Is Tech Diversity A Civil Rights Issue For Our Time?

July 29, 2014  |  

He’s still on the case.

First Jesse Jackson went directly to tech companies such as Google, to get them to reveal their tech diversity numbers and to organize some sort of initiative through his own Rainbow Push Coalition. Now he’s going straight to the White House. Jackson has called on the Obama administration to examine the lack of diversity in the tech sector and to address the reasons why.

“The government has a role to play” for the inclusion of women and minorities in the tech workforce, Jackson said to a USA Today editorial board meeting. According to Jackson, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission should look into Silicon Valley’s employment practices.

The meeting was with Labor Secretary Tom Perez to encourage a review of H-1B visas, which permits U.S. companies to hire international workers for specialty jobs. Jackson pointed out that data has proven Americans have the skills therefore should have first access to high-paying tech work.

“There’s no talent shortage. There’s an opportunity shortage,” he said, calling Silicon Valley “far worse” than many others such as car makers who have been pressured by unions. He said tech behemoths have largely escaped scrutiny by a public dazzled with their cutting-edge gadgets. 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, especially since minorities represent a substantial share of tech consumers yet they are not employed in the field. He says this is simple bad business.

And bad business it is. From the data already released from Twitter, Google, Yahoo and LinkedIn, men make up 62 percent to 70 percent of the workforces. Whites and Asians are 88 percent to 91 percent. Over at Twitter, only three percent of its American staff are Hispanic and only five percent black even though those groups along with Asian Americans amount to 41 percent of its U.S. users. Pinterest’s recently released numbers are no better. The site’s employees are 60 percent male, and 92 percent of the company’s 400 employeesare white or Asian.

Pandora and eBay are expected to soon release their diversity data, and Apple has agreed to as well, though has not said when the information is coming.

Next month, Rainbow Push will file a freedom of information request with the EEOC to for employment data from companies that have not yet publicity disclosed it, such as Amazon, Broadcom, Oracle, and Yelp.

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