6 ways Silicon Valley can build diverse talent pipeline

Illustration of multiethnic people working at a conference tableMBy Joe Grimm

A USA Today analysis of employment data from companies such as Facebook and Google shows that the lack of African-American and Hispanic workers is not just a pipeline problem.

The scarcity shows up in non-technical jobs, too, where pipelines would not be the issue. In any case, the tech companies lag other industries, which face the same hiring dynamics but do a better job.

Tech companies in California, which in 2014 became a state with so much diversity that it no longer has a racial/ethnic majority, can prove their concern. If Silicon Valley can’t build such a pipeline with that, who can? Here are six ways to do it:

* Look locally. The pipeline starts right outside the companies’ campuses. Start recruiting and coaching early. Don’t wait until workers develop skills elsewhere and then import them. A strategy that leaves the work to others is parasitic and creates drains, not pipelines.

* Help schools. Add education to existing lobbyists’ agenda in Sacramento. Educational equity is a central workplace issue.

* Invest in training. Where help is needed to get people ready, offer it.

* Build coalitions. Let’s see some Silicon Valley CEOs step up, take up the challenge and enlist others to help build a diverse talent pipeline. Given the human and capital resources in California, the state should be an exporter of talent, not an importer.

* Commit. A talent pipeline cannot be built overnight. It must be sustained. It takes years for talent to develop into hires. This requires patience, a long view and a declared strategy.

* Change now. USA Today reports that the companies’ reliance on employees’ professional and social networks reinforce the status quo and that black and Latino workers face isolation and barriers. The workplace culture must be changed now so that attrition does not defeat the pipeline.

(Joe Grimm is series editor of the Michigan State University School of Journalism’s Bias Busters project. He has also been a recruiter for 25 years.)

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