Landesgartenschau Exhibition Hall | ICD/ITKE/IIGS University of Stuttgart | Via

The Landesgartenschau Exhibition Hall is an architectural prototype building and a showcase for the current developments in computational design and robotic fabrication for lightweight timber construction. Funded by the European Union and the state of Baden‐Württemberg, the building is the first to have its primary structure entirely made of robotically prefabricated beech plywood plates. The newly developed timber construction offers not only innovative architectural possibilities; it is also highly resource efficient, with the load bearing plate structure being just 50mm thin. This is made possible through integrative computational design, simulation, fabrication and surveying methods.


This mini-boom is unusual in the developed economies and is going to be good for the US economy in general. It will unfortunately suck for the members of that generation themselves, since they will spend their whole lives competing with more of their peers than we did. It will be particularly good for the generation *before* them — mine — currently in their 30s, who will get a cheaper workforce and easier hiring.

A comparison of diversity at three major tech companies

Something really unusual happened recently: Google, then Yahoo, and finally today Facebook all released diversity reports, detailing how their workforces break down along gender and racial lines.

This is unusual first because this is data they previously kept secret, and also because of the striking uniformity of the reports — they all chose to report in the same categories and even gave those categories exactly the same names. I’m not sure how that happened — maybe they conferred, maybe there’s a third party driving all three of them to do it — but whatever happened, it means it’s possible to do an apples-to-apples comparison of these three, which collectively employ around 60,000 people (Google is by far the largest company).

First up, gender breakdown across US employees:

Unsurprisingly given what we hear about tech, men are over-represented. The only other interesting thing is that Yahoo is the only company to acknowledge a non-binary gender option (though they include “undisclosed” in that group, so it’s not clear how many employees are taking advantage of that). But interestingly, all three companies chose to further break down their stats by “technical” and “non-technical” positions. None disclosed how they made that classification, but the results are strikingly similar. Here’s non-technical staff:

Not bad at all. But here’s technical staff:

Boom. The problem with gender diversity isn’t in “Silicon Valley companies” it’s in engineering. In case you needed the point rammed home any harder, this is 100% tech’s problem. The companies are doing generally okay, but the engineering organizations are ridiculous, averaging only 16% women.

The racial data has fewer surprises. Here’s all US employees again:

Again, I had to make no adjustments at all to this data. All three used exactly the same names for categories. Is there some national standard for reporting this data I’m not aware of, or is there some coordinated campaign? Anyway, these companies are hella white, and basically everybody who isn’t white is asian. The breakdown amongst non-technical staff is pretty much identical across all three companies:

With the one surprise being in the data on technical staff:

Yahoo’s engineering staff is majority asian, by a huge margin. I triple-checked my data to make sure I wasn’t getting this wrong, and that this is only about US employees (Yahoo India is a substantial organization). But no. For some reason Yahoo employs way more asians compared to the other companies, and all the “extra” asians are engineers. As an ex-Yahoo myself I can’t say I ever noted this myself, but there it is.

What does this say about our industry? Nothing we didn’t know before: tech companies are very mostly[1] white and very male, and engineering organizations embarrassingly so. Engineering orgs are also disproportionately asian (the Bay Area is 23% asian, and non-technical staff match that figure). But here’s some nice, solid, clean data, all released in the same six-week period, to back that up.

If you want the actual numbers, you can save some typing by cloning this spreadsheet, which also has the charts from this post.

[1] Thanks to Tom Coates for suggesting I clarify this.

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On privilege and power

There is a thing about privilege and power that I don’t think we say often enough, whether the conversation is about gay marriage, or women in tech, or any of the dozens of other places the battle for equality is being fought.

The objection of the privileged when people demand equality is basically “but this will make me less powerful!” It’s often expressed as “this is trampling my rights!” or “reverse discrimination!” or other phrases that sound like they might be reasonable but aren’t. Campaigners for equality often respond along the lines of “giving us equal rights doesn’t take yours away. Giving us power doesn’t diminish yours.”

But honestly, that’s not true. Power is a relative measure. If I get more, you have less. If your rights include excluding me from places, then including me takes that right away. We gain nothing by denying this.

So here’s the thing we should say more clearly: yes, this will make you less powerful. Yes, we are taking some of your rights away. That’s okay. You are too powerful, and you have more rights than you deserve.

And then at least we can stop having this circular argument.