Jesse Jackson: Tech Diversity Is Next Civil Rights Step

Wendy Koch, USA Today, July 28, 2014

U.S. civil rights leader Jesse Jackson called on the Obama administration Monday to scrutinize the tech industry’s lack of diversity.

“The government has a role to play” in ensuring that women and minorities are fairly represented in the tech workforce, Jackson told a USA TODAY editorial board meeting. He said the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission needs to examine Silicon Valley’s employment contracts.

Jackson spoke after meeting with Labor Secretary Tom Perez to press for a review of H-1B visas, which allow U.S. companies to hire foreigners for specialty jobs. He said data show Americans have the skills and should have first access to high-paying tech work.


{snip} Jackson has lobbied nearly two dozen tech companies to disclose hiring data, and about a dozen have done so. The result is sobering: Men make up 62% to 70% of the staffs of Twitter, Google, Facebook, Yahoo and LinkedIn, while whites and Asians comprise 88% to 91%, according to company data released in the past two months. Their dominance is highest in computer programming and other tech jobs that tend to pay the most.

“This is the next step in the civil rights movement,” Jackson said, noting minorities represent a sizable share of tech consumers but not its workers. He said it’s bad business to exclude them. {snip}

To fix the problem, tech companies say they’re taking steps such as funding outreach programs like Girls Who Code to encourage women in computer science.


Pandora and eBay will soon release their hiring data, and Apple has said it will do so but didn’t specify when, according to Butch Wing, a national political coordinator at the Rainbow Push Coalition, an advocacy group founded by Jackson.

Next month, Jackson’s group plans to file a freedom-of-information request with the EEOC to acquire employment data for companies that have not yet disclosed it publicly. Those companies include Amazon, Broadcom, Oracle, Qualcomm and Yelp. {snip}


Dean Garfield, president of the Information Technology Industry Council, said the industry prides itself on being a meritocracy. “We can, and will, expand our definitions of merit to recognize the importance and value of diversity to our success,” he wrote in a recent USA TODAY op-ed piece.


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