Black Caucus Members Push Hard on Tech Diversity

Black Caucus Members Push Hard on Tech Diversity

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CBC Laser Focused on Tech Hiring. Last year Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. waged a widely publicized push to expose the number of minorities employees working at major tech firms. After successfully convincing initially reluctant executives at Google to reveal their diversity data, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon and Apple followed suit. The results were sobering.

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) followed through on Rev. Jackson’s push. In May 2015, the CBC launched TECH 2020 to push for hiring diversify at technology companies. The effort is being led by Black Caucus Chairman G.K. Butterfield and Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), and Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.).

In a letter dated December 17, 2015, the senior Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), wrote to Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Chair Jenny Yang requesting the agency study diversity at technology companies. The EEOC is the federal government’s workforce discrimination cop.

RELATED: Letter to EEOC 

Rep. Scott asked the EEOC to prepare a report on women, Hispanics, African American and Asians with regard to hiring including promotions and the status of positions held. Citing Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 mandating periodic analysis on private employers. On May 19, the EEOC released the requested report entitled “Diversity in High Tech.” The study contained three notable findings:

1. “When tech companies hired with anonymity minority hires spiked from 20% to 60%. “Companies still received applicant names and photos in addition to test results. It wasn’t until the company adopted the practice used by symphony orchestras, anonymity for all candidates and selection based on test results alone, that non-White applicants increased from 20 to 60 percent of those chosen for an interview,” the EEOC report states.

2. That there was a racially based pay gap. “There is a racial and ethnic pay gap… Asian Americans reported the highest average earnings in STEM occupations, while non Hispanic whites also had above average earnings; Black and Hispanic professionals earned below average wages in 2012,” and,

3. Over time, over half of highly qualified women working in science, engineering and technology companies quit their jobs (Hewlett et al., 2008). “This loss appears attributable to the following: 1) inhospitable work cultures; 2) isolation; 3) conflict between women’s preferred work rhythms and the “firefighting” work style generally rewarded; 4) long hours and travel schedules conflict with women’s heavy household management workload; and 5) women’s lack of advancement in the professions and corporate ladders,” the report points out.

The report also relayed what Rev. Jackson’s push began to expose.  But that data was the tip of the iceberg.

“Whites made up the largest share of Professionals, 68.03 percent, with Asian Americans holding the second largest share at 19.5 percent,” a combined total of 87 percent of all employees the report read.

“As a contrast, African Americans made up 5.27 percent and Hispanics 5.28 percent. Whites held a dominant share of the Technicians job group as well (68.6 percent). African Americans, Hispanics, and Asian Americans each represented approximately 9-10 percent of Technicians,”page 19 pointed out.

“The EEOC Report examined the demographic data from high tech companies and confirmed that the sector is overwhelmingly white and male. The report further reveals that almost 50 percent of STEM graduates in the United States are not hired in STEM-related fields and that the U.S. produces more STEM graduates than there are jobs available,” ranking member Rep. Scott pointed out in a May 28 press release.

On May 25, 2016, Reps. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), and seven other Black Caucus members wrote Secretary of Labor Tom Perez on the diversity issue.  They pointed out that government contracts continue to go to tech companies with unimpressive diversity numbers.

“It is alarming how many companies are able to secure government contracts without any checks and balances on their company’s diversity efforts, plans, and supporting data… this is not a game, it is the law,” wrote the members.

The members stated in the letter they were led to, “believe that the vast majority of technology companies holding government contracts are in violation of Title 41 of the Code of Federal Regulations, a violation that should be addressed with the utmost urgency.”

The eight co-signers of the letter to Secretary Perez are Reps. Cleaver, Lee, Chairman Butterfield and Reps. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), and Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.).

“African Americans are not afforded the same opportunities to compete as their White counterparts in the technology sector,” the letter from the lawmakers stated. 

“According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) in 2012-2013, about 6,000 African American students earned computer and information science degrees in the U.S. However, minorities hired by some of the largest tech companies in Silicon Valley are virtually non-existent. As of 2014, the percentage of African Americans who work within technology companies whom hold sizable government contracts, was only 4.3 percent,” Cleaver’s press release pointed out.

Executive Order 11246 requires the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) to mandate that federal contractors and subcontractors take affirmative actions to provide equal opportunity for employment.

On June 16 members of the CBC will participate in a twitter town hall after releasing a report on issues around inclusion.

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