Fifty years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the end of Jim Crow, African-Americans still have far to go to reach the promised land of which Dr. Martin Luther King spoke. Poverty, the school-to-prison pipeline and barriers to voting make it easy for the challenges to seem overwhelming.
The justifiable pride many African-Americans feel toward the accomplishment of Barack Obama’s presidency should not be allowed to disguise the fact that African-Americans are simply not present in too many of the industries and communities that are driving our country’s future.
That is why the National Black Caucus of State Legislators is urging the technology industry to be a leader in incorporating African-Americans into key roles.
The tech industry, including such titans as Google, Facebook and Twitter, has drawn deserved criticism for a disconcertingly low number of African-Americans, Latinos and women in key areas of their businesses, especially tech and leadership jobs. In many cases, the proportion of African-Americans and Latinos does not exceed 5 percent.
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This is troubling not only because African-Americans and Latinos are graduating with the technical skills at twice the rate that they are being hired, but also because they are severely underrepresented in non-tech areas of these companies as well. With these companies in the vanguard for our country’s economy, it is crucial that African-Americans and Latinos have a seat at the table in the tech industry.
That is why I helped sponsor a resolution urging tech companies to make empowerment of people of color a top priority. Through training programs, aggressive recruitment, public advocacy and partnerships with historically black colleges and universities, tech companies can be an effective part of the solution for America’s under-served communities.
Technology already has revolutionized how we live, but it can affect greater change. Research shows conclusively that companies with diverse leadership and workforces have a competitive advantage over those that are homogenous. Reaching out to African-Americans and Latinos is not just socially just but also economically sound.
The National Black Caucus and other state and local black community leaders are essential allies for technology companies as they move toward these important goals. We hope that our resolution can serve as a model for other communities, and for the tech companies themselves, as they work to solve a problem that is devastating to African-Americans. Google and others have recognized the existence of this problem and have committed to fixing it; we hope this stated commitment materializes and they become part of the solution. After all, it is only after people of color become equal partners in driving our nation’s future that we will eliminate the lingering problems of marginalization and discrimination in our society.
Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter