With the development of the Internet, it has become the most important channel for communication and dissemination. While consuming the Internet, various social groups are also consumed by the Internet, because the progress of the Internet industry needs people to promote it. It seems to be the hub of cultural integration, but in fact, the Internet industry has a large problem with gender and ethnic diversity. This article will take Internet giants such as Intel, Google, and Twitter as examples to discuss the prejudice against women and ethnic minorities in the Internet industry and its impact on individuals and society.
The work of women on the Internet is still not recognized
Women really played an important role in early computing and programming, but often their efforts are not recognized, says Stephanie Shirley, which is one of Britain’s most celebrated IT, Pioneers, Entrepreneurs, and Philanthropists. She founded an all-female software company in the 1960s. Despite a large number of women in the workforce, she said, the design of the Internet is still largely done by males. To make this more accurate, heterosexual white men are dominating the internet development industry (Daniels, 2013, p. 697). Shirley uses her own experience to prove that the prejudice against women in the Internet industry is obvious. It is not easy to break prejudice. She heard all the voices of discrimination when she started a company with almost all employees being female. When she tried to use “Steve” as her name, she received more replies from clients than when she used “Stephanie” because the clients thought he was contacting a man. (Rigby, 2016)
The lack of gender, race, ethnicity, and age diversity in the tech industry has been well documented. According to public data shared by the bosses of big tech companies, women make up only 25% to 45% of the overall workforce, and the gap is even more pronounced in the tech sector. The Anita Borg Institute’s survey of women in technology at top companies shows that for the past five years, the percentage of women in technology has been stuck at about 21%.
To take Intel as an example, according to the 2019 annual diversity report from Intel In 2019, Intel’s total female workforce comprised 27.4% of all employees, while the technical female workforce comprised 24.6% of all technical employees. To put this in context, Intel’s technicians make up 63% of its workforce (Intel, 2019). Recruiting, retaining, and expanding female tech employees isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do.
About two-thirds of Intel’s job opportunities are for technical people, so they must first pay attention to the impact of diversity in this field. If Intel’s technical workforce can be equally represented by men and women, it will not be long before women and men are equal at other tech companies since Intel is one of the giants in the Internet industry. But until tech companies specifically focus on gender equality in their diversity strategies, the prospect of women representing the entire field on an equal footing with men will remain a pipe dream.
The lack of racial diversity on the Internet
Minority groups face dismal levels of participation. At best, Hispanics make up only 11% of tech companies’ workforce; Black workers make up just 2-8% of the workforce (AnitaB.org, 2021). Among core tech workers, the numbers are even bleaker. According to public diversity data from tech companies, Hispanics make up only 2 to 8 percent of the tech workforce, compared with 1 to 7 percent of black employees (Twine, 2018)
Judith Williams, a senior vice president at software company SAP revealed that the algorithms used by large companies to pre-screen job applicants are so widespread that racial discrimination has infiltrated the algorithms. Only white people are hired for a certain job because the algorithm has been trained on biased data, and the job standards are modeled on white men. (Williams, 2020)
Judith Williams talks about algorithm racial bias pre-screening job applicants on World Economic Forum
“Ending Systemic Racism” by World Economic Forum. All rights reserved. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTlf2naWp-s
The simplification of race in the Internet industry will indirectly lead to the “Internet war” caused by cultural conflict. Compared with gender differences and inequality, because of the complexity of ethnic diversity, the voice of protest and resentment will only be stronger. The monopoly of white culture will cause other minority races to gradually become heterogeneous and suffer unfair treatment and discrimination. The goods, contents, systems, etc. produced from the perspective of white people have white preferences, with the idea of white supremacy. The potential of the Internet shaping people, especially teenagers’ perceptions and influencing society cannot be underestimated, because people now spend too much time consuming online information (Burke, 2020). Over time, discrimination against race will be intensified invisibly and gradually become a conventional thing. As the Internet industry has become an inseparable part of human society and will be one of the most important development industries in the future, the unique preference for white people in the industry will become the wind vane of other industries in society.
Prejudice and violence against women and ethnic minorities
Women struggle to get a job in technology, but it’s not as easy as climbing the stairs. Most people have held on to the stereotype that women are not very good at IT and science. And that notion has erected high fences against women entering the tech field. Even worse is the online violence against women. Nearly 60% of women worldwide have experienced harassment, purposeful embarrassment, body shaming and threats of sexual violence according to a 2020 survey. In 2020, a Pew Research Center poll found that American women are three times more likely than men to face online sexual harassment. 70% of lesbian, gay, or bisexual adults had been abused, compared with 40% of heterosexual adults. 54% of black or Hispanic targets said race was the reason they were harassed, compared to 17% of whites who felt that way. Another study of more than 1,600 revenge porn cases showed that 90% of the online violence victims were female. (Fry et al., 2021). If women and minorities were responsible for designing and administrating the Internet, its environment will be more likely to become safer for them. Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter now ban revenge porn from their sites. But they only started doing so in 2015 after facing pressure from leading female activists, a decade after the social media were launched.
Impact of lacking gender and racial diversity in the Internet industry on individuals and society
Increasing gender and racial diversity on the Internet has many benefits. A more diverse community will make the Internet’s preference more diverse, with greater inclusion and awareness of non-Western cultures. Only in this way can we achieve the common progress of the human family, rather than choose to eliminate differences.
The Internet environment and the non-diversity of gender and ethnicity in the technology industry are mutually reinforcing. Many websites and software algorithms are all written by white people, which makes the content completely presented from the perspective of white people. It is highly limited to show only one social group’s perception of the world, not to mention that sometimes this perspective is offensive or biased against other communities. Google once labelled two colored people as gorillas through facial recognition (Zhang, 2015), which is a good example of the drawbacks of the Internet based entirely on white cognition. An Internet environment monopolized by white people’s cognition will further intensify the conflict between cultures, because white people and men will continue to strengthen their own supremacy, while other groups will be constantly criticized and attacked.
As one of the most eye-catching industries, the Internet will continue to develop in the future, and the Internet industry and other related industries will also become one of the most important industries of mankind. As the largest hub of communication among all communities, the Internet environment and industry are leading the wind vane of social development. When leaders (Internet industry) cannot achieve equality and diversity, followers (other industries) will be more difficult to achieve it, or even will spread and expand bad deeds. Ruling the Internet’s ideology cannot achieve the unity of culture and cognition, but will make the division more serious.
So far, the Internet industry has not achieved considerable diversification, and women and ethnic minority groups are still subject to prejudice and discrimination in related industries. Increasing diversity and allowing equality and fairness to coexist on the Internet is about making adequate resources available to all people, including women and minorities, so that the welfare of one does not have to come at the expense of the welfare of another.
Abuse and harassment driving girls off Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. (2020, October 5). Plan International. https://plan-international.org/news/2020/10/05/abuse-and-harassment-driving-girls-off-facebook-instagram-and-twitter/
AnitaB.org. (2021). 2021 Top Companies for Women Technologists. AnitaB.Org. https://anitab.org/research-and-impact/top-companies/2021-results/
Bertazzo, S. (2021, June 28). Online Harassment Isn’t Growing—But It’s Getting More Severe. https://pew.org/3pRgMCY
Burke, M. (2020, July 24). How the media and entertainment industry is addressing systemic racism. World Economic Forum. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/07/how-media-and-entertainment-advertising-consumer-products-sports-industry-is-addressing-systemic-racism/
Daniels, J. (2013). Race and racism in Internet Studies: A review and critique. New Media & Society, 15(5), 695–719.
Fry, R., Kennedy, B., & Funk, C. (2021). STEM Jobs See Uneven Progress in Increasing Gender, Racial and Ethnic Diversity. 28.
Intel. (2019). 2019 Annual Intel Diversity and Inclusion Report. Intel. https://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/diversity/diversity-inclusion-annual-report.html
Rigby, R. (2016, March 7). Dame ‘Steve’ Shirley: ‘Now there’s nothing holding women back’. Financial Times.
Twine, F. W. (2018). Technology's Invisible Women: Black Geek Girls in Silicon Valley and the Failure of Diversity Initiatives. International Journal of Critical Diversity Studies, 1(1), 58–79.
Williams, J. (2020, June 1). Ending Systemic Racism. World Economic Forum. https://www.weforum.org/videos/ending-systemic-racism/
Zhang, M. (2015, July 1). Google Photos Tags Two African-Americans As Gorillas Through Facial Recognition Software. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/mzhang/2015/07/01/google-photos-tags-two-african-americans-as-gorillas-through-facial-recognition-software/