Diversity in the tech world

A few weeks ago I had dinner and drinks with an old friend who works for the firm which invented the x86 series of microprocessors. He's doing well financially right now, and was very bullish on his firm. More specifically it seems that they're on a hiring binge (he knows because he's been on hiring committees). So a while back he forwarded a resume of a graduate school acquaintance to human resources. His boss came up to him later and told him that there were remunerative benefits to forwarding resumes. If the individual gets hired:

- There is a entry-level $2,000 bonus to the referrer

- But, if the hire is female, there is a $6,000 bonus to the referrer

- But, if the hire is an underrepresented minority, there is a $12,000 bonus to the referrer

All well and good. But my friend was curious: "How about if the hire is a female from an underrepresented minority?" Apparently his boss was at a loss for words, and admitted that he didn't really know. That situation had simply never occurred.

The NSF has data from 2008 on doctoral recipients. 28% of recipients in the physical sciences were female, multiplying that out by the number of blacks, Hispanics and American Indians, I get 84 physical science doctorates to women who were are underrepresented minorities in 2008.

Context: My friend is a European American, his boss is Southeast Asian. Additionally, in general the engineering jobs referred to here require a doctorate in the physical sciences.

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What a luxury, to be able to pay extra to hire candidates who are probably less qualified than they would get with a race/gender-blind policy. It kind of reminds me of the old-fashioned idea that a company as an institution that would do things like pay family men extra, not lay off dead weight, fund research that wasn't obviously going to pay off (Bell Labs, Xerox PARC).

If competition becomes stiff enough, they'll have to cut out these hiring practices like they cut the rest of it out.

@ #1, How can you say they are "probably less qualified"?

The company is only going to hire if the candidate meets the required standard (note the "if" hired wording). All the referring does is to remove the "networking" effect. Is someone inherently less qualified because they didn't have right networking opportunities?

By Violet in Twilight (not verified) on 17 Mar 2010 #permalink

yes @ #1. wow, how bigoted to assume that a person who is a female or minority or both is automatically less qualified than than white males.
Boy, at those rates, I wish I was in that field, I'd love to split that deep bonus with your friend...A Black female PhD

how bigoted to assume that a person who is a female or minority or both is automatically less qualified than than white males.

i stipulated that the boss was southeast asian (i believe he came under refugee status as well). i know that doesn't matter to some people, they'll always default to talking about "white males" no matter what, but anyone in the west coast tech industry will note that there's plenty of yellow and brown, often in positions of power.

Agreed with the first commentator. What a racist and sexist policy, especially when the racists and sexists can make up (the direction of) "networking effects" to emphasize their case.

I assume that the underrepresented minorities and women are less qualified because, why else would you pay extra for them? The laws of supply and demand suggest that, if something costs more, it's more scarce, all else being equal.

There's also the whole IQ gap thing with the underrepresented minorities (and in this context, it doesn't matter whether it's heritable or not), and the fact that female tech geeks are relatively rare, probably because women aren't interested in that stuff. This has been discussed to death all over the internet and I'm not going to say anything else about it.

More specific responses:
@2 - why would minorities and women not have networking opportunities? Did they go to URM and women only schools that are snubbed by recruiters?

@3 - I never said anything about anybody automatically being more qualified than anybody else, or "white males" at all. And as an advocate of race-blind, meritocratic hiring policies, I don't think I'm the bigoted one here.