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Research Justice at the Intersections

France Winddance Twine
F Twine
Professor of Sociology and Black Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara

Diverse Without Diversity: Utopian Discourses and Racial, Gender and Class Inequality in the Tech Industry

In 2014, a number of tech firms reluctantly released data that revealed the racial and gender demographics of their workforce. The US public learned that the racial and gender gaps, or what they call ‘disparities,’ were much greater than in other fields. In fact, these data revealed the tech industry to be one of the most race and gender exclusive fields: comprised predominantly of White, Asian, and male workers. Despite these facts, industry heads continues to employ ‘colorblind’ discourses to elide the actual racial makeup of their workforce. These colorblind discourses are particularly pernicious when taken alongside claims by that the tech industry is “making the world a better place.”

This research project will draw upon seventy–five interviews with fe/male tech workers in San Francisco’s top tech firms and fifty Black non-tech residents in order to analyze the ways that informal practices and philanthropic efforts are not addressing the systemic problems of racism, sexism and spatial inequality. I will compare and contrast their perceptions and accounts of their workplaces, career trajectory and the meaning of ‘diversity’. I will explore the double-side of this ‘diversity’ discourse that, on the one hand, becomes a stand-in for supporting a progressive political agenda, while on the other, it excludes non-elite, ‘domestic’ minorities. I have found that in tech firms , the term ‘diversity’ has been stretched to refer primarily to foreign and international workers, and to exclude domestic minorities and those who are often from a non-elite class strata. Using the concept of being “diverse without diversity,” I will argue that a social and racial justice agenda has been stripped from the corporate goals which enables informal practices to result in an industry where white males continue to hold the power and retain control.

Biography

France Winddance Twine is a native of Chicago, a former resident of San Francisco and the daughter of a Black mother and Native American father. She is a Professor of Sociology and Black Studies and documentary filmmaker at the University of California-Santa Barbara. Her research is devoted to the intersections of race, class, and gender inequalities across national contexts. Winddance has conducted long term field research in Brazil, United Kingdom and the United States. Her publications include a documentary film, 10 books, and numerous peer reviewed journal articles, book chapters and encyclopedia entries. Her recent publications include Outsourcing the Womb: race, class and gestational surrogacy in a global market (2015), Geographies of Privilege (2013) and A White Side of Black Britain (2010). Winddance’s current projects include a documentary film and a book on gentrification and the tech industry. She is Co–Director of Ghana’s Electric Dreams, a documentary that tells the story of Ghana’s major power source, the Akosombo Dam. This film is based upon research done by R. Lane Clark and Stephan Miescher. During the 2015–16 academic year, she will conduct collaborative research on the intersections of racial, gender and class inequalities in the San Francisco tech industry.

Research Justice at the Intersections

Overview

RJI Scholars Program

2015-16 Scholars

Last Updated: 9/5/17