Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Pipeline Fables vs. Effective Diversity Recruitment

Last update: Thursday 3/3/16

When I look over the profiles of those of you who follow this blog via its links from Twitter, I know that the vast majority of you have serious interest in data, i.e., in facts not factoids, in truth not "truthiness". 

So from time to time you must find yourselves shaking your heads, like I do, when reading reports from government agencies and Fortune 500 corporations while asking yourselves, "Where did they get these numbers???" In my opinion, the Silicon Valley diversity reports for 2014 and 2015 have been the worst of these IED brain rattlers. 

Reading their annual "Pipeline Fables" that denied my existence and the existence of the hundreds of thousands of Black students who graduated after me from the nation's top colleges and universities, I knew that we were invisible to them. They sat next to us in classes, but they didn't see us. They really believe that smart Black folk only enroll in Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), like back in the 1950s. So I kept shaking my head when I read statements in their diversity reports or watched videos of Silicon Valley executives "explaining" that they didn't have more Black Americans on their technical staffs because there just weren't enough Black students studying the right technical subjects in the academic pipeline. Incredible.

Why don't the Silicon Valley elite know that in 2015 most of the Black students with the best academic records in high school, la creme de la creme, attend the same top tier colleges and universities that they themselves attended? To be sure, Black enrollments in these institutions are much smaller than the Black share of the total population, so they are nowhere near as large as they should be; but they are large enough to fill the recruitment "pipelines" of that self-obsessed little principality on the western edge of the North American continent.

Of course, elite Black students face a wide array of employment opportunities when they graduate from highly rated colleges and universities, employment in Silicon Valley being just one of their many options. And by the time they graduate, most have decided to pursue careers unrelated to the development and/or marketing of software. 

But this is similar to talented athletes who could pursue careers in more than one professional sport. How do big league teams fill their "pipelines"? Not by just sitting on their butts behind big desks sorting though job applications. They do something called ... What's that word? ... It's right on the tip of my tongue ... Oh yes, it's called "recruitment" -- a process that involves actively seeking out potential players when they are still in high school, encouraging them to pursue the recruiters' sports in college rather than alternatives, maintaining contact with them during the years before their potential entry into the leagues, paying substantial signing bonuses and other perks, etc, etc, etc.

Effective diversity recruitment

respectfully suggest that before the Silicon Valley leadership rattles our brains in 2016 with yet another round of sorry tales of diversified failure, they should initiate serious efforts to grab the low hanging fruit -- the Black graduates of the nation's top 150 colleges and universities. Yes, the top 150. This sounds like a lot of schools, but each and every one of these institutions is a highly respected brand name that everyone has heard of. And there's not a dime's worth of difference between the quality of the education their undergrads receive and the education received by undergrads who attend anyone's list of top 10 institutions.
  • Efforts to recruit the most visible members of Black America's Talented Tenth -- its "Bright Stars" -- should involve generous college scholarships for talented high school seniors, summer internships for undergrads, work-study programs for undergrads, and signing bonuses when they graduate. These recruitment programs should focus 90 percent of their funds, recruiters, and other resources on the country's top 150 colleges and universities because that's where 90 percent of the Bright Stars that Silicon Valley is looking for will be found. 
  • Provide substantial financial incentives to the high schools, colleges, and universities that alert the recruiters to the identities of their brightest Black students who show aptitude in STEM, but especially in computer science. 
This is what an effective recruitment pipeline should look like, one that would produce a steadily increasing stream of highly qualified Black technical employees year after year, starting in 2017, if not sooner. These strategies have been successfully employed by other businesses over the course of the last fifty years, so they should also work for Silicon Valley.


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