Working for Tech Giants: Latinos Can’t Get a Break!

By Irasema Garza, J.D., Policy Advisor, NCLR Policy Analysis Center

Photo: elPadawan

Earlier this year, major tech companies based in Silicon Valley began rolling out diversity numbers, amid increased public pressure to reveal workforce demographic data. The companies’ records confirmed what Latinos already know: tech giants generally don’t hire Latinos, at least not as white-collar professional staff. Latinos make up 40 percent of California’s residents, and comprise almost 30 percent of the country’s population when combined with Blacks. Yet only 3–4 percent of the technology industry’s core workforce is made up of Latinos and Blacks; Apple is the most diverse of these companies with a paltry 7 percent Latinos and 6 percent Blacks.

The release of the tech industry’s diversity data lit up the blogosphere with commentary about how the companies can disentangle complicated technology quagmires, but diversity completely confounds them. Some industry CEOs offered mea culpa statements and expressed a desire to adopt programs that would help them develop a pipeline of diverse employees.

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Latinos who work in the tech industry are overrepresented in service-related jobs, but are not considered employees of the tech companies. According to a recent report issued by Working Partnerships USA, a labor and community organization in San Jose, CA, Latinos comprise 74 percent of the tech industry’s grounds maintenance workforce, 28 percent of its security guards, and 69 percent of the janitorial staff. Service workers are not on any tech company’s payroll because they are contingent workers. That is, they are contracted by employee resource companies and in turn sourced out to the tech industry. Their wages and benefits reflect as much.

In sharp contrast to the high wages earned by the industry’s core employees, the median hourly wages for the three largest categories of con­tracted workers—landscaping workers, janitors, and security guards—are $13.82, $11.39, and $14.17, respectively. To make matters worse, the majority of these workers are not eligible for sick leave; they are not able to take a single paid sick day, unlike the core employees of the tech companies.

Photo: Texture X

While a janitor working for a tech company is unable to meet the monthly rent for an average apartment in Santa Clara County without working overtime, the technology industry is booming. In 2013, the top 150 companies in Silicon Valley earned $103 billion dollars in profits.

The tech industry has a very long way to go before it is no longer considered an industry with a homogenous workforce. Promises to improve diversity are laudable sentiments, but insufficient to gain credibility among the Latino community. Latinos have heard about building corporate pipelines to improve diversity for decades, but they have yet to see meaningful results. To be sure, many companies nationwide have increased workforce diversity over the decades because they made diversity hiring an organizational priority, and they adopted policies to ensure that a culture of diversity permeated their organizations. Silicon Valley CEOs should do the same, not simply because their dismal diversity rates are now public, but because it is well-established that a diverse workforce can increase productivity and benefit a company’s bottom line.

Good corporate policy is one that insists its workforce mirrors the demographics of its customer base. So with the exponential growth of young technology adopters in Latino and Black communities, there is no excuse for industry CEOs to delay polices that will accelerate diversity hiring to increase the number of Latinos in high-paying tech jobs, including leadership positions. In the meantime, industry CEOs would do well to fold Latino and other service workers into their companies’ payrolls, or at least increase their pay to meet livable wage standards.