention on this issue compared to other sectors. Decisions like Apple’s, though, show that they need help.
The call to action is quite clear — Latinos should be a part of Apple’s diversity action plan both as the internal leadership as well as the external beneficiaries of Apple’s philanthropic largesse. It does not take much effort to find worthy Latino organizations that could benefit. For example, I recommend the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, Latinitas, and the Manos Accelerator that all promote college scholarships, coding for girls, and tech entrepreneurship, respectively.
I’ve networked with such advocacy groups through S.T.E.M. diversity work. However, as a practitioner, I recognize my own limitations and so turn to experts to navigate the minefield of diversity practice. Much can be learned from diversity advocates in academia where improvement can be more difficult because faculty tenure protects the status quo. By contrast, in the private sector, the power is controlled by those with money; and, the tech industry is awash in such privilege.
I invite the tech industry and especially their newly hired diversity officers to learn from your academic colleagues who have been working on these issues since the Civil Rights movement. The National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education published 12 standards of professional practice for diversity officers that can be applied by any change agent promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion. In my opinion, Apple’s unjust actions described above are violating a corollary of Standard One (“a broad and inclusive definition of diversity”), i.e. Apple please do not play favorites because you end up ignoring others, including Latinos.
What Apple needs is leadership, vision, and commitment in its diversity work. That’s what Latinos would call ganas.