Based on all the posts that I’ve written, it is clear that African Americans and Hispanics are severely underrepresented in the tech industry and STEM related career as a whole. So, I decided to do a research by conducting an interview with my former ENGR 100 instructor Robert Levenson and Javier Kirksey, a 4th year Computer Engineering student at SFSU who is from the underrepresented groups in the tech. Based on the interview, my participants agree that African Americans and Hispanics are underrepresented in the tech industry. However, the two participants split decisions when talking about the resources that tech companies provide. Mr. Levenson claims that the tech industry has plenty of resources, but the underrepresented groups doesn’t use it to their advantage. On the other hand, Javier claims that the tech industry needs more resources to diversify the tech workforce.
Do Hispanics and African Americans Have an Interest in STEM Field?
It is obvious that African Americans and Hispanics are underrepresented in tech industry. Therefore, African Americans and Hispanics’ interest in STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) becomes a bigger question. Robert Levenson, P.E, M.S, a part-time Engineering faculty at SFSU and Professional Engineer at S.O.M (Skidmore Owings & Merill), stated that the underrepresentation of African Americans and Hispanics in STEM-related field is no stranger to him. Mr. Levenson is an instructor of ENGR 100 at SFSU, a class that centers around the description and work ethic of Engineering field; so Mr. Levenson is very knowledgeable when it comes to the issues and controversies in STEM field.
During the interview, Mr. Levenson claimed that throughout his 40 years as a Professional Engineer, he had known only one Professional Engineer who is an African American. Skidmore Owings & Merill, a company that Mr. Levenson works at, consists of mostly Asians and Whites. This semester, Mr. Levenson’s ENGR 100 class consists of approximately 2% African American and 20% Hispanics Engineering students. Despite all the low statistics of African Americans and Hispanics participating in STEM, Mr. Levenson stated that there is no bias or racism in Tech Company’s hiring. The requirements and expectations are the same and the tech field is provides endless resources to everyone regardless of race, ethnicity, or religion.
So, what are the reasons behind the underrepresentation of African Americans and Hispanics in STEM-related field? According to Mr. Levenson, the lack of interest in STEM-related careers fuels the underrepresentation of African Americans and Hispanics. “Engineering fields are indeed not easy and it is not meant for anybody who has zero interest in it” said Mr. Levenson; “Anyone who is an engineering student, regardless of ethnic backgrounds should work harder in school if they want to land a tech job.”
A Point of View from an African American Computer Engineering Student
My second participant of my interview is Javier Kirksey, a 4th year Computer Engineering student at SFSU who is a heritage of the underrepresented groups in the tech field. The underrepresentation of African Americans and Hispanics in the tech industries is no stranger to Javier. Matter of fact, Javier is a member of Ethnic Studies Student Organization and he held a seminar named “Technology for All” during 2014-15 school year. “Technology for All” is a technology awareness workshop that aims to encourage underrepresented minorities and women to join the tech industry and discuss solutions to increase diversity. Javier believes that there are not enough resources to diversify the tech field and tech companies should take actions.
In addition, Javier reveals a video titled “Google Report Shows Women and Minorities Left Behind” that is a primary source that he used for his “Technology for All” Seminar. The video is from PBS NewsHour which describes Google’s decision to disclose the racial statistics of their workforce which reveals 2% Latinos, 1 % African Americans, and 34% Asians. Google was very hesitant to reveal the statistics because they are worried that the unequal representation would affect their image. But at the end, Google decide to disclose the statistics in order to find the solution as the problem persist in the tech workforce as a whole if it is not addressed. As a solution, Google’s release of the statistics puts Silicon Valley Tech Companies on alert to increase the diversity by giving more opportunities to the underrepresented minorities. In addition, the video is intended to send a clear message for Silicon Valley Tech Companies to increase their resources to welcome underrepresented minorities as Google is leading the way.
On the other hand, I asked Javier about his interest in the tech field. Javier stated that he is fascinated by technology and how the world works. “I am not in it for the money” said Javier; “technology is something that can change the world and I want to make a difference and see the perception of the world that we’re living in.” Moreover, Javier isn’t bothered by the statistics and it only further motivates him to work harder in school to obtain a tech job and break the racial barriers in tech.
In conclusion, there are no racism nor bias in terms of Tech Company’s hiring according to my interviewers. The requirements, tasks, and qualifications are the same for everyone regardless of race or ethnic backgrounds. On the other hand, I realized a significant difference of the opinion between my interviewers. Mr. Levenson believes that Hispanics and African Americans are not interests in the tech field as they choose a different career path; also, Mr. Levenson claims that there are endless resources in the STEM field and the underrepresented groups should take advantage of it. On the other hand, Javier believes that the tech industries should expand their resources for the underrepresented groups; moreover, Javier shared a video that he used in his seminar “Technology for All” which provides Google’s solution to reveal the low statistics of African Americans and Hispanics in the tech industry as an alert for the Silicon Valley to increase diversity in the tech industries.