Members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) visited Apple, PayPal, Twitter, Square and Airbnb last week to hold Silicon Valley accountable in its search for greater racial diversity. Although the CBC already made the trip twice, this time the majority of the members sent: Representative G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY), Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA).
Lee, who serves on the diversity work team as co-chair, said The Verge in a telephone interview that some of the companies they visited this time had made "little progress" while "others have regressed". She attributed the fall in numbers to the inability of technology companies to retain employees of color, but would not name specific companies that have done it wrong. "Look at the numbers," he said, referring to the diversity numbers of public EEO-1 ordered by the government. (Here are the numbers for 2017 for Apple, Paypal and Airbnb.)
"This time, we found a lot of workforce that works on diversity and inclusion and learned that most of them have been hired in the last two years," Lee said, "That tells me that it really is not They have thought about racial inclusion until we really started focusing on this. "She characterized her visit as more compelling than the previous visits in 2017 and 2015. As Waters said during a panel discussion in Lyft on Tuesday:" I'm not insisting I'm not encouraging, I'm about to hit some people in the head with a hammer. "
Numerous technology companies have presented grim 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 with 1 percent in 2017. Twitter reported having 3.4 percent of black employees in 2017, compared to 3 percent in 2016.
In addition to being increasingly assertive that technology companies improve the diversity of their workforce, CBC also added a new request this time: companies should help finance more affordable housing for communities in need and fight the effects of gentrification. There are several laws that the group is also considering. These include the Community Reinvestment Act, which will require financial institutions to meet the needs of the low-income communities they serve and a computer law in which Lee has been working since the Obama administration. Representatives are also raising funds to help girls, people of color and those living below the poverty line get STEM education. Many of the policies that the Caucus would like to see enacted depend on whether Democrats can win mid-year elections this year.
During the trip, the Caucus also met with non-profit organizations such as Girls Who Code and Workers Lab to discuss the so-called pipeline problem, which posits that there are not enough African-Americans and Latinos studying computer science at school and, as result, they make up less of the technological industry's workforce.
It is a subject nuanced and complicated by factors such as the availability of technical jobs of initial level, the geography of those jobs are located, and other barriers to entry into the industry such as the lack of diversity existing in the startups and corporations that could affect the culture of the workplace and lead to poor minority retention. There is also the question of how policymakers can help people who can have the right education but have a serious criminal record. Lee said lawmakers would continue to work with groups, including STEM education funds for Merritt College in Oakland, California, on topics like these.
To summarize this week's Silicon Valley visit, on a Lyft panel, Representative Butterfield said it best: "We are not making a political visit to the Bay Area this week, we are here presenting facts"