The invisible workforce of silicon valley

If you’ve been following us for some time, then you know we’re very passionate about diversity. We strive to embody it in our own workforce, and we openly discuss it (or the lack thereof) in our industry. We are, as you may have discovered from our recent blog post, acutely aware of the gender discrepancies in Silicon Valley.  The underrepresentation of women in the tech and ecommerce sectors, unfortunately, is just one of the many STEM industry disparities. Nothing new here, we’ve known about this phenomenon for some time now. Organizations have popped up all over the globe to work to improve diversity in STEM and we plan to share some of the progress they’re making in a future article. Still, there is an entire workforce in Silicone Valley that remains invisible – and it’s about time they’re seen.

Blacks and Latinos make up the overwhelming majority of low-wage cleaning and security employees in Silicon Valley, yet are rarely counted on the official employment rolls of tech companies. Though they are seldom mentioned in public discourse, blacks and Latinos account for “76% of landscape workers, 72% of janitors and 41% of private security guards in Santa Clara County – home to Google, Apple, Intel Corp. and scores of other tech companies.” Somehow tech companies seem to forget about these employees when releasing workforce data. Google reported its U.S. workforce as “3% Latino and 2% black,” Intel claims “its U.S. workforce is 8% Latino and 4% black.” And though eBay claimed a “Stronger, Better, More Diverse eBay,'” they take ownership of only a 7% black and 5% Hispanic workforce.

These employees are not only unseen – they are inadvertently unwelcome to many of the typically excellent and usually superior benefits of tech companies. Startups and other techie run businesses offer an array of benefits and amenities, such as free food and exercise facilities. Sometimes, low-wage workers on the same payroll, however, are not eligible to enjoy the same level of benefits. Though corporate leaders are stepping in to cite disdain with these findings (Apple CEO Tim Cook said he was “not satisfied” with the numbers), the invisible employees have stood up to say it’s too little too late. Take Michael Johnson, a 52-year-old black man who once worked in tech for 15 years as a system engineer in telecommunications. Johnson was eventually laid off, and despite his degrees in information technology and business management, he’s had a difficult time finding another tech position. He was hired as a security guard in Silicon Valley. According to Johnson and his experience, there are “two different worlds” in the industry.

With the vast advancements we’ve made in technology, ecommerce, science and more, you’d think our social dynamics would have advanced as well. Though companies in Silicon Valley boast diversity in their workforce, their numbers just don’t add up. Like Michael Johnson says, “talk is cheap.” It’s about time tech companies put their money where their mouth is. And to be fair, some are doing just that. More to come about those that are striving to make a difference.

Elder, Jeff. “Blacks, Latinos Dominate Silicon Valley’s ‘Invisible Workforce’.” Wall Street Journal Blog. Wall Street Journal, 26 Aug. 2014. Web. 26 Aug. 2014.

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