Will Silicon Valley face up to its diversity problem?

TO GET A sense of diversity in tech, take a stroll on University Avenue in Palo Alto, a city at the heart of Silicon Valley. Before the pandemic, if you encountered a black person, the chances were they worked in a local shop. African-Americans account for 3% of workers at America’s five biggest technology firms (see chart) and probably less at smaller ones. About one in 50 partners at venture-capital (VC) firms is black. The figure among VC-financed entrepreneurs is one in 100. Such dismal numbers, and Silicon Valley’s meritocratic pretensions, help explain why tech’s response to the killing of George Floyd has been louder even than other industries’. Will outrage lead to lasting change?

Pushed by a left-leaning workforce, big tech now regularly takes an activist stance on important issues, from immigration to the pandemic. Yet even by these standards, the reaction to the Black Lives Matter protests has been remarkable. Firms offered donations to race-related charities, set up funds to finance startups by non-white founders, stopped selling controversial technologies such as facial recognition and vowed to purge their software of racist language. Apple and YouTube (part of Google) each pledged $100m to combat racism with educational schemes and support for black artists. On June 17th Google said it would raise the share of “under-...



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