A Few Musings on Racial Diversity in Tech
Part of me wants to say, “Yeah, Harvard sucks” (#boolaboola), but truth be told, this is an issue at so many places, including my beloved Yale. I’ve previously written briefly about why I think the “diversity” argument for affirmative action gives way to ignorant comments such as those seen on the dry-erase boards these students are holding. I’m fine with people questioning the validity and effectiveness of affirmative action. But truth be told, the university admissions process, especially at places like Harvard and Yale, is so opaque that just about any student’s acceptance can be scrutinized. The Yale Admissions website states, for instance, that more than 75 percent of the students who apply are likely qualified to matriculate. (As a point of comparison, Yale admitted fewer than 7 percent of applicants last year.) So given that college admissions is on some level a crapshoot, and any number of categories (legacy status, athletics, race, geography, etc.) are given preference in the process, why is that only one category of students consistently have aspersions cast on their merit? Props to these students for challenging this bias. There’s a promotional video for this project as well.
(Side note: I actually LOL’d at the last guy’s dry-erase board. The way some people talk about affirmative action, you’d think a student could get into college just by checking “black” on the application.)
People often talk about affirmative action as strictly a benefit to the minority student. But it is equally a benefit to the majority student. It puts that student in intellectual contact with people who come to college with very different experiences and viewpoints and expectations from life. Dealing with that contact is one of the ways people learn how to think. Discussing “Huckleberry Finn” in an all-white or all-non-white classroom is completely different from discussing it in a mixed-race classroom. So is discussing race-conscious admissions policies.
I really don’t like this particular argument for affirmative action or diversity. No student of color should be burdened with the expectation of being the “race representative” or singlehandedly bringing a multicultural experience to the classroom. Yet that’s what this line of thinking often leads to. Fortunately, I didn’t experience this much, but I do remember a couple of instances in college where I was looked to in order to provide the “black” perspective on a piece of literature, and I hated it.
"Ideally, we would like to see a professional base that reflects the entrepreneurs in which we invest, one that is robust and diverse in terms of gender, ethnicity, nationality and age."
Mark Heesen, president of the National Venture Capital Association, on the typical demographic profile of venture capitalists
Given the discussion around minorities and women in tech, I suspect one reaction to this quote might be the following: