For most of the past year, civil rights leader Jesse Jackson has been pushing the technology industry to recognize and address the remarkable lack of women and minorities in their staff. On Wednesday, the technology companies responded: 25 companies sent representatives to a summit held in Santa Clara at which Jackson was the main speaker. Google, Facebook, and Apple were among the technological giants to send representatives, and Intel served as the host. Roughly 300 people were in attendance, including a number of entrepreneurs, academics, and nonprofit workers dedicated to increasing diversity in the technology world.
Some of the current statistics regarding employees at technology companies are frightening: only 2 percent of US workers at Google and Facebook are black, while only 5 percent are Hispanic. Even more technology companies, including Apple, have worldwide staffs of which women make up less than a third. This state of affairs will not be changed quickly and will require far more than a change in hiring practices. The culture of information technology is dominated by men, from high school all the way through graduate school. If the employee compositions of these companies are to change, the pool of qualified candidates must also change.
Jesse Jackson made a major push to address and correct the employee imbalance in tech companies back in 1999, but this year’s effort has seen a much better response. Intel agreed to host the summit to demonstrate their dedication to changing the current culture, and Google has put $50 million into a three-year program called Made With Code. Made With Code will partner with nonprofits pushing girl involvement in information technology to try and increase the number of women in the candidate pool. Microsoft and other major tech companies are spending the week supporting the “Hour of Code,” an educational program dedicated to teaching students about computer coding. While there is still a long way to go, these positive movements toward equality in the technology workforce indicate a bright future in Silicon Valley.