Week ahead in tech: Black Caucus takes diversity push to Silicon Valley

Week ahead in tech: Black Caucus takes diversity push to Silicon Valley
© Greg Nash

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus will be heading to Silicon Valley in the coming week, where they will press tech companies to make their work forces and corporate board rooms more diverse.

Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and G.K. ButterfieldGeorge (G.K.) Kenneth Butterfield'Diamond & Silk' offer chance for bipartisan push back on social media censorship Live coverage: Zuckerberg faces second day on Capitol Hill Senate passes bill to end shutdown, sending it to House MORE (D-N.C.), who co-chair the caucus's Diversity Task Force, will be in the Bay Area on Monday. They will kick off the meetings with a press conference at the headquarters of Hustle, a messaging app used by Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersHarvard law professor: Impeachment could worsen political dysfunction, polarization Gun control debate shifts to hardening schools after Texas shooting Bernie Sanders: NRA to blame for lack of action on gun control MORE's (I-Vt.) presidential campaign in 2016.

They will also meet with tech giants, including Airbnb, Facebook, Twitter, Lyft and Uber.


The lawmakers want to press the companies to take real action on improving diversity in the industry. Caucus members say they have met with tech companies in the past but have yet to see changes.

"We get a lot of lip service from the technology companies," Butterfield told reporters Thursday.

The former Black Caucus chairman said some companies have followed through by putting African-Americans on their boards, including Apple and Uber. But the lawmakers want to see those changes from the mid-level ranks of executives up to the boardroom.

On Thursday, the caucus had a high profile meeting with Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg in Washington. Sandberg assured lawmakers that the company was committed to bringing an African-American on its board of directors "within the foreseeable future."

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus also met with Sandberg at the Capitol on Thursday. 

On Friday, members of the Hispanic Caucus sent letters to 32 tech companies, including Apple, Amazon and Google, asking for detailed statistics on Hispanic representation at their firms. 

"Unfortunately, in tech and 'gig economy' companies, Hispanics are routinely underrepresented and underfunded," Reps. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.) and Joaquin CastroJoaquin CastroBlack, Hispanic lawmakers hammer Amazon directors' opposition to diversity rule Texas charter school reinstates teacher who asked students to list positive aspects of slavery NRA criticized for hosting event where guns are banned due to Pence appearance MORE (D-Texas) wrote on Friday in a letter to the companies.

One recent study shows that despite increasing calls for Silicon Valley to do more, African-American and Hispanic representation at technology companies has decreased.

The House will be away on a one-week recess, but senators are returning to Capitol Hill on Monday after their own short break.

Expect more attention on Russian groups' efforts to use web and social media companies to influence the 2016 presidential election.

Sandberg on Wednesday also met with House leaders on the Russia probe to brief them on Facebook's own investigation. Following her meeting, the House Intelligence Committee said they would make public the 3,000 ads purchased on Facebook by Russian-linked groups.

Many lawmakers, though, say they expect more help from Silicon Valley to get to the bottom of Russian interference.

The Senate Intelligence Committee's top Democrat, Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerGun control debate shifts to hardening schools after Texas shooting Warner: Why doesn't Trump understand that it's illegal for other countries to interfere in US elections? Warner sees 'credible components' in report that foreign governments offered to aid Trump campaign MORE (Va.), has said Twitter, for example, has not provided the committee with enough information and called its internal probe into Russian activities inadequate.

Twitter and Facebook are scheduled to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Nov. 1.


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