Does high tech exclude people?

Some critics complain that Hispanic and black Americans are underrepresented in senior positions in the tech world because they didn't have access to the Internet in earlier years.

But there is substantial evidence that high tech is one of the most ethnically diverse environments in the business world. Economist Gary Becker reports that more than one-third of the one million people employed in California’s Silicon Valley are foreign born.

What racial exclusion does exist can be explained by factors other than conscious and deliberate discrimination.

  • While blacks make up 12 percent of America’s population, they earn less than 2 percent of doctorates in fields such as engineering, physics, mathematics and computer sciences.

  • Surveys have consistently shown that whites and Asian-Americans are more likely to surf the Net than Hispanics and African-Americans.

  • While some may see that as a result of less access to computers due to their inability to afford them, in fact a second-hand computer doesn't cost any more than a TV set or a microwave oven – and some companies are virtually giving away PCs.

  • And Internet use ranges in price from $20 a month to free.

    Observers say the digital divide is not due to lack of "access," but lack of skills. And that problem can only be solved through educational reform and cultural change.

    Source: Dinesh D'Sousa (American Enterprise Institute), The Divide Is Skills: Digital Have-Nots Don't Lack Access, But Good Education, Investor's Business Daily, November 27, 2000.

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