On Thursday, The Wall Street Journal posted a piece titled, “Facebook Blames Lack of Available Talent for Diversity Problem.” Facebook has come to the conclusion that their diversity problem is due to there being too few underrepresented people who have the necessary tech skills to work for them. So instead of looking to find this talent, they are passing off the issue to the public education system.
I am a Black woman who will graduate with a computer science degree from Dartmouth College in less than a year. There are thousands of other Black and Latinx who graduate every year with computer science Bachelor degrees. Most of us don’t get hired into the tech industry. So instead of putting in the effort to look for us, Facebook is ignoring the fact that we even exist.
When I saw this article I had to fight back tears. I thought about all the work I’ve put into to get to where I am today and wondered if it will even matter when I start my job search in a few months. According to most tech companies, if I can’t pass an algorithmic challenge or if I’m not a “culture fit,” I don’t belong. I haven’t even started my first full-time job yet and I’m already so tired of feeling erased and mistreated by the tech industry. I’ve worked so hard to make myself visible over the last few years so it hurt me to see Facebook make such false statements. What more must students of color do to make it clear that we are qualified to be in this industry?
I wish that tech leaders would just be honest and admit that they’ve made tech culture so exclusive and toxic. Ignoring the fact that underrepresented talent exists shows me that they don’t care about diversity and they don’t want us working in tech.
Most of tech recruiting is currently not built to look for great talent. I’m not interested in ping-pong, beer, or whatever other gimmick used to attract new grads. The fact that I don’t like those things shouldn’t mean I’m not a “culture fit.” I don’t want to work in tech to fool around, I want to create amazing things and learn from other smart people. That is the culture fit you should be looking for.
Tech companies who believe that the pipeline is the only issue are refusing to see underrepresented talent. I am a CODE2040 2nd year fellow; after this summer, the CODE2040 fellows program will have over 150+ talented alumni who are all Black and Latinx with computer science degrees. CODE2040 is a selective program meaning that for every student they accepted into the program they probably had to deny at least five. Hundreds of students are applying to CODE2040 every year in hopes of getting an internship in Silicon Valley. We want to work in tech. We want to be a part of the industry that has changed the world and continues to change the world. We want to be a part of the future innovations. We want to be here, but it seems like the tech industry doesn’t want us to be.
The tech industry needs to accept the blame for not hiring underrepresented people. We are here, but you are choosing not to see us. If you want to recruit more new grads of color, send technical recruiters to Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Hispanic-Serving Institutes. Reach out to Black and Latinx organizations on college campuses. Stop blaming us for not doing YOUR job. Students of color ARE qualified for these positions. We are trying our hardest to make ourselves visible, but you are making us seem invisible by ignoring our brilliance.
Kaya Thomas is an iOS developer and senior at Dartmouth College studying computer science. She has written for Model View Culture and TechCrunch on technology and inclusion. For her work in technology she was recently named one of Glamour's 2016 College Women of the Year.