Earlier this week Apple announced $10K in scholarships for minorities in the tech industry. Great! After that big reveal of diversity data from most of the tech big wigs in Silicon Valley a few weeks back, here’s a leader in the industry making a definitive move to put its money where its mouth is.
Well, maybe. When you read the headline, it’s like, cool beans. Apple has acknowledged there’s a lack of diversity in tech and has come up with a solution help feed the pipeline to change that. But when you think about it, meh.
I hate to look a gift horse in the mouth – something is almost always better than nothing – but I just don’t think it’s enough. First, the article says they added two more scholarships. Two more? If they said 20, or forgive everything, 200, that would be something to shout about from the front pew. And, I’m no techie, so I may not be qualified to judge the requirements needed to win, but they seem kinda hard core.
Candidates have to submit “a detailed proposal describing the design of a test track for a vehicle that will transport astronauts on Europa (one of Jupiter’s many moons). Design the track and include renderings that show what materials, surfaces, and terrains you expose to the vehicle in order to ensure it will function while on Europa. Cost is no object. Use your imagination and design the test track to push the vehicle to the limits.”
Damn. Seems like winners should get more than $10K if they win, no? Like a gold medal. Real gold, in case they want to use it to pay off student loans later. Even at a state school, $10K may not pay for even one year of tuition. Also, what happens to their ideas? How is the company using all this fabulous – and free – innovative thinking? Call me cynical, but if I was filling out one of these applications, I’d copyright my proposal. As in, you ain’t gettin’ no free intel here.
Also, how is Apple defining minority? Is the company planning to hire these scholarship recipients, giving them first dibs on internships, or perhaps linking the scholarship to an internship or position later? What about follow through? What’s the next step? That’s often the issue when it comes to recruiting minorities for anything – retention.
After due consideration I say this is well intentioned, but mincing step in the right direction. With cash reserves as uber flush as we all know Apple’s are, the company could be doing a whole lot more to put their money where their mouth is with regard to seeding and sowing a pipeline of diverse talent.
Having said that, Apple is the leading tech company for a reason. It makes sense that their requirements for this free money are tough; they’re looking for the best of the best thinkers to attach themselves to. They are doing something, which is almost always better than nothing.
But if they really want to make a difference, to really increase diversity in the tech industry, I would suggest they start earlier – to qualify for this scholarship students have to be at least a sophomore in college – to nurture a love of science and math and to identify those with an aptitude for high performance in tech-related subject matter.
Oprah started a school for girls in Africa. Apple could start one to nurture young minority techies. Hey, I can think big too.
This blog also appeared in Diversity Executive magazine online.