Silicon Valley KILLS Diversity: Now HIRING for SKILLS!

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Silicon Valley investors and business owners are eliminating DEI in their companies. It makes no money, it’s a waste of resources and it’s a distraction for the qualified people who are actually trying to do their jobs and earn millions from their stock options (a common situation in silicon valley).

Who’s afraid of the Big Bad DEI? The acronym is near-poisonous now — a word that creates almost instant tension between those who embrace it and those who want it dead.

A prime example of this divide was the response to startup Scale AI founder Alexandr Wang’s post on X last week. He wrote about moving away from DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) to instead embrace “MEI” — merit, excellence, and intelligence.

“Scale is a meritocracy, and we must always remain one,” Wang wrote. “It’s a big deal whenever we invite someone to join our mission, and those decisions have never been swayed by orthodoxy or virtue signaling or whatever the current thing is.”

In the wake of our fundraise, I’ve been getting a lot of questions…
— Alexandr Wang (@alexandr_wang) June 13, 2024

The commenters on X — which included Elon Musk, Palmer Luckey, and Brian Armstrong — were thrilled. On LinkedIn, however, the startup community gave a less-than-enthusiastic response. Those commenters pointed out that Wang’s post made it seem as if “meritocracy” was the definitive benchmark to find qualified hiring candidates — without taking into consideration that the idea of meritocracy is itself subjective. In the days that have followed the post, more and more people have shared their thoughts and what Wang’s comments reveal about the current state of DEI in tech.

“The post is misguided because people who support the meritocracy argument are ignoring the structural reasons some groups are more likely to outperform others,” Mutale Nkonde, a founder working in AI policy, told TechCrunch. ”We all want the best people for the job, and there is data to prove that diverse teams are more effective.”

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Emily Witko, an HR professional at AI startup Hugging Face, told TechCrunch that the post was a “dangerous oversimplification,” but that it received so much attention on X because it “openly expressed sentiments that are not always expressed publicly and the audience there is hungry to attack DEI.” Wang’s MEI thought “makes it so easy to refute or criticize any conversations regarding the importance of acknowledging underrepresentation in tech,” she continued.

But Wang is far from the only Silicon Valley insider to attack DEI in recent months. He joins a chorus of those who feel that DEI programs implemented at businesses over the past several years, peaking with the Black Lives Matter movement, caused a backslide in corporate profitability — and that a return to “meritocratic principles” is overdue. Indeed, much of the tech industry has worked to dismantle recruitment programs that considered candidates who, under previous hiring regimes, were often overlooked in the hiring process.

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Seeking to make a change, in 2020, many organizations and power players came together to promise more of a focus on DEI, which, contrary to the mainstream discussion, is not simply about hiring someone based on the color of their skin but is about ensuring qualified people from all walks of life — regardless of skin, gender, or ethnic background — are better represented and included in recruitment funnels. It’s also about taking a look at disparities and pipeline issues, analyzing the reasoning behind why certain candidates are constantly overlooked in a hiring process.

In 2023, the U.S. data industry saw new women recruit levels drop by two-thirds, from 36% in 2022 to just 12%, according to a report from HR staffing firm Harnham. Meanwhile, the percentage of Black, Indigenous, and professionals of color in VP or above data roles stood at just 38% in 2022.

DEI-related job listings have also fallen out of favor, declining 44% in 2023, according to data from the job site Indeed. In the AI industry, a recent Deloitte survey of women found that over half said they ended up leaving at least one employer because of how men and women were treated differently, while 73% considered leaving the tech industry altogether due to unequal pay and an inability to advance in their careers.

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