Why The Tech Sector Has One Congresswoman Declare: ‘I’m About To Hit Someone Over The Head With A Hammer’

Written by Ann Brown

Congresswoman Maxine Waters is hopping mad. So mad, she has declared: “I’m not urging, I’m not encouraging, I’m about to hit some people across the head with a hammer.”

So what has Rep. Waters so upset? The lack of diversity that still persists in the tech sector. She is calling for things to change, and change fast. She wants regulation to be put in place. She made the case during a panel discussion with other members of the Congressional Black Caucus during a visit to Silicon Valley. Waters and other members of the caucus were surprised that many tech companies had only 1 percent to 2 percent Black employees. This after countless of diversity initiatives and declarations for the tech companies that they would do anything they could to promote diversity in their ranks.

“I’m talking about some regulation,” said Waters. “I’m talking about using the power that our voters have given us to produce legislation and to talk about regulation in these industries that have not been talked about before,” she said.

Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C.; Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif.; and Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y. agreed and said they were frustrated that not much had changed since the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) launched a taskforce to improve diversity in tech in 2015.

This occasion marked the CBC’s third trip to Silicon Valley, during which they had private discussions with execs like Tim Cook and Jack Dorsey at Apple, Twitter, Paypal and Square.

As far as what regulatory proposals specifically the CBC is considering, the congress representatives may be considering expanding the Community Reinvestment Act. Under this act, financial institutions can “help meet the needs of low-income communities they operate in–to include tech, improving requirements around companies’ EEO-1 diversity reporting and negotiating partnerships with tech companies and underserved school districts to improve education for black students,” Recode reported.

While there has been some movement on diversity in tech, it has not moved fast enough said the CBC.

According to Lee, who serves on the diversity task force as a co-chair, some of the tech companies had made “small progress” while “others have gone backwards.”

“This time, we met with a lot of the workforce that works on diversity and inclusion and learned that the majority of them have been hired within just the last two years,” Lee told The Verge . “That tells me that they haven’t really thought about racial inclusion until we started really focusing on this.”

The number of diverse staff member is still unimpressive. “Numerous tech companies have presented dismal percentages in recent reports. For example, Uber reported late last month that its corporate workforce (excluding drivers and support contractors) consisted of 2.6 percent Black employees in 2018, compared to 1 percent in 2017. Twitter reported having 3.4 percent Black employees in 2017, compared to 3 percent in 2016,” The Verge reported.

Maxine Waters
U.S. Congresswoman Maxine Waters seen at the Justice on Trial Film Festival, on Oct. 20, 2013 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)