After listing wage inequality, housing discrimination and the education gap, feel free to add “digital inequality” to the long checklist of disparities in America.
The National Urban League’s 2018 “State of Black America” report reveals that there is still some work to be done in the country’s technological sector. This year’s report uses its patented “Digital Inclusion Index” (pdf) to highlight the disparities in the tech industry, along with its usual research measuring how well people of color are doing in comparison with their white counterparts.
The Urban League’s report details how people of color are doing across every category from education to social justice, but the startling data on computer, tech and social media companies reveals an industry that loves to sell its products to black people. But when it comes to offering jobs to qualified African Americans, these corporations have constructed an impenetrable firewall.
“The digital and technological revolution is the axis on which the economy is spinning now,” Marc H. Morial, president and CEO of the NUL, told The Root. “It is a transformation of epic proportions.”
But even though the revolution is exploding, the Urban League’s report shows that African Americans are being left behind. Morial explained:
African Americans are more likely to own a cellphone than any other group, with the exception of Asian Americans, but less likely to work for one of the major social media or technology companies than any other ethnic group. We over-index as consumers but underindex as employees. What that tells me is that the real opportunities (the wealth, the jobs, the business opportunities) created by this revolution are bypassing the black community.
In fact, according to the Urban League, black America’s equality index is 72.5 percent overall, meaning that if white people receive 100 percent of the American pie, African Americans are missing 27.5 percent of its overall share. When the study focused on digital inclusion, it found a 74.1 percent index in comparison with whites.
Education plays a major factor in the discrepancies. The report revealed that HBCUs don’t receive dollar amounts comparable to those of predominantly white institutions and lag behind in the percentage of students obtaining STEM degrees.
But this still doesn’t explain the wide underemployment in the tech sector. The facts are inescapable: Tech companies don’t hire black people.
Although a higher percentage of black college graduates (2.8 percent) earn degrees in computer science than whites (2.6 percent), blacks make up less than 5 percent of the workforce in social media and technology companies, while whites make up the majority of the workforce.
Blacks have largely closed the gap in internet and computer access. For example, African Americans use Facebook more than whites, but only 6.1 percent of Facebook’s workforce is black. In fact, no major social media company has a workforce that is even 5 percent black, according to the report. Even more disheartening, the few blacks employed by tech companies earn 78 cents for every dollar earned by whites.
“This divide is real. This divide is understood by many,” Morial explained. “But we also try to point out ways to confront the divide and solve this problem, because with the changing workforce and demographic shifts, it’s essential to focus on this emerging workforce. But it’s also the right thing to do because African Americans are a big part of their consumer base.”
Morial and the NUL are intent on convincing tech companies to partner with HBCUs to discover the wealth of talent in these institutions. The organization also wants to stress the necessity of workforce diversity to these companies.
But the tech companies ...
We’ll have to see if they care.