African Americans Still Face Glass Ceiling in Silicon Valley

by Guest Contributor on January 13, 2012

Black computer workers in Santa Clara County, CA and King County, WA make an average salary of more than $11,000 per month, but neither of the tech hubs ranks among the top 60 counties by the number of African-American tech workers.

John William Templeton, author of the 11th annual Silicon Ceiling: Equal Opportunity and High Technology report, describes a number of labor market anomalies affecting what should be the most highly skilled and employable group of black workers as he unveils the report on Sunday, Jan. 15, the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., during INNOVATION & EQUITY 2012: Capitalizing Creativity: Job Creation and Innovation, the 12th annual symposium of the 50 Most Important African-Americans in Technology.

Paul Almeida, President, Department of Professional Employees, AFL-CIO; and Howard Sullivan, President, OIC, offer forewords to the report, which includes a national salary survey of black tech workers.

Silicon Ceiling also calculates the ratio of job separations to new hires for the top 75 counties for black computer employment.  In all but three counties in Florida, the ratio of separations to hires is more than two to one.  Veteran communications lawyer David Honig calls the statistic “monumental.”  Templeton also presents on Silicon Ceiling 11 at Honig’s Broadband and Social Justice Summit later in January.

“This helps explain the persistence of the 15.8 percent unemployment rate among African-Americans in the general labor market,” suggests Templeton.  “When the highest skilled workers are facing last hired, first fired, entire communities are impeded.”

The low number of blacks in Silicon Valley is partially explained by a statistic found in Silicon Ceiling 11–only five percent of the more than 450 compliance reviews of government contractors by the Labor Department in California last year occurred in Santa Clara County, none of those among the largest and fastest growing tech companies.

Since successful class action lawsuits against Apple Computer in the early 1990s and Microsoft in the early 2000s, black employment in both West Coast high tech clusters has plummeted as the annual Silicon Ceiling series has documented.

When Templeton testified before the House Judiciary Committee in 1998, black employment in Silicon Valley was just over four percent.   Now it’s barely measurable.

By contrast, 24 percent of all federal technology workers are African-American.

The job separation/new hire ratio suggests that patterns which have emerged in Silicon Valley thanks to reliance on guest workers instead of American citizens are spreading across the country.

Templeton is producer of two documentaries on African-American computer pioneeers–A Great Day in Gaming: From Queens to Silicon Valley: The Gerald A. Lawson Story and Freedom Riders of the Cutting Edge, both of which premiere in February on the new educational broadcast network ReUNION: Education-Arts-Heritage, originating from KMTP-32 in San Francisco.

He was editor of the San Jose Business Journal in the late 1980s and wrote Success Secrets of Black Executives in 1992.

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  • Sad

    Pretty sad how we’re more than 50 years past the civil rights era and still dealing with this. What did we fight for?

  • Mag

    We should tell the truth about what is going on in Silicon Valley regarding under represented minorities: One, US doesn’t value STEM education–if it did, then it would stop rampant offshoring which is a big demotivator to a student to banging his/her head against the wall for 5+ years to get a STEM education; Two, many STEM jobs in Silicon Valley are dominated by Asians (Indians and Chinese primarily) who have their own *exclusive* support networks that usually give each Indian or Chinese worker a significant leg up when finding work, seeking to get promoted, etc, etc; Three, Many old-style white-on-black discriminations are tolerated, particularly in small to mid-size companies in Silicon Valley, where all of the innovation and wealth is generated, which serves as another blocker to progress in the field.

    When we are willing to talk about these facts, then maybe we can seriously address the problem.

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