A group of Black state lawmakers is stepping up pressure on Google, Facebook, Twitter and others to diversify their workforces in 2015 through more robust outreach, training and hiring in minority communities.
The National Black Caucus of State Legislators (NBCSL) recently ratified a resolution, “Supporting the Diversification of Tech Industry’s Empowerment,” which was sponsored by State representatives, Gilda Cobb-Hunter (D-S.C.), Joe Armstrong (D-Tenn.), Alan Williams (D-Fla.) and Geraldine Thompson (D-Fla.), among others, who hope the effort will begin to take root in 2015.
The group hopes to raise awareness about the problem and take concrete steps to increase minority representation in the tech industry by providing training at the local level, including at schools, universities and through business partnerships. They are also calling on Google and others to use job-training models established by civil rights groups and the telecom industry, which has worked hard to recruit minority workers over the years.
“Through partnerships with Black, Hispanic, and women’s organizations, tech companies like Google and Facebook can make inroads into a community they have too long neglected,” Cobb-Hunter said in a prepared statement. “Minorities are avid users of technology, but for too long have been omitted from the creative process.”
With jobs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) projected to grow by 17 percent by 2018 in the United States, the field is one of the highest paying and fastest growing in the country, the group says. If minorities cannot contribute to the industry, they will never be able to reap economic parity, the lawmakers argue.
The unvarnished numbers display a grim picture. At Google, for example, 1 percent of its tech staff is Black and 2 percent Hispanic. Meanwhile, Asians make up 34 percent of the company’s workforce, while 83 percent of its workers internationally are male, according to USA Today.
During an interview last summer with NewsOne, National Urban League president and CEO Marc H. Morial called the numbers a civil rights issue. He pointed to high unemployment numbers in the Black community—the highest of any ethnic group. In December, the Black unemployment rate was 11.1 percent, compared to a 4.9 percent rate for Whites, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Civil rights leaders and state lawmakers are not the only officials concerned about the state of Black employment, especially in Silicon Valley. Birmingham, Ala., Mayor William Bell said members of the African American Mayors Association are also concerned.
“As mayors we’re trying to find ways to improve opportunities for young men and women of color,” he told NewsOne. “I along with other mayors who are apart of the African American Mayors Association feel that it’s incumbent upon us to do all we can to create those opportunities. The way we do that is by reaching out to companies such as those in Silicon Valley and throughout the country to make a greater effort to recruit minorities and train and educate individuals to be prepared to have those job opportunities.”