There are 43 million African Americans in the United States, and by next year black buying power is expected to reach $1.1 trillion.
In an Atlanta Black Star article, “5 Industries Black People Should Dominate Based On Our Consumption”, technology innovation and digital industries is listed as a sector in which African Americans are not only early adopters, but big spenders. 71 percent of Blacks own smart phones, compared to 62 percent of the total population. African-Americans are 44 percent more likely than total market consumers to create a social media profile and spend 37 percent of their smart-phone time on social networking sites, namely Facebook.
Yet, our representation in the sector’s workforce is abysmal.
Despite African American buying power and being 13.7 percent of the population, even Silicon Valley’s biggest corporations have largely ignored African Americans when it comes to hiring. In a recent diversity data dump it was revealed that Facebook, Twitter and Google’s workforce is less than 5 percent black. Apple came in slightly better at around 7 percent, but as Bloomberg points out it’s just because they are the only company that employs thousands of retail employees. Of course when you drill down to the sought after, high paying tech jobs, Apple does no better than its peers.
While these four companies expressed the need to do better, and have made commitments, verbal or otherwise, to change the numbers, it’s going to take a lot of work to change the overall outlook in Silicon Valley. Most start-ups are created by groups of friends and acquaintances and new hires are recruited from alma maters, mainly Stanford and Berkeley.
Silicon Valley argues that there are limited in their options for people of color with the skill sets needed to create the next Twitter or Instagram; but in reality there are more than just tech jobs to be filled. Companies also need to employ people who manage projects, market services and design products. Many of these jobs do not require a computer science or an engineering degree. They could start there.
As we head into Black Friday and many African Americans are choosing to participate in Blackout Black Friday, perhaps we should consider a more long-term boycott of companies in Silicon Valley that outright refuse to employ diverse hiring practices, or are oblivious to the benefit having a diverse workforce offers.