UPDATE 9/26: A representative from Airbnb will also attend this tech roundtable.
On Tuesday, September 27th at 2 p.m. in Room 2261 of the Rayburn House Office Building, Rep. Bobby Scott will host a roundtable discussion on diversity in the tech.
The roundtable will examine the role of the federal government to promote diversity in tech, focus on the impact of the lack of diversity in the tech sector, discuss concrete steps the industry can take to increase diversity and examine how the tech industry has been doing on pipeline issues.
Many top tech firms had at least one contract with the federal government at some point during 2014. Tuesday’s discussion will occur a few days after the anniversary of the signing of Executive Order 11246, which was signed by President Lyndon Johnson in 1965. That executive order required federal contractors to take specific action towards diversity in employment.
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Chairwoman Jenny Yang will participate in the roundtable. At the request of Rep. Scott, senior Democrat on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, the EEOC released a detailed report on diversity in the tech sector. The report included an in depth section on the hiring and retention of women at tech firms.
The report, entitled Diversity in High Tech, was released on May 18, 2016. The government study took a deep dive into the demographic data of tech companies, retention and salary. Some of the EEOC report’s conclusions revealed what other studies have: That tech is overwhelmingly white and male, that women are paid up to 25 percent less than men and that the assumption there’s a shortage of qualified female and Black candidates isn’t backed up by data on STEM graduates.
Tech jobs are among the fastest growing employment category in the U.S. yet women, African Americans and Hispanics are not well represented. About three years ago Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. challenged major tech companies to reveal the demographic data of who they hire. Given that minorities are over indexed regarding cell phone usage, Jackson was likely expecting a mirror of those demographics in terms of who works where. That wasn’t the case.
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus are pushing the issue with many major firms. The CBC’s Tech 2020 Task Force led by Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) and Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) has also put firms on notice regarding hiring issues.
A leading study found that in 2014, only 26% of the computing workforce was female, 3% African American, 5% are Asian American and 1% are Hispanic. At several major tech firms, men outnumber women 4 to 1. Despite the low numbers, Intel, Amazon and Microsoft are credited with successfully moving the needle on those low demographics.
Panel participants listed so far:
- EEOC – Chair Jenny Yang/Commissioner Charlotte A. Burrows
- OFCCP – Director Patricia A. Shiu
- William E. “Bill” Spriggs, Chief Economist, AFL-CIO
- Professor Ron Hira, Howard University
- Justin Vélez-Hagan, University of Maryland
- Michael Denton, Executive Director, Code/Interactive
- Leslie Miley, Director of Engineering, Slack
- Wayne Sutton, Co-Founder, Change Catalyst
- Debra J. Speed, Strategic Alliance, Verizon