OK, I’ll stipulate that tech companies get to fight tooth and nail to keep secret how awful they are at hiring women, blacks and Latinos.
But you know what? If they get to do that – as Facebook, LinkedIn, Netflix, Twitter, Yelp, Zynga, Amazon, Groupon, Hulu, LivingSocial, Apple, Google, Hewlett Packard, IBM and Microsoft have done – then we get to criticize them mercilessly.
This time the companies are hiding their heads in the sand and their data in the company vault from CNN, which set out in 2011 to report the demographic make-up of big tech companies. The Mercury News, where I work, tried to do the same thing early in 2008 with similar results – or lack of results.
If the country’s biggest, best-known, most successful tech companies are unwilling to say even how many women they hire or how many of their workers are non-white, then we can assume the answer is not very many at all.
Is that fair? I think so. It’s no secret that the tech industry in general has a terrible, terrible record when it comes to hiring women, blacks and Latinos. There is no reason to suspect that these companies – companies that worked hard to keep their demographic data from the public – are any different. If they were, not only would they not be fighting efforts for them to come clean, they’d be issuing press releases about what a fine job they were doing.
And why do many of these companies say they won’t be open and honest? Because if they told the world how many women, blacks and Latinos they hire it would put them at a competitive disadvantage? What?
It hardly inspires confidence that we have U.S. Labor Department regulators who actually bought this argument.
Here are what some people who are smart about this stuff had to say about the competition argument.
“Absolutely preposterous. Knowing how many white male sales workers a company has is a trade secret? Absurd,” John Sims, a Freedom of Information Act expert and University of the Pacific law professor, told CNN. “Tech is the most vibrant sector of the economy, and rather than try to fix problems, they want to keep secrets.”
Tech is the most vibrant sector and the most hypocritical.
Take Google. Whatever happened to “information wants to be free?” Maybe they mean your information, as in “information we can scoop up with Street View cars ought to be free.” Or, “information we can use to push ads your way, ought to be free.”
What happened to “Don’t be Evil?” Falling down on the job when it comes to diversifying your workforce and then pretending like it never happened is evil.
Or what about Facebook? Sheryl Sandberg is over there Leaning In, evangelizing the very worthy cause of helping women get ahead in the world of business. Wouldn’t it be nice if she leaned into a little honesty and started the conversation by pushing her own company to tell the truth about its hiring?
I could go on. But for now I want to flip things around and praise Intel. Intel publishes its diversity record on its website. Yes, they have a way to go when it comes to diversity, but they are talking about the problem and how they are going to solve it.
“Intel believes that transparency with our data is the best way to have a genuine dialogue,” company diversity officer Rosalind Hudnell told CNN. “ We are tech companies and data drives our business; we need to get beyond our fears that the numbers are a poor reflection on our individual organizations and work together to address the issue collectively.”
Oh, and here’s an interesting thing about Intel. Until recently, the company had a female board chair, Jane Shaw.
Something to think about.