Last week, members of the Congressional Black Caucus visited Silicon Valley, their third such visit since the CBC Tech 2020, a taskforce aiming to increase African American representation in tech, was launched in 2015.
CBC members Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY), Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), visited Airbnb, Apple, Lyft, PayPal, Square, and Twitter, as well as some non-profit programs seeking to address the so-called “pipeline problem.”
In light of the sector’s ongoing problems with privacy and safety, the delegation seemed prepared to do business.
“This time, we met with a lot of the workforce that works on diversity and inclusion and learned that the majority of them have been hired within just the last two years,” Lee told The Verge. “That tells me that they haven’t really thought about racial inclusion until we started really focusing on this.”
Waters was her usual direct self. “Floored” to discover that many tech companies had barely 2% black employees, she threatened legislative action. “I’m talking about using the power that our voters have given us to produce legislation and to talk about regulation in these industries that have not been talked about before,” she said. “I’m not urging, I’m not encouraging. I’m about to hit some people across the head with a hammer,” she said at a panel discussion at Lyft.
Bärí A. Williams, a legal and operations executive and StubHub and Facebook alum, suggests that the CBC should look beyond the dismal representation numbers, and ask probing questions about how employees from underrepresented groups are faring in their careers in big tech. Here’s one clue: According to a 2017 report by Recode, black and Latino employees hold only somewhere between 4 percent and 10 percent of leadership roles at seven major tech firms.
There are a couple of indications the CBC is up to the task, at least in terms of raising some key issues. (What can be accomplished in Congress these days is anybody’s guess).
First, the delegation came with a new demand: Companies should help fund affordable housing to mitigate the damage that “gentrification” does to the under-resourced community members they’re trying to teach to code.
And they’re clearly prepared.
When given an opportunity to interview Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg during his recent Congressional testimony on user data and privacy issues, Rep. Butterfield showed that he spoke D&I. He took his allotted time to ask about board diversity, and if the company would publish retention numbers disaggregated by race. He then took Zuckerberg to task for his all-white leadership team. Where are his trusted leaders of color?
“Not only you and Sheryl [Sandburg], but David [Wehner], Mike [Schroepfer] and Chris [Cox],” he said, waving a printout of their bios. “This does not represent America,” he said.
|Intel Capital exceeds its goal for investing in companies founded by underrepresented minorities|
|Intel shared a lot of updates from their Intel Capital Global Summit yesterday, some of which will be welcome news to the raceAhead crowd. First, they announced that they were two and a half years ahead of their 2015 goal to invest $125 million in startups run by women, entrepreneurs with disabilities, people of color, LGBTQ and military veterans. These investments now make up more than 10% of their portfolio. Also check out the new “Champion of Change” strategy, an alliance to advance gender equality in tech. Yes, it’s an alliance about allies! Check out Male Champions of Change Institute, accelerateHER, and EQUALS for more.|
|The president of Nordstrom Rack flew to St. Louis to apologize to three black men falsely accused of theft|
|Geevy Thomas, the chain’s president, met with the three men yesterday. Mekhi Lee, Dirone Taylor, and Eric Rogers II were shopping for prom clothes at the company’s Brentwood Square store when they were harassed by a customer, followed by employees, and then later detained by the police and accused of shoplifting. Twyla Lee, Mekhi’s mother, said the meeting went well. “We just listened to Nordstrom about what they said they were going to do about (training) in their store … and (Mekhi) told them how he felt from the encounter,” she said. The local NAACP leadership has asked Nordstrom Rack to support programs that help educators in the St. Louis area.|
|Saint Louis Today|
|Ford has created a smart window that lets blind passengers “feel” the landscape|
|The “Feel the View” smart window uses a new “haptic visual language,” that captures surrounding images and translates them into vibrations on a display that a visually-impaired passenger can touch to better imagine the world outside. The display was created by Ford of Italy working collaboratively with creative agency GTB Roma and other local start-ups. The company hopes the technology will reach a wider audience. “An innovation that today is designed to use in a car, but that tomorrow could be implemented in schools and institutions for blind people as a tool that could be used in multiple ways,” says executive creative director of GTB Rome Federico Russo.|
|Commentary: The transgender military ban is bad for national security|
|This column, written by a pseudonymous active duty officer of the CIA, starts with language from a declassified CIA memo from 1980, saying that spotting “a homo” was as challenging and necessary as spotting Communists, and that they “accept [their] psychological deviation from the normal.” But when she came out as transgender in the 2000s, it seemed that the worst bigotry had passed. Now, given the Department of Defense’s recent defense of the transgender ban, the bad old days are back. She makes an exhaustive case for the contributions of LGBT military service members and the expense and folly of the transgender ban. “Discrimination is a reappearing luxury in our history,” she writes. “In times of crisis we enlisted women, African-Americans, and LGBT Americans only to excise them when the emergency passed.”|
|The Cipher Brief|
The Woke Leader
|Meet the choreographer behind “This is America”|
|Sherrie Silver, a Rwandan born dancer, creative director, and philanthropist is responsible for much of the complex dance moves and rich symbolism in Childish Gambino’s “This is America” video. She got the gig, she thinks, because one of the young nieces of someone on Donald Glover’s management team loved her popular dance videos. She was able to confirm some of the more debated aspects in this fascinating Q&A – for example, the dancers dressed as students were meant to bring hope and innocence to contrast the video’s dark themes. “We were there to smile and bring joy to everyone watching it because the background is bringing so much darkness and reality.” But the Jim Crow reference? That was all Glover, who turned out to be a remarkably fast learner and a generous collaborator. Enjoy.|
|Pigeons and Planes|
|How to build trust on teams|
|First Round Capital, the venture team behind Warby Parker and others, publishes really great business content. Who knew? Much of the advice they’ve compiled on accelerating trust I hadn’t seen before, like this one from Thumbtack CEO Marco Zappacosta, who shares his own performance review with job candidates. “One of the last things I do is I share my most recent 360,” he says. “I give the person a copy so they can see where I hit the mark and what I’m working on,” then asks them to reciprocate. Here’s another one: Write a user guide for yourself – how you work best, how you might be derailed – and then ultimately, one for your team. “It’s an act of empathy, an acknowledgment of implicit power dynamics between managers and employees, and recognition that the group is made up of different people with distinct styles,” says first-time founder Jay Desai.|
|On developing racial literacy|
|‘Recent high school graduates Priya Vulchi and Winona Guo lamented their lack of understanding of the complexity of race in the U.S. “You’d think after 12 years somebody in or out of the classroom would have helped us understand, at a basic level at least, the society we live in,” they said, sort of in unison. They traveled across the country to collect stories of race and lived experiences, provided data and historical context and worked on a racial literacy textbook that can help anyone better navigate and improve the racial divisions in our systems and ourselves. “We need to each begin by learning in our own local communities, bridging the gaps between our own hearts and minds to become racially literate,” says Guo. You will be inspired, I promise. Really.|