Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The New York City Tech Ecosystem -- a "must read"

Last update: Wednesday 7/13/16
I wrote this editorial to encourage followers of this blog to read the recently published New York City Tech Ecosystem report at their earliest convenience. For anyone concerned about diversity in tech, it's a "must read" -- even though the report makes no mention of the words "diversity", "Black", "Hispanic", "Asian" or "White".

As readers who click the preceding link will discover, the report provides a comprehensive overview of what it calls the "tech ecosystem" of New York City. The NYC ecosystem has three parts: tech employees who work in tech industries, non-tech employees who work in tech industries, and tech employees who work in non-tech industries.

TECH Ecosystem = Tech employees in Tech + Non-Tech employees in Tech + Tech employees in Non-Tech

For example, the software developers and network administrators who work in Google's New York office are tech employees in tech ... Google's accountants, administrative assistants, salesmen, and maintenance staff are non-tech employees in tech ... and the software developers and network administrators who work for Citibank or Goldman Sachs are tech employees in non-tech. 
  • The report defines the "tech industry" via the NAICS (North American Industry Classification System) established by the U.S. Census Bureau. And it classifies employees as "tech" via selected categories of the SOC (standard occupational classification) developed by the U.S. Department of Labor. 
This is a welcome contrast to the undisclosed categories embodied in most of the diversity reports issued by Silicon Valley's biggest corporations in the last three years. They all seemed to say, "We're all in tech ... and we classified our employees using methods we won't disclose ... but all our techs have degrees in computer science."

Readers who review the tables in the Appendix to the NYC report will find the list of specific industries defined as "tech" and the specific occupations classified as "tech" by the writers of the report -- as would be expected in any report written to commonly accepted professional standards of verifiability and reproducibility. 

Readers will immediately realize that many NYC tech employees probably have degrees in fields other than computer science. Of course the same is probably true for the tech giants in Silicon Valley, but you would never suspect this possibility from reading their reports.

The NYC report cites many statistics, but a few are especially memorable as benchmarks for what might be expected in the tech ecosystems of other cities:
  • The 291,000 employees in the NYC tech ecosystem are about 7 percent of the 4.7 million people working in the city.
  • Most of the city's 208,000 tech employees do not work in tech industries. To be specific, the report says that there are 58,000 tech jobs in tech, but 150,000 tech jobs in non-tech. In other words, over 70 percent of the city's tech jobs are in non-tech industries
  • Of the 83,000 non-tech jobs in the in the NYC ecosystem (all in the tech sector), 49,200, i.e., over 60 percent, do not require a Bachelors degree.
  • Workers in the tech ecosystem earn 49 percent more than the average City-wide hourly wage; tech employees in tech earn 75 percent more; tech employees in non-tech earn 51 percent more; and non-tech workers in tech earn 25 percent more than the average City-wide hourly wage for non-tech workers. 
  • Although gender distribution is about 50/50 in most sectors of the NYC economy, the tech ecosystem is 71 percent male, 29 percent female ... which is about the same as the male/female distribution cited in most Silicon Valley diversity reports.
I was surprised by the report's scant attention to gender diversity (which it called "gender distribution") but I was baffled by its omission of any references to racial and/or ethnic diversity. Although reliable federal data are available, the latest data may not have been sufficiently current to meet the requirements of the sponsors of this report. 

Nevertheless the report should encourage proponents of racial/ethnic diversity by its demonstration that "tech" should be given a broader interpretation than the narrow "computer science pipeline" definitions presented in the Silicon Valley diversity reports. It also provides reason to anticipate that tech ecosystems in other cities will provide well-paying job prospects for employees without Bachelors degrees of any kind and thereby provide more opportunities for Black Americans and other underrepresented minorities for whom the acquisition of a four year college degree has been unaffordable career option.

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