Diversity and Inclusion Series:3 Things the Tech Industry Can Learn from the Oscars

This is the first post of a three-part series on the lessons that the tech community can learn from the Oscars when it comes to diversity and inclusion.

After this year’s Oscars, we discovered something:  The tech community can learn a lot from the movie industry when it comes to diversity and inclusion.

In just a year since the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has made positive steps towards resolving its diversity problem. One great night for diversity does not completely solve the issue, but it is a step in the right direction.

The tech industry, which has struggled to make significant gains on its diversity numbers, can learn a thing or two from the movie industry.

Here is the first of three lessons on diversity and inclusion that the tech industry can take from the movie industry:

Oscars Lesson #1: The first step is admittance.

The tech community should admit that it does not open its doors to diverse talent rather than blaming its problem on a lack of talent.

Post the #OscarSoWhite debacle, the Academy vowed to embark on a five-year initiative to “double the number of women and diverse members of the Academy by 2020.”

The Academy soon learned that five years was too long and embarked on an aggressive review and overhaul of its governance structure. This review led to the purging of 70 members and the welcoming of 683 new members to the Academy. By taking a hard look at its structure, the Academy effectively recognized that its diversity issue did not stem from a lack of quality films featuring talented people of color and women but rather a lack of opportunity for representation of existing films.

In the past couple of years, only incremental improvements have occurred in tech’s diversity numbers. The reasons for this vary, but one common theme constantly arises: the broken pipeline problem. In 2016, Facebook’s Global Director of Diversity Maxine Williams blamed the company’s low diversity numbers on this issue. She explained that the current public education system does not provide students with the necessary skills. Put simply: There is just not enough talent. At the time, many people disagreed with and were offended by her comments.This explanation is highly suspect when considering other factors such as companies’ interview methods and their internal referral processes.

Even if there is inadequate technical education, what about other non-technical areas like business, marketing, and sales roles? There is a misconception in Silicon Valley that all jobs in tech require technical expertise. However, this is not true. For instance, take online recommendation site Yelp, about 70 percent of its jobs are non-engineering roles (pre-dominantly sales).

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the percentage of bachelor’s degrees earned by black, Hispanic, and female students is on the rise. Further, NCES found that black women are the most educated group in the U.S. with 9.7 percent enrolled in college – more than Asian women, white women, and white men. Ultimately, underrepresented minorities and women are earning other degrees. This increased education empowers students with the necessary skills needed to succeed in the tech industry’s non-technical positions.

The tech community should admit that it is not a lack of talent keeping the industry from being more diverse and inclusive. Rather, it comes down to creating a system that acknowledges perfectly viable, underrepresented candidates and provides them with the opportunity to succeed.

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Virtual Skinny: Get Out the Vote!

11.4.2016

Good to Know: Time to vote for the next U.S. president. FYI, voting by text is not a thing so don’t believe the ads you’re seeing online. 

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THE SKINNY


When The End Is Near …  

Take that whichever you want to … But come next Tuesday, the U.S. presidential election will be over. And, Facebook may leave its mark.

When You’re Not Understanding …

Take a look at Hong Kong’s last election. Facebook helped get young people and liberal voters out to the polls, which led to the conservative candidate crying loser tears. Analysts says this could mean something for what’s going on State-side. 

When You Need Information, Quick…

Facebook’s ‘Election 2016’ hub gives people easy access to “voting guides, registration info, news video, and other Election Day planning tools.” 

WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON?


There’s Always A Way …

Not being picked up by a taxi on account of how you look is common knowledge many have experienced. When ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft stepped onto the scene, they thought they were doing their part to decrease blatant bias.  Not so fast. Turns out Uber and Lyft drivers are simply deciding whether to pick someone up or not based on riders’ names. Black men are having a particularly hard time getting rides (at least based on a study by MIT, Stanford, and University of Washington of what goes down in Seattle and Boston). Women aren’t immune either. 

That’s What We Call Dodging A Bullet …

Gregory Selden, an African-American AirBnB user, filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against the company. Selden said an AirBnB host wouldn’t rent to him because… Well … he’s black. A federal judge put the kibosh on the suit on account of AirBnB’s policies that users agree to when they sign onto the platform. The judge says this situation’s gotta be handled privately and out of the court. 

Where Is Everyone?

Struggling Internet vet Yahoo announced plans to sell to Verizon. Soon after, the company saw its women employees leaving in droves. Not a great time since the tech industry is focused on diversity and inclusion issues. No confirmed reason for the exodus, but Yahoo’s Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion says they simply got better offers elsewhere. 

NUMBERS DON’T LIE …


Only 18% of women are earning undergrad degrees in computer science, physics, and engineering. A new psychology study blames masculine geek culture. The fix on closing the gender? Less focus on Star Trek and video games and more focus on things women can relate to. And no, that does not mean making everything about the color pink and fashion.  

For the first time ever, looks like people are accessing the Web via their mobile devices rather than desktops.

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THE STREETS ARE TALKIN’


LinkedIn wants to know how much bank you got with LinkedIn Salary. Don’t worry. This is for good, not evil. The company wants to help people better gauge how much they should be making for a particular role. But, nothing in life is free. To gain access to the aggregated and anonymous salary info, you gotta share yours first. 

You’ll need to know your worth because the holiday season is here. Insta’s taking advantage. The app will now let people shop till they drop with 20 brands including J.Crew, Warby Parker, and JackThreads. Don’t be shy, hit that “shop now” button. 

The holidays aren’t just about buying material things. It’s the season for giving. Check out apps like ShareTheMeal, Donate a Photo, Tinbox, Charity Mile, etc. to give back. 

What else are the holidays good for? New Year resolutions and gym memberships. And, if you’re anything like us, you’ll never use them. ClassPass is ditching its premium membership for a la carte gym classes and three-class packages. Something to consider …

Uber’s learning more about you. The latest version of the app uses a combo of your past behavior and whatever you’ve got penciled into your calendar to prompt a suggested final destination. 

Microsoft Teams  allows teams to pow wow virtually. Sound familiar? Slack seems to think so. Looks like Microsoft’s going after the chat service with ‘Teams.’ But, Slack isn’t sweating it and took out a full-page ad in the New York Times. The ad is a welcome letter with a bit of advice for Microsoft on how to play in the space. Take a look at the full letter if you have the time. #ShadeMonster 

After three years, Twitter’s got plans to shut down Vine. You’ve still got a few more months to take in some of Vine’s best video loops before it’s gone for good.  

FUN (NOT SO) FACT


If some of the great classic writers were alive today, what would be their go to apps? Jane Austen would’ve probably been all over Bumble looking for bae.  

The Virtual Skinny: Keep It Short…

11.24.2015

Good to Know:  The holidays can be stressful. Turns out getting on social media may only make things worse.  

THE SKINNY


Adding Fuel to the Fire … 

U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) are throwing in a bill of their own to heat up the U.S. immigration reform debate. It’s called the H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act of 2015. Grassley and Durbin want American employers to focus on hiring U.S. citizens first and forget about outsourcing certain jobs. Houston, we have a problem.

Back it up … 

Quick background:  This isn’t exactly what tech and Internet companies had in mind for immigration reform.  These companies want the ability to bring in more foreign-born high-skilled workers like engineers to keep their businesses competitive. After all, there’s been talk about the U.S.’s shortage of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) workers. So, tech and Internet companies often have to look elsewhere to bring in talent.

What Do You Want From Me?

These companies want to up the available number of H-1B visas, which are work visas for foreign, high-skilled professionals. The demand for these visas is currently so high that the U.S. government resorts to a lottery system for H-1B applicants. In other words, qualifications don’t matter, it all comes down to luck.  Groups like FWD.us, backed by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, are pushing for “common sense” immigration proposals that focus on high-skilled immigration and immigrant rights.

Taking the Good with the Bad … 

The bill wants to limit job outsourcing by targeting companies such as Indian outsourcing firms. But, it also has some redeeming points for the broader tech industry. For one, the legislation would make it easier for H-1B employees to switch employers without fear of losing their visa status. Win! The bill will likely go nowhere, but it’s putting immigration back on the map.  With an election year coming up in the U.S. and campaigns moving full steam ahead, expect more immigration chatter.

WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON?


Is IT OR ISN’T IT?

Sports fantasy sites FanDuel and DraftKings will finally get their day in the New York Supreme Court tomorrow. On the agenda?  Whether FanDuel and DraftKings’ services qualify as gambling.  Since the alleged insider trading involving a DraftKings’ employee a couple of months back, the federal government and states have been on the companies’ backs.  Tomorrow’s hearing is key because whatever comes out of New York on this issue could influence how other states deal with FanDuel, DraftKings, and other fantasy sports sites.

THE STREETS ARE TALKIN’ 


Social media company Facebook is in the business of giving away free Internet access. The company’s Internet.org initiative offers basic Internet access to emerging markets via a program called Free Basics. India’s got next. 

Microsoft (MSFT) put out a report on the company’s diversity numbers.  Slight improvement in racial and ethnic diversity within the company but not so much for gender diversity. The percentage of women at MSFT dipped 7.6% in the past year.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos tweeted for the first time. His side hustle, Blue Origin, successfully landed a rocket ship. Definitely tweet-worthy if you ask us.

Apple’s mobile payment and digital wallet service Apple Pay will be in China by February 2016.  Chinese services like WePay and AliPay are already dominating the market. We’ll see if Apple Pay even stands a chance.

Lady Gaga’s ex manager Troy Carter helped her to stardom. Now, Carter wants in on tech talent. He’s launched an LA-based incubator called Smashd Labs.