For nearly the last decade, there has been a push to increase diversity at the country’s major tech firms, yet there has been little progress.
Black workers remain underrepresented in the tech industry. In 2014, Google published the first racial and gender workforce audit, which revealed that 1.9 percent of workers were Black. Today, eight years later, 4.4 percent of its workforce is Black, according to Society for Human Resources Management, a professional human resources membership association. Not much progress has been made.
Much was made of programs developed to create a tech talent pipeline from Historically Black Colleges and Universities, but this has not resulted in permanent placements for many Black tech workers.
Instead, tech companies turn to temporary foreign workers or HB-1 immigrant employees. The HB-1 is a non-immigrant visa that allows U.S. employers to temporarily employ non-U.S. workers in specialty occupations.
Will the government step in to push for Black American workers at tech firms, or will President Joe Biden side with Big Tech? This is a major political dilemma for Biden, who needs both Black voters and donations from Big Tech execs to win another term in the White House.
“Donations from Silicon Valley employees and political action committees gave the former vice president a critical cash advantage in the final scramble to election day, while Black voter turnout tipped the balance in key states such as Georgia, Michigan, and Pennsylvania,” wrote Rachel Rosenthal, a Bloomberg Opinion editor.
At the time of his election win, Biden vowed to reward Black voters.
“When this campaign was at its lowest — the African-American community stood up again for me,” Biden said in his acceptance speech. “They always have my back, and I’ll have yours.”
Many Black voters, however, feel Biden has failed them on many fronts by not taking action on such issues as reparations and police reform.
Big Tech is also frustrated with Biden, who has taken measures to crack down on Big Tech on such things as data privacy.
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Now both Black Americans and Big Tech are pulling back support for Biden, according to Rosenthal. This leaves Biden with a problem. Does he pressure Big Tech to slow down HB-1 work and instead increase diversity and risk alienating big-money donors? Or does he do nothing about Silicon Valley’s lack of inclusion and forgo some valued Black votes?
“Why not invest as much time, effort, money, and resources into developing overlooked, underserved home-grown talent as you are lobbying for an increase in the number of H-1B visas?” Allison Scott, the CEO of the Kapor Center and co-author of a recent joint report with the NAACP lamenting the state of tech diversity, asked Rosenthal. “We don’t want to close our doors to fantastic international talent, but we can’t import our way out of our tech talent shortage, and our rampant inequality, if we want to remain competitive.”
Photo: Voters wearing masks wait in line to vote early outside the Chatham County Board of Elections office in Savannah, Ga., on Oct. 14, 2020. Black people are going to the polls by the thousands and waiting in lines for hours to vote early in Georgia. (AP Photo/Russ Bynum)