Recently the media has been in a firestore over some Google Employees Memo in which they question the practice of programs that outreach to minorities and women in an attempt to increase their numbers in Tech Jobs. Here are my views on the subject.
For thousands of years jobs were very gender oriented. Men = Hunters, Women = Gathers. Men were tasked with defending the population, and hunting animals for food and clothing. Women were tasked with caring for the young, and cooking. Remember this was the norm for thousands of years, and we didn't start to stray from this role based structure until nearly 100 years ago. It wasn't until WWII that you saw women start to take a more active role in America's workforce. When the men were sent to the front lines, the women had to take jobs in the factories. After WWII many women didn't want to just go back to the kitchen. From there on Women have been a growing part of our workforce.
Today the issue we hear talked about is the lack of women in Computer Jobs. Software Engineers, IT, ect... Many want to claim that its the good old boys club that is keeping it that way. They want to force quotas on companies in their hiring practices. The ability to do a job in the Computer industry has nothing to do with race or gender. It comes down to if you have the knowledge, the productivity, and the passion for the job. The reason we see so few women and certain minorities in the computer world, has more to do with culture than anything else. Its not a culture of hiring, its a culture of how you are raised.
How you are raised, and what experiences you enjoy when you are young has a huge influence in what career path you take later in life. Thats why Doctors kids often become Doctors. Bankers Kids often become bankers. Auto Dealers often leave the businesses to their children.
Computer Jobs are dominated by Indian and Asian minorities when you take into account what percentage of the US population they make up. The NFL, and NBA is dominated by African Americans. Fashion Design is dominated by mostly Gays and Women. These didn't happen because of politics. They happend because these groups of people were found to be more passionate about their industry specific jobs.
Does that mean a women or a black will never be passionate about writing code, no. But the Culture most kids grow up in makes this an unlikely outcome. There is a local place in my town where parents take their kids to get extra practice and schooling. Kids get extra practice doing math problems and can even start learning math that is above their current grade level. 90% of the kids that go here are either Asian or Indian, and I live in a city where 85% of the population is White. They are raising their kids to be good at math. That is the reason those two minorities dominate tech. In my Computer Science classes, most the professors were either Asian or from Europe. The students were mostly Asian and Indian.
Telling companies they need to starting hiring people based on gender or race for highly technical jobs is not doable with the current work force. As it is our tech companies have to import engineers from outside the USA to fill their needs. If the H1B visa program were suddenly eliminated, its not like these same companies would start to hire more blacks or women to fill their jobs. There are not enough engineers in the USA to fill all the jobs.
If you want to get a more diverse workforce in tech, it starts at the grade school level. The change is going to be gradual. Diversity will come, but only if everyone embraces learning to code. What was once a series of electives that only math geeks took, are now part of the core classes.
Learning to code is not easy. I personally failed c++ twice before it finally stuck. Its difficult to reprogram your brain to think in code. On top of that there is a reason certain personality types make great coders. A person that can rock through a thousand lines of code without a single error, often times don't make the best conversationalists. At the same time great public speakers rarely would want to sit for 8 hours straight and debug code.
Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses. Its best if companies hire based on talent, and not gender or race.