November 2nd, 2011
10:54 AM ET

Opinion: Silicon Valley is no meritocracy for minorities

Editor's note: Hank Williams is a tech entrepreneur and CEO of Kloudco, an internet startup that provides centralized tools for searching and managing online information. Previously, Hank was CEO of ClickRadio, a pioneer in Internet music. He blogs at whydoeseverythingsuck.com, and is featured in "Black in America 4 - The New Promised Land: Silicon Valley," which airs on CNN at 8 p.m., 11 p.m., and 2 a.m. ET on February 11 and February 12.

By Hank Williams, Special to CNN

(CNN) - Last Wednesday, a Twitter fight erupted between technology experts Michael Arrington, founder and former editor of TechCrunch, and Vivek Wadhwa, a technology researcher and writer, after a screening of CNN's documentary, "The New Promised Land: Silicon Valley."

Arrington said a few very clear things about his view of the state of diversity in Silicon Valley. Among them: There may be very few African-Americans in Silicon Valley, but despite this Silicon Valley is a pure meritocracy, and one becomes successful because he or she has a "big brain." Vivek disagreed. As an Indian-American entrepreneur, he said he sees significant bias in Silicon Valley, and even recounted a specific instance where he was told, "You people don't make good CEOs."

First, let me say, I think Arrington truly believes everything he has said about the tech world being a meritocracy. Lots of people believe it.

But not me.

Read Hank Williams' full commentary

soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. me

    Message behind this short article: More racial discrimination against whites is needed.

    November 14, 2011 at 8:44 pm | Report abuse |
  2. sandrita m

    If Silicon Vally is a meritocracy, why did that Indian tell the group that they should get white front men? If that's a fact-and it should be investigated to find out for sure-then the situation in Silicon Valley now is no different from jim crow America. In those days, a black person who wanted to buy a home with restrictive convenants had to get a white front man to buy the house for him. Likewise, if a black musician or other kind of artist often had to get a white manager to work outside black venues.

    November 14, 2011 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Shawn David Jackson

    Some years ago, after graduating from UC Berkeley (in the same class as one of Apple's founders) I can recall being turned down for employment after an interview in the heart of Silicon Valley. I had majored in Computer Science and was a clean cut very articulate young African American. Their stated reason for not hiring me? "I wouldn't fit in". The recruiter who had set the interview up seemed to know that the interviewing company's behavior was suspect. Anyway, I did keep interviewing. I have had a long and successful career in IT and now oversee a team of managers at one of the largest companies on the globe. I was born in Silicon Valley (before it was known as such), I've managed people located around the country and the globe, but still have never worked in Silicon Valley. I personally don't believe it's an accident that you have such a small percentage of African Americans in leadership positions in Silicon Valley. I could tell you some interesting stories of what goes on here in the SF Bay Area.

    November 14, 2011 at 2:16 am | Report abuse |
  4. dugan

    I forsee government grants, diversity committees and stinging editorials in support of the victims of Silicon Valley hiring practices. Will Indian nationals from the sub-continent be in on such opportunities?

    November 13, 2011 at 7:57 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Jenny

    The Valley is no more of a meritocracy than any other business.

    November 13, 2011 at 9:17 am | Report abuse |