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Tech jobs for Blacks? Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rainbow PUSH convene tech companies for diversity and inclusion forum

December 13, 2014

by Kia Croom

Intel hosted Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Rainbow PUSH Coalition’s “Next Steps for Technology Forum” Wednesday, Dec. 10, at the Intel Campus in Santa Clara.

The forum, which was sponsored by Rainbow PUSH Silicon Valley Digital Connections Project, is a part of the Rainbow PUSH “21st Century Technology Innovation Diversity and Inclusion Campaign,” which nudges technology companies to implement an actionable diversity and inclusion strategy.

Panelists Microsoft General Manager for Global Diversity and Inclusion Gwen Houston, Cisco Chief Collaboration and Inclusion Officer Shari Slate, Google Director of Global Diversity and Inclusion Yolanda Mangolini, Pandora Diversity Program Manager Lisa Lee and Intel Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer Rosalind Hudnell were phenomenal as they talked about these companies’ efforts to be more inclusive. – Photo: Kia Croom

Panelists Microsoft General Manager for Global Diversity and Inclusion Gwen Houston, Cisco Chief Collaboration and Inclusion Officer Shari Slate, Google Director of Global Diversity and Inclusion Yolanda Mangolini, Pandora Diversity Program Manager Lisa Lee and Intel Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer Rosalind Hudnell were phenomenal as they talked about these companies’ efforts to be more inclusive. – Photo: Kia Croom

The event convened over 25 technology companies and more than 300 people representing civil rights organizations, local businesses, and community based organizations and public agencies.

Activist and author Van Jones, founder of #YesWeCode, opened the event with an introduction and moving ode to Jackson. Jones applauded his activism and acknowledged the role of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition (RPC) in ushering middle class African-Americans into leadership roles within large corporations.

Jackson, speaking to an audience with a large representation from tech companies, discussed the purpose of the campaign and its parallels to the Civil Rights Movement.

“We come here today to create, to partner. We want to meet with you and your leadership teams to design and implement initiatives to expand diversity and inclusion in Silicon Valley and the technology industry,” he said. “Look at Rainbow PUSH as your bridge builder. Because access to technology – full participation in the technology revolution – is this era’s civil rights imperative.”

Intel VP for Human Resources and Chief Diversity Officer Rosalind Hudnell started the event with a presentation highlighting key components for a successful, comprehensive diversity model.

“A successful strategy will attract, hire, engage, build and support minorities within these firms. It will hold managers accountable for the retention and development of these employees,” Hudnell said. “These imperatives must be systematically embedded within the company’s culture.”

Immediately following her presentation, Hudnell moderated a panel discussion with four managers who are women of color leading diversity efforts within large corporations. The group talked candidly about diversity and inclusion efforts within their companies.

“A successful strategy will attract, hire, engage, build and support minorities within these firms. It will hold managers accountable for the retention and development of these employees.”

“Sixty to 70 percent of my time is spent working with Pandora recruiting teams and 10 percent working with my senior leadership team,” said Pandora Diversity Program Manager Lisa Lee.

“It [diversity] is about a culture change, not just about numbers,” said Google Global Diversity and Inclusion Director Yolanda Mangolini. “We want to foster a fair and inclusive environment and continue bridging the divide. We launched our supplier diversity program in October. I am proud of the work Google has done but acknowledge we have more work to do.”

Other distinguished panelists in the discussion included Microsoft General Manager for Global Diversity and Inclusion Gwen Houston and Cisco Chief Collaboration and Inclusion Officer Shari Slate.

Van Jones, whose current project is #YesWeCode, introduced Rev. Jesse Jackson of Rainbow PUSH, who has been pushing doors open for Blacks in Silicon Valley. Jones is well known in the Bay for his work against police terrorism and in favor of Black jobs and businesses in the green economy. Rev. Jackson opened the door for a Black president with his runs for president in 1984, when he won nearly 3.3 million primary votes, 18.9 percent of the total, and in 1988, when he won nearly 7 million primary votes, 29.13 percent of the total. – Photo: Kia Croom

Van Jones, whose current project is #YesWeCode, introduced Rev. Jesse Jackson of Rainbow PUSH, who has been pushing doors open for Blacks in Silicon Valley. Jones is well known in the Bay for his work against police terrorism and in favor of Black jobs and businesses in the green economy. Rev. Jackson opened the door for a Black president with his runs for president in 1984, when he won nearly 3.3 million primary votes, 18.9 percent of the total, and in 1988, when he won nearly 7 million primary votes, 29.13 percent of the total. – Photo: Kia Croom

There were other panel discussions and a presentation in the late afternoon. One in particular underlined the significant role community-based organizations play in not only informing community members of corporations’ diversity and inclusion efforts but also encouraging them to take advantage of opportunities as they present.

“Community-based groups create programs, convene conversations like these, share resources and information to create social impact,” said Cedric Brown, managing partner of the Kapor Center for Social Impact. In a discussion moderated by Janice Mathis of the Citizen Education Fund, Brown was joined by colleagues Catherine Ashcraft, senior research scientist at the National Center for Women and IT, Laura Wideman Powers, co-founder of Code2040 and Liliana Aide Monge, co-founder of Sabio.LA.

The final discussion shared best practices for companies interested in diversifying their supplier network. Rainbow PUSH subsequently announced, according to the Chronicle, that it “will start pushing tech companies to spend money with minority-owned businesses and contractors in addition to hiring a more diverse workforce.”

Recently, as part of its 21st Century Technology Innovation Diversity and Inclusion Campaign, RPC successfully challenged companies to release their workforce diversity data and researched the racial and gender composition of 20 tech companies’ workforces. RPC then published a report which showed African-Americans, Latinos and women are severely underrepresented within these companies – accounting for 0-3 percent of their tech workforce.

“Dr. Gary May, dean of engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology, said that if both women and minorities were employed ‘at parity’ in tech, the industry would not need to hire so many H-1B visa workers from overseas,” the Chronicle reported.

The study showed similar low diversity within the companies’ board of directors. The 20 companies have 189 board members – 153 men and 36 women – and just three companies, Microsoft, Oracle and Salesforce, have an African-American or Latino on their board. Eleven boards were 100 percent White. RPC, in its research, identified 307 top “c-suite” leaders – only six of whom are African-American and three Latino.

Companies named in the study include Apple, Facebook, Symantec, Yahoo, Linkedin, Salesforce, Pandora, Twitter and others. Jackson noted of all the tech companies named in the study, Intel has been voluntarily and publicly releasing its EEO-1 reports and diversity data for a number of years. He believes Intel’s transparency paved the way for the many other companies that released their data this year.

RPC will continue its dialogue with tech companies and plans to publish its “Technology Inclusion and Diversity Score Card” in January – challenging companies to set measurable, concrete goals, targets and timetables to expand diversity and inclusion.

Jackson has recently met with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Apple CEO Tim Cook and Intel’s CEO Brian Krzanich. He anticipates meeting with Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman in the coming weeks. His hope is to help design and implement initiatives aimed at expanding diversity and inclusion in Silicon Valley and the technology industry.

“We need a plan to close the gaps, tackle income inequality and share in the economic opportunities in Silicon Valley. Yes, we pressure and PUSH, because doors often do not open on their own. They need a little pushing,” Jackson said.

RPC will continue its dialogue with tech companies and plans to publish its “Technology Inclusion and Diversity Score Card” in January – challenging companies to set measurable, concrete goals, targets and timetables to expand diversity and inclusion.

RPC’s lead corporate partners are Intel and Hewlett-Packard and their chief diversity officers, Rosalind Hudnell and Brian Tippens.

Contributing writer Kia Croom is a published journalist with 10 years of experience writing for publications in California and the Southeast. Follow her on Twitter @newsbykiac or email her at kianews2011@gmail.com.

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20 thoughts on “Tech jobs for Blacks? Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rainbow PUSH convene tech companies for diversity and inclusion forum

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