On Wednesday, Congressional Black Caucus Chairman G.K Butterfield (D-NC) and Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairwoman Linda Sanchez (D-CA) participated in Senator Harry Reid’s (D-NV) forum on Diversity in the Digital Economy. The forum also included representatives from Facebook, Microsoft, and Verizon.
Both chairs agreed that tech companies are stepping up efforts to increase diversity. “The good news is everyone is talking about the importance of diversity. The CBC has turned up the volume. But talk is not enough, the CBC wants action,” said Chairman Butterfield.
The CBC has been particularly focused on diversity in the tech industry. It launched the CBC Tech 2020 initiative to bring together the best minds in tech, non-profit, education, and public sectors to chart a path forward that increases African American inclusion in all levels of the industry.
“African American purchasing power has now surpassed 1 trillion dollars in this country. Yet too many of us remain consumers and employees; not entrepreneurs and employers,” Chairman Butterfield remarked. He also stated that the status quo is “no longer acceptable.”
The chairman also outlined six key points for increasing the number of African Americans working in the technology sector:
- CEOs must prioritize diversity
- The corporate culture needs wholesale change
- Companies are not being aggressive enough or creative enough in increasing diversity
- Technology companies must work to keep African Americans in the pipeline. “The pipeline doesn’t start in the 10th, 11th, or 12th grade. The pipeline starts at middle school at the very least—some of you would say elementary school,” Chairman Butterfield explained.
- Vendor diversity is equally important, including encouraging diversity among suppliers and contractors.
- Tech companies need to focus efforts on what works and dedicate sufficient resources. An example the chairman cited, is training recent college grads and mid-career professionals with the skills they need to transition into tech careers.
The congressman also said that tech companies he visited were also keen on stepping up diversity and inclusion efforts.
“When I visited Silicon Valley a few weeks ago, one or two CEOs told me pointedly: there is a correlation between corporate super success and diversity and inclusion,” said Butterfield.