Rev. Jesse Jackson plans to lead a delegation to the Hewlett Packard annual shareholders meeting on Wednesday to bring attention to Silicon Valley’s poor record of including Blacks and Latinos in hiring, board appointments and startup funding.
Jackson’s strategy borrows from the traditional civil rights era playbook of shaming companies to prod them into transformation. Now he is bringing it to the age of social media and a booming tech industry known for its disruptive innovation.
Earl “Butch” Graves Jr., president and CEO of Black Enterprise magazine, says Jackson is shining a light on the fact that technology companies don’t come close to hiring or spending what is commensurate with the demographics of their customers.
“Hopefully, what Rev. Jackson is doing will bring attention to the 800-pound gorilla in the room that nobody wants to talk about. It’s high time that gets addressed,” Graves says.
It’s widely recognized that the tech industry lacks diversity: About one in 14 tech workers is Black or Latino, both in the Silicon Valley and nationally. Blacks and Hispanics make up 13.1 and 16.9 percent of the U.S. population, respectively, according to the most recent Census data.
Of course, the technology industry isn’t without a handful of high-profile Black executives. Microsoft named John Thompson, an African-American, as chairman of its board last month after he led a search that culminated in the appointment of Satya Nadella as the software maker’s new CEO. Thompson, the former CEO of security software maker Symantec Corp., joined Microsoft’s board in 2012.
Another African-American, Denise Young-Smith, runs Apple’s human resources department, which oversees the personnel policies governing the iPhone maker’s nearly 85,000 employees and contractors. She reports directly to Apple CEO Tim Cook.
And Google’s chief legal officer, David Drummond is an African-American who has been one of the company’s top executives for the past 12 years.
During a recent speech at Stanford University, Jackson cited the dearth of Black and Latino leaders in the tech sector. This got sophomore computer science major Rotimi Opeke, a leader at the school’s Society of Black Scientists and Engineers, wondering about his own opportunities.
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