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Local opinion columnists

Call for tech diversity misplaced

By From page A11 | July 25, 2014

The demand for what the left calls diversity has reached a new low. I don’t know whether it’s based on ignorance, mendacity, greed or maybe the need for attention.

What I’m referring to is the current “demand” for diversity in the tech industry. No surprise that Silicon Valley is in the bull’s-eye of the protest. Also no surprise that at the head of the pack in Wednesday’s noisemaking was the Rev. Jesse Jackson. But he’s joined by the usual suspects – left-wing groups representing women, blacks and Hispanics.

So why don’t technology companies hire more minorities and women?

Women are, or rather, have been, in a separate category. Their grades in colleges may well be higher than males, although there is a slight shift on both ends of the bell curve measuring math aptitude. The right tail of the curve shifts a few degrees in favor of men, but there is also a tail on the left end indicating a lower aptitude. You may remember that Larry Summers had to resign from the presidency of Harvard University for mentioning that very slight difference.

Let’s mention one more cultural difference, so to speak, between men and women. From very early on, girls are guided into subjects that are not technically based and that would lead to science, math and engineering studies. So is it the fault of tech company executives that they see fewer female applicants than males with the same educational background?

Now, let’s look at the complaint from Jesse Jackson and his shrill friends in the protest mob that minorities are “under-represented” in Silicon Valley. Of course, the protesters start off with one foot in a hole because tech companies enthusiastically hire Asians – especially Chinese and Indians from the subcontinent. I don’t use the usual hyphenated “-Americans” for either of those groups because many of them come here as students and are not yet citizens. By the way, many Asians, both Chinese and Indians, start their own companies, or provide funding to other startups.

That leaves us with the question of what happens to black and Hispanic applicants.

We can start with an article in the usually liberal Scientific American from a few years ago that reported on a massive survey of the time spent on homework in, I believe, what we used to call junior and senior high schools. The survey was measuring homework time by ethnicity – obviously a sensitive subject. The results: Children of first-generation Chinese immigrants did the most homework every night: three to four hours. The custom in these families was for the children to stay at the kitchen table after dinner while the dishes were cleared, after which their textbooks and notebooks were placed in front of them.

Whites were in the next category of homework time, spending about an hour-and-a-half each school night on homework. But, at least when the survey was done, black and Hispanic children spent, on average, no time whatsoever on homework. There’s a possibility that time spent on homework has changed in the age of the Internet. And, of course, the averages don’t tell you that tens of thousands of blacks and Hispanics might be more devoted to their studies.

The next step on the road to a good technology job might well be your academic background in college. Do you have a strong background in the STEM subjects: science, technology, engineering and math? Or above-average accomplishment in the humanities? But least useful for a job applicant would be a major, or concentration, in one of the departments created to satisfy students who were admitted with lower grades by virtue of affirmative action.

I’m talking about African-American studies, women’s studies, Chicano/Chicana studies (that’s what it’s often titled), or any other departments set up to satisfy the demands – yes, demands – of various groups. Of course, LGBT majors: Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender studies are offered at many universities.

Sadly, we’re not talking here about the education, ability, and, well, time spent learning, of just a small minority of the under-represented groups. The most sensitive handicap they might have is the difference, on average, in IQ. Critics say IQ tests are culturally biased. Could be, but there’s no proof of that, that I’m aware of, at least.

Bud Stevenson, a retired stockbroker, lives in Fairfield. Reach him at [email protected]

Bud Stevenson

Bud Stevenson


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