Quotas Are Coming to Silicon Valley

Press Association via AP Images
Press Association via AP Images

Quotas are coming to Silicon Valley. In fact, there is growing evidence they’ve already been put in place at some of the largest tech companies in the region — and soon, “diversity” will be required for start-ups seeking funding.

The demands for quotas, not surprisingly, are couched in terms of “fixing” Silicon Valley — as if the most successful economic region on the planet needed fixing.

Consider CNET, which has covered Silicon Valley since the 1990s. The publication now writes, “Google knows it’s got problems with diversity among its ranks,” but, “fixing Silicon Valley’s preference for white males won’t happen immediately.”

Really? A preference for white males? Does CNET not know that the human person running Google is Sundar Pichai, who is Indian?

While it’s easy to expose biased journalists, the rising demand for quotas often comes in much more pernicous forms. For example, when Ellen Pao took over Reddit, one of her very first acts was to ban salary negotiations. Why do this? Pao is clear: “We aren’t going to reward people who are better negotiators with more compensation.”

Apparently, men are better at this vitally important business skill. Therefore, ban it. Of course it’s not rational, nor is there any evidence this makes for a better company. Doesn’t matter. Pao’s “mission to increase gender equality in the tech world” is apparently more important than fulfilling her duties as CEO of Reddit.

Outraged? Don’t speak up. Another of Pao’s acts was to ask job candidates their views on diversity. Be careful not to tell the truth. As Pao told NPR, the company “did weed people out because of that.”

Yes. You read that correctly. No matter how well qualified you are, your personal views on diversity might prevent you from ever getting hired. Pao was effectively fired by users, but the notion of hiring based on who you are, not what you can do, appears to have taken hold throughout Silicon Valley. Worse, many in Silicon Valley want you to believe you’ve been harmed by bias — even if you think otherwise.

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg stated this summer that the social media giant is working with “leading researchers to develop a training course that helps people recognize how bias can affect them.” Facebook is a giant tech company with over a billion users. Still, it’s just one company, right? In fact, Facebook has made its course on “managing bias” available to all other tech companies.

First, they teach you that bias is everywhere. Then they can institute quotas to correct this bias.

Earlier this year, social media site Pinterest publicly “set goals” for hiring specific numbers of women and “underrepresented ethnic backgrounds,” which probably means those not Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Pakistani, or Israeli. In tandem with hiring-by-race-or-gender, Pinterest will also now require employees to take classes to learn how to “prevent unconscious bias.” Again, if you’re not sure what that means, you may not want to ask.

It’s not only established tech companies that are instituting de facto quotas. Quotas are likely to be required throughout the entire Silicon Valley ecosystem.

The land of Apple, Google, HP, Oracle, and Intel owes much of its success to a high-risk, high-reward start-up culture. A great idea or potentially disruptive business model gets funded and is sent out into the world, where it may flourish, like Airbnb, or crash to the ground. The market decides. No more.

Cindy Robbins, Salesforce’s executive vice president of human resources, says startups “need to instill gender equality and diversity into their culture.” That’s right: not make money, not change the world, not create something amazing, something no one thought of till now but everyone suddenly realizes this is a fantastic idea, like Uber, for example. Nope. The message instead has become: gender equality and “diversity.” Or else.

If you don’t think Salesforce matters here, know this: Salesforce is more than it’s $50 billion market cap, which is about the same as the government-sponsored General Motors. Salesforce invests more in software and cloud start-ups than do all traditional venture capital firms. In fact, Salesforce are investors in 20 of the 100 largest software companies, including Dropbox, Twilio, DocuSign, InsideSales, and others.

How did this happen? How did the world’s most successful region jettison what works for something that seems dreamt up in a sophomore humanities seminar? It can all be traced back to last year, when Reverend Jesse Jackson (yes, really) demanded Google reveal the “diversity” make-up of its workforce. Google capitulated. The shaming commenced, and Google offered up a public confession: “Put simply, Google is not where we want to be when it comes to diversity.”

This is rubbish.

Google isn’t supposed to hire people because they are black or female or Hispanic or gay — or not. Google hires the best and brightest — and for this they have succeeded phenomenally! Google is worth nearly $500 billion. The company generated a profit of $4 billion just for the last quarter! Google has six separate products that each have over 1 billion users!

The people making Google’s products are both making money and appealing to nearly every Internet user on the planet. But such success may not be praised, not in today’s world. No, Google — all of Silicon Valley, apparently — have a “problem” that must be “fixed.” One by one, the extremely successful Silicon Valley tech giants have all fallen in line, thanks to Jackson’s efforts. Intel, for example, pledged $300 million to “make its workforce more diverse.” Meaning: if you work at Intel, there’s likely a good chance that no matter what you’ve accomplished, your company will spend money to hire someone not like you. Because of who you are.

Twitter similarly announced “company-wide diversity goals.”


According to Janet Van Huysse, Twitter’s VP Diversity and Inclusion — yes, that’s an actual Twitter position — “we want the makeup of our company to reflect the vast range of people who use Twitter. Doing so will help us build a product to better serve people around the world.”

Will it?

Twitter was created by four white males. Would Twitter have been better if one of the founders was a woman? Non-white? Of course not! Yet, this demand for quotas to “fix” the very tech companies that are changing the world, creating a better world, continues to gain traction. Thus, Twitter has set specific hiring goals — quotas — across all areas of the company.

What if — just if — the best person for a job is, say, not a woman? Or if the woman was formerly a man, will that count?

Are Indians or Chinese considered minorities? What about gays and lesbians? Twitter is based in San Francisco, after all. Worst of all, the data to determine if the diversity numbers are met is self-reported. Won’t this encourage people to lie about who they are?

This is not to suggest women or “minorities” can’t make it in Silicon Valley,  just the opposite. They absolutely can — with the right skills and the requisite drive. Silicon Valley may be the most open, inclusive, and merit-based region on the planet. Apple’s CEO is gay. HP’s CEO is a woman. Yahoo’s CEO is a woman — the company itself was co-founded by Jerry Yang, who is Chinese. The #2 in charge at Facebook is a woman. The man who runs Google is Indian. None of them got their position because of their gender or race or nationality or sexual orientation.

Will this be so going forward? Maybe not.

Quotas are coming. Accept this — or fight back. If it’s the latter, you better act fast.


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.