Jesse Jackson Pushes Silicon Valley for More Than Transparency

Tech giants are urged to make real efforts at leveling the playing field

(Image: File)
(Image: File)

More than a year after Jesse Jackson lambasted the tech industry for its poor transparency with workplace diversity, some of the foremost companies in Silicon Valley opened up its EEO-1 data to the public. While the overwhelming majority of tech industry employees are still white and male, some companies are beginning to put measures in place to level the playing field.

Today, during Amazon’s annual shareholders meeting Jackson was given the microphone when the floor was opened up for questioning to a group of 100 Amazon shareholders at Seattle’s Repertory Theater. He commended Amazon for finally taking a step forward to release it’s diversity data, but challenged them to push the envelope further when it comes to hiring women and minorities. In response, Jay Carney, Amazon’s senior vice president for corporate affairs, pledged to release Amazon’s diversity numbers yearly, said Butch Wing, a spokesman for the Rainbow PUSH Coalition that Jackson leads. In its 2014 U.S. race and ethnicity survey, it was revealed that as few as 4% of Amazon managers were African American.

So far, this was Jackson’s third appearance this June on his tour of Silicon Valley. His aim: to both applaud and reprimand the tech capital’s foremost companies regarding their diversity initiatives, or lack thereof. Last week he spoke to shareholders at Google and Twitter; and in March, Jackson praised Apple CEO Tim Cook for committing more than $50 million towards diversity efforts including $40 million to the Thurgood Marshall College Fund.

Jackson’s initial clarion call for “a new era of inclusion” launched last June in an open letter to Silicon Valley. It urged the industry to “transform its leadership teams, workforce and business partners to mirror the America it depends upon” for customers.

Since Jackson began his crusade Microsoft, Dell, Google, Yahoo, Salesforce, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Amazon have released their EEO-1 data.

Every U.S. company with more than 100 employees is required to file a one-page form each year with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). As few as four years ago many of these same companies were fighting to withhold this data as advocates like Jackson and Black Enterprise sought their transparency on workforce data in an effort to determine how to increase minority employment in the field.

For years Intel has been one of the only Silicon Valley companies to not only supply EEO-1 info annually, but execute measures to increase diversity. Today Intel, which leads the world in computer chip manufacturing, announced the formation of a venture capital fund to invest $125 million in technology companies with diverse founders or executive teams.

Despite the window into the world of innovation, the numbers of minorities ranked as tech employees have remained static between 2014 and 2015, reports Now, Google has pledged to spend $150 million in 2015 for a multi-level diversity strategy that will among other things embed engineers at Howard, Hampton and other HBCU’s.

During his visit to Google shareholder meeting in Mountainview, CA, last week, Jackson championed the company for its new resolve to “discard the old model of exclusion” but also challenged them to go beyond releasing its EEO-1 data and consider building “tech labs to train youth in coding, and building apps, and teaching STEM to 1,000 churches and community centers around the country – from Baltimore to Ferguson to Oakland. “Use your power, use technology to transform communities and provide an alternative to violence,” said Jackson.

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