Last month, in a cover story about what I call Generation Flux, I profiled a recent Harvard Business School graduate named Casey Gerald. Gerald came to my attention after delivering an inspiring graduation speech to his classmates. “We have more work to do,” he exhorted them. “Hard work, frightening work, uncertain work, unending work. Work that may test us, work that may defeat us, work for which we may not get the credit, but work on which the whole world depends.”
Gerald was talking about the vast potential that business holds to change our world for the better–but he might also have been talking more specifically about the continuing lack of diversity in executive suites and boardrooms across the country and around the world.
In this issue, associate editor J.J. McCorvey takes up the delicate and difficult topic of race relations in American business, particularly the status of blacks in Silicon Valley. Here’s a fact: African-Americans make up 13.2% of the U.S. population. Here’s another fact: Among technology workers at Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Yahoo, only 1% are black.
This is a travesty. And it is also, quite practically, a missed opportunity. On the one hand, there is talent being overlooked. On the other, there are market segments that aren’t being activated. While 16% of whites online use Twitter, 22% of online blacks do. One can imagine that a more in-tune Twitter might engage that audience even more adeptly.
You may think you know why racial imbalance exists in Silicon Valley. But in “The Visible Man” McCorvey goes further. With insight and nuance, he shares the pressures and challenges faced by black entrepreneur Tristan Walker, whose startup is striving to be the next great success. McCorvey attends Walker’s 30th birthday party, along with a who’s who of black Silicon Valley and no one who is white. This divide is explained culturally and emotionally. The layers of societal bias are deeply explored and revealed. McCorvey even conducts a no-holds-barred roundtable, “A Different Kind of Valley Life” that delves into hiring practices, the racial makeup of social networks, and how “big upping” can be a double-edged sword.
We try, within the pages of Fast Company and on our digital channels, to present what we believe the future of business will look like. Undoubtedly it will be more diverse than it is today. McCorvey’s examination is both brave and human, warm without being strident, hopeful without being forgiving. The responsibility for creating a better, more inclusive tomorrow lies with all of us. Let’s get to work.