Jobs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics are projected to grow by 17 percent by 2018, compared to 9.8 percent for jobs in other fields, according to estimates from the U.S. Department of Commerce.
That’s good and bad news for women and minorities, who are barely represented in one of the nation’s fastest growing job sectors.
It’s potential good news because it represents an abundance of opportunities for the American workforce, which as of 2012 was 47 percent female, 16 percent Hispanic, 2 percent Black and 12 percent Asian, according to numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Further, the technology sector could help reduce the outsize unemployment rate among Blacks in the U.S., which was 10.7 percent in June 2014, compared with a white unemployment rate of 5.3 percent. As National Urban League president and CEO Marc H. Morial noted in an interview with NewsOne, “There is no doubt that opening the doors much wider to technology jobs and technology opportunities is, in fact, a key to dealing with unemployment and the underemployment problem in the community.”
But the bad news is that the door to jobs in the burgeoning sector has been firmly shut to Blacks and Latinos, so much so that civil rights leaders such as Morial are putting pressure on giants in the online technology industry to diversify their ranks.
Under pressure, Google released diversity numbers in May after going years without revealing the figures. An estimated 1 percent of its tech staff is Black and 2 percent Hispanic. Meanwhile, Asians make up whopping 34 percent of the company’s workforce, while 83 percent of its workers internationally are male, according to USA Today.
Given such numbers, a concerted effort by Internet giants to diversify could be game-changing for excluded minority groups, said Morial. “It could be very powerful. Google and Apple and others are creating lots of new jobs all the time. Their companies are on the upswing. There is no doubt that given the importance of the industry as a job creator, we must as civil rights organizations push to open the door wider.”
While Morial commends Google for releasing its diversity numbers, he said more work needs to be done. The next step will be for the leadership of Google to acknowledge the work ahead of them, he said. Like so many leading American companies, he added, they must map out a plan for diversity in hiring and supplier participation, as well as to align their interests with those of a very broad and diverse customer base.
“I would compliment Google for releasing the information, but I would also express a great deal of disappointment that the numbers are certainly not where they should be given Google’s importance and value as an American institution,” Morial continued. “I hope that what Google has done is going to encourage other companies in the tech world to be more transparent about all issues related to diversity, employment, supplier diversity, the composition of their boards and the philanthropy that they do. These are publicly-traded companies and publicly-traded companies owe some transparency… to the country.”
Twitter has also found itself in the crosshairs of other civil rights activists and groups, such the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. and Color of Change, who are pushing the company to release the gender and ethnic breakdown of its employees. The activists are also pushing the organization to host a forum on how it plans to diversify its staff, according to USA Today.