- ‘American Dirt’ controversy inspires meme about Latinx stereotypes in literature Wednesday 9:02 PM
- What is the TikTok ‘flex challenge’? Wednesday 8:03 PM
- GoFundMe to send ‘Target Tori’ on vacation raises more than $30K Wednesday 6:54 PM
- Furries stop domestic assault in viral video Wednesday 6:10 PM
- Gritty under police investigation for allegedly punching a teen fan Wednesday 6:04 PM
- Twitter users throw animal parties with emoji in new meme Wednesday 5:21 PM
- Woman who went viral supporting Soleimani killing exposed as Libyan militia lobbyist Wednesday 5:01 PM
- Jeff Bezos subtweets Saudi prince following phone hack report Wednesday 3:29 PM
- ‘Yeah, good. OK’ Bernie Sanders meme is a new way to dismiss people Wednesday 3:10 PM
- ‘Vanderpump Rules’ recap: Petty displays of affection Wednesday 2:12 PM
- Makeup artist transforms into Timothée Chalamet on TikTok Wednesday 1:54 PM
- Iguanas are falling from trees—and people are selling them online for food Wednesday 1:02 PM
- 75,000 sign petition to fire Wendy Williams after ‘cleft lip’ comment about Joaquin Phoenix Wednesday 12:30 PM
- Kim Kardashian says Kylie Jenner’s setting spray is ‘cheap sh*t’ Wednesday 11:59 AM
- Trump continues to demand Apple unlock iPhones for the government Wednesday 11:46 AM
Tech needs to make Ahmed Mohamed more than a PR stunt
Maybe companies could extend the invitation a bit further.
When Ahmed Mohamed, a 14-year-old Irving, Texas, high school student was arrested for bringing a homemade clock to school, it outraged Silicon Valley.
The blatant racism caused his story to go viral across the Web, even prompting President Obama to tweet out an invitation to come to the White House. Major tech players followed suit, including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who invited him to the company’s headquarters; Box CEO Aaron Levie, who extended a similar invitation, and Twitter‘s main Twitter account, which offered an internship.
Ahmed, I know you’ve been invited to the White House and Facebook. But, we both know you’re enterprise software guy at heart. Come by Box!
— Aaron Levie (@levie) September 16, 2015
While the outpouring of support for Mohamed from people everywhere in the maker and tech communities makes me happy and proud to be among them, companies latching on to his story and inviting him to join them at their offices seems a little disingenuous. As at least one person described on Twitter, it almost feels like a race to offer him something.
Mohamed is a brilliant student of color, and in the future, a potential employee at a tech company like Facebook or Twitter or Box. And he could be an inspiration to his teenage peers when they see photos of him shaking hands with tech giants.
But if he does end up working for these Silicon Valley tech companies, he would be part of a workforce that is overwhelmingly white, especially within technical teams.
Tech companies inviting one student to come hang out with them after he was arrested and suspended for his ingenuity is wonderful—but where is their support for other underrepresented groups in technology battling stereotypes, discrimination, and racism in the industry itself?
PR savvy notwithstanding, if these companies really wanted to make a difference and show people that intelligence and creativity is a valued skill from people from all walks of life, they should invite more makers from underrepresented communities into their offices and hire them.
In Silicon Valley, companies are not diverse, and the push to hire more women and people of color is underscored by diversity statistics these companies have begun to publish, which universally feature pie charts and bar graphs with a one-color majority. Companies are making great strides to hire women and people of color—or they’re throwing money at the problem at least—but those efforts are not yet reflected by data or the tech culture itself.
Hopefully by the time Mohamed is old enough to be a software engineer at a major tech company, these workforces will accurately reflect the diversity of the communities they serve—in most cases, the diversity of the world, at global scale.
In the meantime, there are makers like Mohamed (both in the pipeline, and in the workforce!) who would love to get hired by a Zuckerberg or a Levie.
It’s just a matter of inviting them, too.
Photo via hackNY/flickr (CC BY 2.0) | Remix by Max Fleishman
Selena Larson is a technology reporter based in San Francisco who writes about the intersection of technology and culture. Her work explores new technologies and the way they impact industries, human behavior, and security and privacy. Since leaving the Daily Dot, she's reported for CNN Money and done technical writing for cybersecurity firm Dragos.