Tech Inclusion: Still No App For That

Rep. G. K. Butterfield and Rep. Barbara Lee 
Written by Rep. G. K. Butterfield and Rep. Barbara Lee 

On April 30-May 1, Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Diversity Task Force Co-Chairs Reps. G. K. Butterfield (NC) and Barbara Lee (CA) welcomed Rep. Maxine Waters (CA), Ranking Member of the Financial Services Committee, and Rep. Gregory Meeks (NY), also a member of the Financial Services Committee, to the third CBC TECH 2020 delegation to Silicon Valley. Below, you will find a report regarding the visit.

  • In This Post:
  • Trip Overview
  • Key Findings
  • Recommendations
  • Trip Highlights
  • S.M.A.R.T. Investment Principles
  • History of CBC TECH 2020 Delegations to Silicon Valley
  • Additional Reading
  • Press Clips

1. Trip Overview

tech inclusion

A. During this trip, the members of Congress met four tech CEOs — Brian Chesky (Airbnb), Tim Cook (Apple), Jack Dorsey (Square & Twitter), and Dan Schulman (Paypal). The members proposed a tech CEO summit,where leaders of major tech companies must come together to determine specific actions needed to increase minority representation and inclusion in the industry.

B. The members focused on the Black employee experience, why Black employees leave tech, access to capital and technology for Black startups and existing small businesses, and the overall climate for Blacks living in Silicon Valley.

C. The members also met with more than 15 organizations that are growing the Black talent pipeline in the tech industry, 30 Black tech employees, 10 diversity directors from small and large companies, and several Black startup founders and investors.

D. The first CBC TECH TALK was held in Silicon Valley. This town hall-style event focused on developing strategies for building Black wealth in tech. The event was moderated by Bloomberg reporter, Aki Ito, and was streamed live. The members also recorded a live podcast with educational institutions and nonprofits focused on workforce development and growing the talent pipeline.

E. The members released the CBC TECH 2020 S.M.A.R.T. Principles for growing Black wealth in tech. The five principles provide a guide for the tech industry to maintain its global competitiveness while ensuring the wealth created is shared by all. In the coming weeks, the CBC Diversity Task Force will convene a series of meetings with stakeholders and tech companies to advance these principles and make bold commitments to a more inclusive tech economy.

F. As the discussion around regulation of the tech industry intensifies, members want to ensure that efforts to increase the numbers of underrepresented minorities, public reporting of diversity data, and best practices for an inclusive work environment are part of the discussion. The Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) was a frequent topic of discussion because the members met with several “fintech” firms and the law may serve as a guide for Congress when developing regulation that ensures tech companies help address the needs of the communities in which they operate and serve.

2. Key Findings

tech inclusion

The CBC Members heard from a variety of stakeholders during their visit. In addition to the findings and recommendations the from the last trip, there were common themes from the May 2018 visit:

  1. As Congress considers regulation of the tech industry, the debate must include a discussion of transparency of diversity data, efforts to increase the number of underrepresented minorities in tech, best practices for creating an inclusive work environment, and investment by tech companies in diverse suppliers and regions of the country.
  2. The lack of collaboration among tech companies on investment in, and scaling of, diversity and inclusion initiatives contributes to the lack of progress in increasing the number of Black employees. Companies end up pulling Black talent from each other rather than significantly increasing the pool of Black employees.
  3. Companies are failing to hold senior leadership accountable for producing results. Tech companies need to regularly share diversity numbers with department heads and hold them accountable for improving the diversity of their respective departments.
  4. Companies need to evaluate the performance and efficacy of investments in increasing diversity that include measuring which coding, and other training programs, are actually bringing new diverse employees into the pipeline.
  5. Investing in technical training for teachers in underserved areas is critical to the strengthening of a diverse talent pipeline. High teacher turnover in these schools also makes it more difficult to establish STEAM programs.
  6. There are still too many companies that have not released their employee demographic data, broken down by race, and their supplier diversity numbers. Additionally, many companies that are releasing their numbers fail to include the intersectionality of race/gender in their reporting. For example, a company may report the percentage of women employees and the percentage of Black employee, but they do not report the percentage of Black women or the percentage of Black male employees. These numbers are important to understand the retention of Black men and Black women in the companies.
  7. Black employees can feel marginalized in the companies for many reasons including: a lack of a sense of belonging, they are paid less than their counterparts, they are assigned to projects which undervalue their skills, they are placed on projects that do not provide promotion potential, or they are targets of overt racism.
  8. The Kapor Center for Social Impact “Tech Leavers Study,” found unfairness drives turnover — one of the key reasons Black men (40%) and Black women (38%) voluntarily leave a tech company is because they are treated unfairly.

3. Recommendations

tech inclusion

CBC Members meet with leaders of the Kapor Center for Social Impact
1. The Kapor Center for Social Impact has released some instructive recommendations to address both the lack of underrepresented minorities and lack of sense of belonging at the companies that merit further action:

  • Increase Equity in K-12 Education.
  • Expand Computer Science Education.
  • Enhance Pathways into Technology Careers.
  • Implement Comprehensive D&I Strategies within Companies.
  • Increase the Prevalence of Diverse Computing Role Models.
  • Create Public-Private Partnerships to Develop the Future Computing Workforce.

2. The CBC Diversity Task Force provided recommendations after their last Silicon Valley visit.

3. The CBC TECH 2020 S.M.A.R.T. Principles provide guidance as well.

4. Trip Highlights

A. Meetings with Major Tech Firms
In meetings with CEOs and senior executives at the country’s foremost tech companies, members pressed for action including:

  • Issuing disaggregated annual diversity reports with numbers and goals, including but not limited to the following categories: race and ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation;
  • Developing and implementing a diversity & inclusion plan with specific, measurable goals that advance racial equity and includes accountability mechanisms;
  • And CEO’s, senior executives and board directors publicly committing to advance a culture that values racial equity as the foundation for its definition of diversity, and hold leaders accountable to achieve diversity and inclusion goals.
tech inclusion
CBC Members with Apple CEO Tim Cook.
tech inclusion
Members met with PayPal CEO Dan Schulman and the exec team.
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Reps. Gregory Meeks, Barbara Lee, Maxine Waters, and G. K. Butterfield with AirBnB CEO Brian Chesky.
Members with Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey.

B. Meeting with Diversity Directors
In order to identify best practices for diversity and inclusion, to gain a better understanding of the challenges the companies faced in increasing the number of underrepresented minorities, and to encourage the companies to work together to scale initiatives that increase Black representation, the members met with Diversity Directors from large and small companies.

tech inclusion
CBC Members participated in a roundtable meeting with diversity officers from various leading tech companies.

C. Round Table with Nonprofits Advancing Diversity and Inclusion
Members participated in a round table at Merritt College’s Barbara Lee Allied Health Building, which featured leaders from various nonprofits in the Bay area working to advance diversity and inclusion. Stakeholders at this convening sustain a robust pipeline of Black tech employees through various ways from formal education and apprenticeships to coding boot camps. The biggest takeaway from this round table was that all individuals — from students to apprentices — who aspire to become tech employees struggle with structural racism. These must be remedied in order to ensure a diverse tech workforce.

tech inclusion

D. Black Employee Round Table
Members also met with extremely impressive Black employees from a variety of companies who work in all levels of the tech hierarchy. During this round table, members heard firsthand about the struggles Black individuals face once they enter the tech sector — from lack of career development opportunities and mentors, to their lack of support in negotiating fair compensation packages. Some employees also shared moving and powerful personal stories about the adversity they face on a regular basis at work. Despite the adversity, Members are convinced that these talented young people are the future of the industry.

tech inclusion

E. CBC TECH TALK: Building Black Wealth in Tech
Members hosted the first public CBC TECH TALK at Lyft’s San Francisco headquarters on May 1st to discuss how we can increase wealth in the Black community by growing Black startups, encouraging Black VC investments, and empowering communities through skill building and investment. The audience included tech employees, as well as Black founders and venture capitalists.

The CBC TECH TALK streamed live on the Congressional Black Caucus Facebook page:

5. CBC TECH 2020 S.M.A.R.T. Investment Principles

The American economy and our communities are stronger when everyone benefits from shared prosperity. However, income inequality, low household wealth, worker displacement and low resourced communities threaten the growth of the technology industry and our economic stability.

While the CBC celebrates the growth of the tech industry and the innovations it produces, the Caucus is concerned that the industry’s lack of Black representation leaves talent on the field that could fuel greater discoveries and keep the industry’s competitive edge. Studies have shown that greater racial and ethnic diversity leads to more productive teams and higher financial returns.

So, the CBC developed a set of principles to guide S.M.A.R.T. growth in the technology industry that is shared widely in diverse communities and parts of the country. Success will require business, government, and nonprofits working in partnership to support an innovative economy that is built to last.

S.M.A.R.T. Investment Principles

SUPPORT STEAM EDUCATION & JOB TRAINING

  • Invest in quality educational programs in underserved areas creating longitudinal programs that go beyond short-term coding camps or hack-a-thons.
  • Invest in retraining displaced workers, workers transitioning from other careers, and people without college degrees obtaining the skills and certifications needed. Also, companies should invest in training teachers, nonprofits, and community leaders to train others.
  • Advocate for state standards for technical competency to help build minimum standards and access to technical education across states.

MAKE TECH AVAILABLE & AFFORDABLE

  • Invest not only in Internet access, but also affordability, for homes and small businesses in underserved communities.
  • Provide training and affordable access to the hardware, software, and other technology that will ensure that schools, Black owned small businesses, and local governments can thrive.
  • People who participate in the “sharing economy” should not only earn money from wages and tips, but also have the opportunity to get a share of the equity that is increasing in value based off their labor.

ADDRESS ECONOMIC STABILITY OF COMMUNITIES

  • The tech industry must lead public-private partnerships where tech companies work with government to invest in affordable housing, quality education, public transportation, healthcare, and public safety so communities can thrive. Displacement of residents, dramatic increases in housing costs, increased income inequality, and uneven economic development do not have to be the result of growth of tech companies in communities.

RECRUIT & RETAIN BLACK TALENT

  • The tech industry is making little progress at increasing Black representation and inclusion in the industry. At the same time, a sense of belonging in the companies, pay equity, and retention of Black employees require greater attention. The tech industry must work together to develop best practices for recruiting, retaining, and creating a sense of belonging for Black employees in the industry.

TARGET INVESTMENTS IN DIVERSE COMPANIES & COMMUNITIES

  • Increase investment in hiring minority-owned businesses as contractors and suppliers in order to help these businesses grow and create jobs in traditionally underserved communities. Tech companies should also provide technical assistance to Black-owned businesses to build capacity and scale to meet the needs of the industry.
  • The companies also should break down contracts into smaller components so small businesses can compete for part of a larger RFP or collaborate to bid on contracts jointly.

6. History of CBC TECH 2020 Delegations to Silicon Valley

Nearly three years ago, in August 2015, the CBC Diversity Task Force traveled to Silicon Valley to learn more about the challenges tech companies were facing with increasing Black representation, to push for CEO commitments to improve diversity and regular public reporting of diversity numbers, and for the appointment of a senior person in the company with responsibility for leading diversity efforts.

Company engagement in 2015: Apple, Google, Intel, Pandora Radio, SAP

In October 2017, the task force visited with tech companies, Black employees, and non profit organizations to get a progress report after the initial visit. Seeing limited progress, the members consistently heard concerns about the Black employee experience at tech companies, which can also lead to challenges retaining these employees. Additionally, members heard that Black founders and venture capital investors were building companies that were more diverse but faced challenges with access to capital.

Company engagement in 2017: Airbnb, Facebook, Hustle, Intel, Lyft, Salesforce, TaskRabbit, Twitter, Uber

Therefore, the members focused on the Black employee experience during their May 2018 trip. Additionally, the wanted more information on the retention of Black employees at tech companies, access to capital and technology for Black startups and existing small businesses, and the overall climate for Blacks in Silicon Valley.

Company engagement in 2018: Airbnb, Apple, Dropbox, eBay,Google, Lyft, Paypal, Pinterest, Square, Twitter

7. Additional Reading

A. CBC TECH 2020

Year In Review

B. Pay Inequity for Black and White Tech Employees

Study Shows Black Coders Are More Likely to Get Job Offers — but for Less Money
Black People In Tech Are Still Paid Less Than White People According to Hired

C. Minority Inclusion and Impact on Competitiveness & Profits

Delivering Through Diversity McKinsey & Company Study
Five Eye-Opening Statistics About Minorities in Tech

D. Lack of Black Inclusion

The Leaky Tech Pipeline: A Comprehensive Framework for Understanding & Addressing the Lack of Diversity Across the Tech Ecosystem
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Report of Diversity In Tech
Why Tech Degrees Are Not Putting More Blacks & Hispanics Into Tech Jobs
State of Diversity & Inclusion in U. S. Tech
Tech Leavers Study — Why Minorities Voluntarily Leave Tech

8. Press Clips

Recode: Black lawmakers will visit Silicon Valley next week to talk to Apple, Square, PayPal and others about workplace diversity

The Washington Post: Black lawmakers visit Silicon Valley to press Apple, Twitter and other tech giants on diversity

Axios: Congressional Black Caucus: Big Tech is dawdling on diversity

The Hill: Black lawmakers press companies on diversity during Silicon Valley trip

SF Gate: Congresswoman Barbara Lee discusses tech economy in Oakland

The Daily Caller: Congressional Black Caucus: Silicon Valley Not Diverse Enough

News One: Auntie Maxine Snatching Wigs In Silicon Valley: CBC Demands More Diversity In Tech

Recode: Black lawmakers are impatient with tech’s lack of diversity and are threatening regulation to force the issue

Black Enterprise: Congressional Black Caucus Takes Its Diversity Fight to Silicon Valley’s Home Turf

The Verge: The Congressional Black Caucus says some Silicon Valley companies have ‘gone backwards’ on diversity

Blavity: The Lack Of Diversity In Tech Is So Striking, The Congressional Black Caucus Is Stepping In With Legislative Proposals To Fix It

Fortune: raceAhead: The Congressional Black Caucus Visits Silicon Valley

New York Times: Tech’s Race Problem Beyond the Numbers

This article was published on Medium.

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About Rep. G. K. Butterfield and Rep. Barbara Lee 
Barbara Lee represents California's 13th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. G. K. Butterfield is the U. S. Representative for the First Congressional District of North Carolina.