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The Congressional Black Caucus launched an effort to spur diversity in hiring at technology companies. The effort mirrors the work started by Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. Rev. Jackson’s work resulted in several tech companies, included Google and Apple, revealing the diversity data of their workforce.
Now members of the Black Caucus want to formalize the process and work to make diversity a priority in silicon valley. At an event on Capitol Hill yesterday, members told a large audience they would be pushing for hiring and retention of African American workers, education and training of African American STEM students, transparency related in diversity numbers and philanthropic investment.
“The goal is to persuade the technology sector in numbers. It is absolutely deplorable and unacceptable, the data we are beginning to see from the technology sector, from the top to the bottom, from the board of directors down to the workforce to community reinvestment,” Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, told Politic365 yesterday.
Butterfield also told Politic365 at the U.S. Capitol yesterday that, “the few companies I have met with acknowledge there is a problem and are willing to work with us to find solutions. CBC members will hit the road and take our message to silicon valley to engage in this important work.”
“If you’ve seen the numbers in terms of the tech industry it’s on to two percent in terms of African American employees,” said Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) whose California district is next door to silicon valley.
“When you look at the end user of technology and the market out there African Americans are prominent in that. We have to have an inclusionary strategy and that’s what this is about,” Rep. Lee told Politic365. Many argue that tech companies are simply not hiring African American workers in favor of workers overseas.
In 2013, AFL-CIO Chief Economist Bill Spriggs pointed out that Black students have been flocking to STEM fields but the business lobby is pushing for hiring more workers from other countries. This was witnessed by the number of H1-B Visas tech companies requested in federal legislation such as the immigration reform bill.
“This has a lot of layers and we have to look at what some of those barriers are and why, even with the skill set and the experience and the background, African American haven’t been hired in that industry,” Rep. Lee told Politic365 near the House floor yesterday.
Congresswoman Lee, who is a member of the Black Caucus’ Tech 2020 Task Force, mentioned a lawsuit by African American engineers years ago who said they were discriminated against even though they were well qualified for the jobs available.
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) focused on Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. for focusing on the tech diversity issue.
“Because he engaged them they came up with the data that we needed to basically confirm what we already knew. That there is a lack of diversity and a lack of investment and training,” Waters said speaking about Rev. Jackson.
Speaking about the tech industry, Waters said pointedly, that “they’ve gotten rich and they’ve made a lot of money. They’ve made a lot of people rich and we weren’t in on the deal. Now it’s our time.”
“We’ve been generous in our support without receiving a lot in exchange. Now it’s quid pro quo. It’s time for us to say yes — we agree on some of what you want — whether it’s open internet or some other issue. Now what are you going to do for us?” Waters added.