06 May The American Dream is at Stake
The “American Dream” is evoked often in the social and political rhetoric of the day. My own story is a story of living that dream (more on that later). But the Tech industry’s equity gap, when it comes to diversity groups, is one of the biggest modern day threats to it.
The American Dream is “the national ethos of the United States, the set of ideals … in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, as well as an upward social mobility for the family and children, achieved through hard work in a society with few barriers.“
You know there are “barriers” to freedom in our society when Black and Hispanic students are earning computer science degrees at twice the rate that they are hired by leading tech companies. Another indication is that the workforce at “Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Twitter — according to those companies’ own reports — were just 3 percent Hispanic and 1 percent black in 2016.”
Why does it matter so much? In the recent two decades, the Tech industry has been the biggest producer of high paying jobs. Unfortunately, these high paying jobs have also resulted in the largest equity gap in generations, with diverse groups like women, African Americans and Hispanics, not benefiting proportionately.
Consider the median pay at Facebook, roughly $240,000 as reported by the San Francisco Chronicle through their analysis of the first year of public company pay disclosures. Meanwhile, the median pay was a little over $66,000 at Wells Fargo, and about $140,000, even at premier companies like Chevron and PG&E.
It’s clear that a career in Tech provides a significant “opportunity for prosperity and success.” When the opportunity to get those jobs are limited or unavailable to certain groups, there is indeed a threat to the American Dream. By going mostly to elite US universities and ignoring community colleges, lesser-known universities, and specific sources of diverse candidates (for example, HBCUs), the Tech industry is doing just that!
As promised, a word about my own story and why I’m passionate about this issue. As the first generation American-born daughter of immigrant parents, I was able to rise to the highest levels of my chosen profession (Engineering) at Fortune 500 companies in the industry of my choice (Aerospace and Defense). Despite many challenges, my determination, education and hard work led to a dream career and the wealth building opportunity that provided a comfortable life, and even more opportunities for my son.
I believe in the American Dream because I’ve lived it, and because it fuels the freedom, security and economic prosperity we enjoy. We must pay attention to the alarming data indicating that dream is out of reach for many, and do all that we can to reverse these dangerous trends.