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2013: The year of Silicon Valley’s half-hearted diversity push

 

The past year has been fraught with debate about Silicon Valley's inability to match rhetoric about meritocracy with regional employment of women and minorities.

The past year has been fraught with debate about Silicon Valley‘s inability to match rhetoric about meritocracy with regional employment of women and minorities.

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About eight months ago, it looked like 2013 might finally be the year that Silicon Valley business leaders would act to rectify their somewhat sorry records on corporate diversity. It looks like we’ll have to wait for 2014 to see how talk is translated into action.

To break the nagging diversity problem down by the numbers, more than 90 percent of startup founders are men, and 82 percent of founders are white. A recent analysis pitted the most valuable public companies in Silicon Valley against the S&P 100, and researchers found that 98 percent of companies in the S&P 100 have at least one woman director, while only 56 percent of the 150 public tech and life science companies studied can say the same.

Sure, past years have seen rare think pieces on the root causes of minority under-representation in the tech industry. But this year the conversation shifted (briefly) to the more concrete examples of how the continued failure to inject a broader range of perspectives into Silicon Valley business impacts the bottom line. Tech user bases are diverse, and some research shows that executive diversity could boost the bottom line.

So in the absence of improved numbers, perhaps the most relevant development in 2013 is the tech industry’s move toward publicizing concern about a dearth of qualified talent — another factor indicating that Silicon Valley’s over-reliance on white and Asian males may not be sustainable.

While tech spokespeople have been happy to talk about how much they value diversity, in theory, a central fact remains: Data-driven, well-funded Silicon Valley companies still haven’t done much to back up the talk with results.

Beyond one-off corporate partnerships with minority-focused organizations and recruiting efforts with undisclosed budgets, it’s difficult to say what impact, if any, the diversity push during the last year actually had on the makeup of Silicon Valley’s workforce.

A central irony for Silicon Valley in 2013: Though the year could easily be deemed the year of Big Data, it’s a nagging lack of comprehensive workforce data that makes it impossible to evaluate just how stratified Silicon Valley has become — much less to measure any progress on diversity issues. Companies aren’t required to disclose the demographic makeup of their employees, leaving the public with isolated, caveat-filled reports that show Silicon Valley lagging behind the rest of the business world.

Missed opportunity

Amid the noise — a flood of diversity-themed events, long-winded media articles and promotional press releases on the topic of women and minorities in Silicon Valley — a lot did end up happening this year.

In March 2013, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg released her now-culturally-ingrained book on the workplace gender gap, “Lean In.”

The response from the tech industry was swift and, at least at first, emphatic: CEOs like Cisco’s John Chambers professed that their worldviews were altered; designated corporate diversity departments were bolstered or established; the Lean In Foundation created its own social network.

The even more galling lack of racial and ethnic diversity atop Silicon Valley companies — especially for Latinos and African Americans — also became a topic of discussion, though far less often than the gender gap.

But the lame sexist jokes continued. Twitter’s all-male, whitewashed pre-IPO board incited waves of criticism, though the company is far from an anomaly.

The dearth of women and minorities also doesn’t only permeate white collar tech jobs. The number of women in cleantech jobs — covering everything from energy IT workers to electricians — is disproportionately low. Overall income for black and Hispanic Silicon Valley residents, we learned this year, also declined 18 percent and 5 percent, respectively, from 2009 to 2011.

Most disconcerting is the lack of diverse job candidates in the tech talent pipeline — in particular the declining number of women and minorities studying computer science — which does not bode well for future change.

Will persistence pay off?

It’s important to note that there are bright spots in the gloomy realm of Silicon Valley diversity.

By all accounts, progress has been made from past decades, when the overall workforce was much more dominated by white, male executives.

This year alone, we saw wealthy investors experimenting with their portfolios in a bid to advance women. Sheryl Sandberg herself reported a spike in anecdotal accounts of women emboldened to seek better pay for quality work.

To combat the lack of employee data released by Silicon Valley companies, one online effort even seeks to crowdsource information about the number of women working at various tech companies.

Mark Taguchi, a former technology executive, now serves as West Coast managing director of minority professional development group MLT (formerly Management Leadership for Tomorrow). He told me that penetrating Silicon Valley’s tightly-knit tech world remains a challenge for the uninitiated for a simple reason.

“People operate in tribes,” he said. “They have groups of people that they learn to trust, that they work with, that they like.”

Whether that entrenched mentality will continue to win out over Silicon Valley’s professed penchant for meritocracy is the biggest question facing the region heading into 2014.

 

 

 

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Big Data For Small Business

Big Data for Small Business

In today’s Information Age, even small businesses produce large amounts of big data. Big data is defined as the raw data collected by organizations from a variety of sources and stored in disparate locations. This data is most often internal transactional data collected from all of an organization’s interactions with its customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders. Because active businesses continue to produce data, all businesses regardless of size eventually reach a point where they must deal directly with the challenges and potential opportunities posed by big data. Instead of letting the sheer volume and velocity of big data overwhelm an organization’s storage and database systems, smart business operators seek to get an early handle on the issue to overcome any problems and leverage the data for marketing purposes.

Big Data Impact On Customer Relations

Most organizations inherently know that the data gathered from transactions with customers and suppliers is valuable, but they find that organizing large amounts of data for future marketing campaigns is labor intensive and costly without the right information technology tools and skilled data management professionals. However, establishing a data management strategy is an investment that brings significant dividends even for small businesses.

Organized big data collected by small businesses help them improve customer relationship management. A data management strategy helps businesses gather data related to consumer buying habits and preferences. Business professionals use this data to generate marketing strategies that target specific consumers without a business even having to contact customers directly or issue them any of those annoying surveys. For instance, many small businesses want to target their burgeoning Latino customer base, and they generally have ideas about the preferences associated with these customers. Analytical tools applied to properly collected data give small businesses accurate information about these customers which takes the guess-work out of the data analysis process. Marketing managers use this information in their Latino marketing campaigns.

Big Data Offers Big Operational Efficiency Gains 

Properly managed data helps business operators gain competitive advantages through operational efficiencies. For instance, a small business that has a few store locations and a decentralized, disorganized data management scheme misses out on opportunities for increased sales, decreased costs, and greater customer satisfaction. The same small business leverages organized big data by integrating data collected from all of its stores. Operation managers use the data to direct shipments to stores that actually need the merchandise using just in time supply chain management techniques. Additionally, data analysts who detect a distinct purchasing pattern for their Latino customer base at one of their stores can recommend that inventory adjustments be made among all of the stores. The result is that merchandise moves quicker, and there are no lost sales to competitors due to inadequate inventory. Also, customers are probably happier that they do not have to wait for their favorite items to arrive at a store that they usually visit.

Big Data Strategy For Small Businesses

Because handling big data is often intimidating, small businesses should ensure that they enlist the help of a qualified data management professional who works well with the organization’s information technology staff. The elements of a small business big data strategy features a phased approach that exploits both internally and externally derived big data. The first step is to generate a data ontology for internal data integration efforts. The ontology helps effectively portray the data management domain and associated concepts for handling data of various types and sizes. Since big data becomes more valuable when analyzed with other data, the second phase of the strategy is to incorporate external data into the ontology. Some of these external data sources include social media venues and government data resources like the U.S. Census.

Conclusion

Ignoring big data challenges will not help small businesses address the inevitable problem of managing copious amounts of data. It is best for companies to invest in a data management strategy early so that data analysts can turn a data nightmare into a marketing manager’s dream come true.

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Austin Faux works for Luminar Hispanic Marketing Strategy. With a Bachelor’s in Human Services: Mental Health & Couseling Austin is uniquely qualified to understand the Latino marketing perspective.  When I’m at home I’m helping my beautiful wife relax, playing with my two wonderful kids, and messing with my nerd podcast called, “I Am A Super Nerd.”

 

 

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