It’s an increasingly accepted notion that diversity leads to innovation and better products, since different types of people bring different points of view to the table. That’s one reason it’s important to have cross-cultural teams in place throughout the tech world. Unfortunately, lack of diversity can be self-perpetuating: A number of minority professionals get fed up with the monochrome character of their workplace and move on to other opportunities.
According to the National Science Foundation, blacks, Latinos, Native Americans, Alaska Natives and women are under-represented in the science and engineering industry compared to their proportion in the general U.S. population. Asians and whites, however, are overrepresented, according to an NSF report published in 2012.
In Silicon Valley, the San Jose Mercury News found that the percentage of Latinos and blacks who work for the area’s computer companies saw their share of the workforce fall. In looking at the ethnic makeup of 10 of the largest tech companies in the region, the newspaper found the number of black workers dropped by 16 percent between 1999 and 2005. The number of Latinos dropped by 11 percent. The reasons cited for the drop in the Valley ranged from a weak economy putting a dent into companies’ commitment to diversity to a “weak pipeline of homegrown candidates.”
Nationwide, the number of black and Latino engineers has improved over the last four to six years. But as the National Science Foundation notes in its 2012 report, both ethnic groups remain under-represented when considering the percentage both groups account for in the general population.
In 2007, the number of Latino engineers jumped to an annual average of 101,000 from 76,000 in 2006. Since then, their numbers have remained somewhat stable, with 114,000 counted toward the annual average in 2011, according to the BLS.
Blacks, meanwhile, posted an annual average of 95,000 engineers in 2009, up from 85,000 in 2008. The number of black engineers has fluctuated in the low 90,000s from 2009 to 2011.
Here’s a look at the level of diversity for various IT positions: