There’s an underrepresentation of African-Americans in the tech sector.And it’s all because of self-segregation, says Maya Beasley, author of Opting Out: Losing The Potential Of American’s Young Black Elite and an assistant professor of sociology and African-American studies at the University of Connecticut.
Beasley, who is bi-racial, noticed the trend as a graduate student at Stanford University in Palo Alto, the heart of Silicon Valley. Beasley told Joseph Walker at the Wall Street Journal’s FINS that she witnessed a “fair amount of Asians and South Asians and a lot of white people, but there really weren’t any African-Americans. You’d pick up the paper and find out about a new start-up but they were never founded by African-Americans.”
There’s a danger in completely segregating yourself. When black students only interact with each other it really inhibits the information they’re getting. White students are getting advice from their parents and summer jobs through their connections. If you’re limiting the number of times you’re spending with white people, you’re also limiting the types of information you have available to you.
Black students need to learn to interact with white people and have some amount of comfort with them and I don’t think that’s asking a lot. I’ll say freely that black students face lots and lots of racial antagonism on campus, but that’s not the only thing they’re going to encounter, and that’s not the only type of white person they’re going to encounter on or off campus.
Since there is already a lack of African-Americans in the tech sector, it makes others more wary to join. Instead, African-Americans are going into social work, education and government administration in large numbers, and the main reason given is a need to give back to the community. However, this need is also the primary cause for their underrepresentation in one of the booming industries of this generation.
On the other hand, if a company is predominately one race, that may say something about the company’s commitment to diversity.
In order to change the lack of African-American representation in these industries, Beasley concluded that it “can’t be just one person, it has to be something that as a group we decide to diversify and push ourselves to pursue these kinds of careers where we’re underrepresented.”
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