Mike Kueber's Blog

May 30, 2014

Diversity at Google

Filed under: Business,Culture,Law/justice — Mike Kueber @ 2:21 pm
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The big story in the technology world this week is that Google released its diversity numbers.  (Facebook to follow.)  The release was in response to pressure from the cottage liberals, like Jesse Jackson, who are concerned that the technology world is an exclusive club for white males.

What did the numbers show?  Well, Google’s tech employees are mostly men, and they are mostly white if you consider Asians to be white and Hispanics to be not-white:

  • American workforce – 47% women, 16% Hispanic, 12% black, and 12% Asian
  • Google techies – 17% women, 2% Hispanic, 1% black, and 34% Asian

So, what is causing this situation that is so distressful to cottage liberals?  Well, according to an article in USA Today:

  1. “At its heart, there are two reasons for the mismatch, experts say. The first is pipeline. White and Asian men are much more likely to have access and take advantage of technical schooling that leads to jobs at tech firms than historically disadvantaged minorities.”
  2. “Finally, high tech isn’t a very welcoming place if you don’t fit in.”

Aside from racial and sexual balancing, why should diversity be an objective for Google?  As explained in the USA Today article:

  • “By putting its numbers out there, Google is taking the steps necessary to bring change. Doing so isn’t about window dressing. It actually makes it a better and more profitable company, says Ed Lazowska, a professor of computer science and engineering at the University of Washington-Seattle. ‘Engineering (particularly of software) is a hugely creative endeavor. Greater diversity — more points of view — yields a better result.’”

I don’t know about you, but I think Google as presently staffed has been highly creative in software engineering, and if I were a stockholder, I wouldn’t want the company to start focusing on social engineering.

A remarkably similar article in the NY Times provided additional support for the proposition that the demographics of the Google workforce are a result of the demographics of the pipeline that provides those workers:

  • Tech companies have often blamed the lack of diverse workforces on the pipeline — they can only hire the people who apply for jobs, and those tend to be white and Asian men, they say. That is partly true. For instance, only 18.5 percent of high school students who took the Advanced Placement exam in computer science last year were girls. In eight states, no Hispanic students took the test and in 12 states, no black students took it. The problems start as early as childhood, when girls are discouraged by parents and teachers from pursuing technical pursuits.

Of course, the liberal agenda of the NY Times will not be blocked by mere statistics:

  • “Yet some of the blame also falls on tech companies. There can be a sexist culture that turns away women, as evidenced by the high attrition rate among technical women as compared to men. And women who try to start tech companies face exclusion by a venture capital network dominated by a chummy fraternity of men. This is all despite the fact that the data — which in Silicon Valley usually reigns supreme — shows that diversity on groups benefits research, development, innovation and profit.”

To sum up two liberal newspapers – (1) the tech pipeline is not turning out sufficient numbers of women, Hispanics, and blacks; (2) tech companies discriminate against women, Hispanics, and blacks, and (3) although tech companies are perhaps America’s premiere industry, it would function much better if it were forced to hire a workforce that “looks like America.”

Call me skeptical.

August 5, 2011

Aphorism of the Week #6 – “The squeaky wheel gets the grease”

Filed under: Aphorism — Mike Kueber @ 4:13 am
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They say that Google has enabled us to locate any information that we desire.  But my Google research skills must be lacking because I have been unable find three of my favorite aphorisms.  Therefore, I will have to paraphrase them:

  1. Some famous Texas historian (Dobie? Webb? Bedichek?) said about a cowboy, “He who has struggled on the trail to preserve his water is unlikely at the end of the trail to waste it away.”
  2. President Lyndon Johnson conducted a large meeting in his western White House and later
    complained about participants on the fringe of the meeting who didn’t dare speak up, but were not hesitant later to second-guess.  (Sort of a Texas version of Roosevelt’s “In the Arena.”)
  3. President Bush-41 told about being a small kid coming home from school and having his mother ask him if he had imposed on his teacher’s time, to the detriment of other kids.

I find the Bush-41 story especially fascinating because it reminds me of this week’s aphorism – “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.”  I am fascinated by that aphorism because it has multiple levels.

On the simplest level, it is the admonition to quit whining and acting like a spoiled kid.  That is what I was told as a kid.  But the Bush-41 story takes it to another, more altruistic level.  His mother was teaching him to be empathetic and consider how his demands affect others.

I think, however, there is even a third level to the aphorism.  Last year, I read a book by Malcolm Gladwell titled, Outliers, and in my blog review of the book, I noted the following:

  • In my opinion, Chapter Four is the most significant.  It describes practical intelligence, as distinguished from IQ.  “Practical intelligence includes things like ‘knowing what to say to whom, knowing when to say it, and knowing how to say it for maximum effect.’  It is procedural….  It’s practical in nature: that is, it’s not knowledge for its own sake.”  Where does practical intelligence come from – unlike analytical intelligence, which comes at least in part from your genes, practical intelligence seems to come from your families.  “When we talk of the advantages of class,” we are not talking only of money and schooling, “but also because – and perhaps this is even more critical, the sense of entitlement that he has been taught is an attitude perfectly suiting to succeeding in the modern world.”  The term that I have used in the past, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.”  In contrast, individuals from lower classes offer little resistance to 2nd-class treatment and are typically easily discouraged.

With my background in the corporate world, I commonly observed this third level of entitlement.  Employees of mediocre ability, but aristocratic background, often acted like they were entitled to advance, and too often their expectations were met.  Of course, many of the supervisors were like them – i.e., mediocre aristocrats.

It’s too bad that management courses don’t describe this tendency.  If managers were aware of it, perhaps they would be able minimize it.