Can Redistributing Silicon Valley Fight Inequality?
Just about every American know the Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Most Americans don’t know, however, was the name of the march of where it was given: “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.” The need for jobs underlined that no civil rights would be complete without economic freedom and economic opportunity. It meant that every hard-working American should have the opportunity to be a self-sufficient American in pursuit of happiness with liberty and justice.
Fast forward to America today, and we still see the America that is the land of opportunity: but it’s all in Silicon Valley. Startup and tech giants like Uber, Google, Tesla, WhatsApp and others have either been founded by immigrants or are today led by them. But in the rainbow of colours and nationalities that make up Silicon Valley, African-Americans and Hispanics are noticeably absent. It’s time for the US to break the geographical monopoly that limits access of technology jobs and opportunities to only a select, few urban areas devoid of minorities.
Silicon Valley is ripe for disruption.
Silicon Valley is a beacon of inequality in the US. A Google intern is paid $5,600 per month, while the average income-per-household in Alabama is $3730 per month. Silicon Valley touts itself as a champion for the underdogs, a meritocracy for all, but it is also place where Google US has only 2% African American and 3% Hispanic staff. The national average is over 28% African American and Hispanic.
Can we imagine Apple, Google/Alphabet, Facebook, Oracle and Cisco and others working with Stanford University or MIT to establish a satellite campus in Baltimore, Detroit, Little Rock or other neglected cities?
Can we imagine Apple, Google/Alphabet, Facebook, Oracle and Cisco and others working with Stanford University or MIT to establish a satellite campus in Baltimore, Detroit, Little Rock or other neglected cities? Collectively, these five Silicon Valley companies hold $504 billion USD overseas (and away from US taxes). Stanford and MIT hold over $USD 34 billion in endowment. If their claims of embracing diversity are true, why no making the major investment? To create a powerful signal to neglected minorities in cities?
These satellite campuses would include providing high-quality university education for a far more diverse community, along with mentorship and apprenticeship programs for Google, Facebook, and others. True, some companies like Google have invested large some ($150 million in 2015) to provide more education opportunities and diverse recruitment. But, why not diversify their own geography and invest outside the Silicon Valley bubble?
And if that’s too scary for the Silicon Valley Disruptors, perhaps Silicon Valley can begin by working with their own community and local government. They can start a small pilot (or a “Minimal Viable Product” in startup-parlance), in their own backyard in Silicon Valley, in areas with large amount of underprivileged minorities: East Palo Alto perhaps?