Legislators, investors call for Silicon Valley giants to diversify their boards

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U.S. Representative Maxine Waters, along with several other members of the Congressional Black Caucus met with several major Silicon Valley technology companies earlier this month to press them to address their diversity problem.

Waters represents California’s 43rd congressional district.

The meetings with tech giants Apple, Twitter, Airbnb and others marks the third time the caucus members have called on the companies to include more black employees to their employee pool. But the tech sector has been slow to respond to what legislators call a “diversity problem.”

The numbers illustrate the situation.

In 2017, African-Americans occupied less than 3 percent of the tech jobs at Facebook, Google, Amazon and Twitter.

Apple did slightly better with minority representation on its staff. Still, with only 8 percent of black employees at Apple, and none of the Silicon Valley tech companies staffed at a rate equal to that of the U.S. population (13 percent), the showing is far from stellar.

The Congressional Black Caucus has made three publicized trips to Silicon Valley since it formed its tech diversity task force in 2015. Some progress has been made, such as Facebook naming American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault its first black board member last January.

Waters said she’ll resort to legislative action if the group of Silicon Valley tech behemoths doesn’t voluntarily boost their low representation of minority employees.

“I’m talking about using the power that our voters have given us to produce legislation,” she told them. “I’m not urging. I’m not encouraging. I’m about to hit some people across the head with a hammer.”

Meanwhile, Amazon is also being pressured by investors to diversify its board. CtW Investment Group urged shareholders to vote for Item 4, “Shareholder Proposal Regarding Diverse Board Candidates,” at Amazon’s 2018 Annual Meeting of Shareholders, which will be held on May 30.

The board should include – but need not be limited to – qualified women and minority candidates, CtW noted in a statement.

Twitter: @Bernie_HITN
Email the writer: bernie.monegain@himssmedia.com

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