Jesse Jackson Calls on Tech’s ‘Unicorns’ to Join Apple, Google and Release Diversity Reports

Salvador Rodriguez, International Business Times, September 9, 2015

The herd of $1 billion-plus startups–the so-called “unicorns”–is growing. But the workforces at these oversized startups are raising a question now familiar to Silicon Valley: do these mythical creatures only come white and male?

A year ago, Rev. Jesse Jackson drew attention to Silicon Valley’s lack of diversity and spurred Google, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo and many others to start issuing “diversity reports” to hold themselves accountable. But now he has a new target: the unicorns, which are delaying their IPOs and, in a sense, public scrutiny, as they look to establish markets around the globe.

“These are new, young companies, with young, progressive leaders who should value fairness and equity,” Jackson told the International Business Times in an interview. “They should act now before disenfranchisement, exclusion and lack of diversity become ingrained and institutionalized.”

Though there are currently 76 $1 billion tech startups in the U.S., very few of them have released diversity reports. And all signs point to the unicorns as being every bit as homogenous as the rest of the tech industry in Silicon Valley. Dropbox, Airbnb and Pinterest are three of the unicorns to have put out diversity reports, and their numbers are as grim as the rest of the tech industry.

At Dropbox, women make up 34 percent of the workforce, while Hispanic and African-Americans hold just 5 percent of all positions. Women hold 42 percent of the jobs at Pinterest, but underrepresented minorities make up just 3 percent of the workforce. Airbnb’s gender breakdown is better balanced, with women holding 47 percent of jobs while African-Americans and Hispanics have 9 percent of the jobs.

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Unicorns have had the luxury of flying under the radar over the past year as tech giants like Facebook, Apple and Google have publicly dealt with the issue. But now these billion-dollar companies are scrambling to address diversity as the attention turns to them.

Tech unicorns are hiring heads of diversity, working with consultants who specialize in hiring women and minorities and releasing bits of data that give some insight into the diversity of their workforces. {snip}

“Silicon Valley is data driven. Release your diversity and inclusion data,” Jackson said. “You should have nothing to hide. If you don’t release your data, you must be hiding something–but in this new day, the truth will come out.”

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For tech unicorns, diversity work has just begun. Although many have already reached impressive milestones when it comes to women in leadership, it’s difficult to judge how much progress has been made when it comes to the hiring and inclusion of women in the overall workforce without the release of diversity reports. Lack of diversity reports also makes it unclear how companies like Uber, Snapchat and Square are doing when it comes to the hiring of Hispanic  and African-American people, and that is why leaders like Jackson are calling on these companies to be more transparent about their diversity initiatives.

“It’s the socially and morally right thing to do,” Jackson said. “The virtual exclusion of Blacks and Latinos in Silicon Valley and the tech industry in the 21st century is disgraceful.”

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