Tech trade association tells lawmakers it will create a 'director of diversity' role

Tech trade association tells lawmakers it will create a 'director of diversity' role
© Getty Images

A trade association representing major technology firms like Amazon, Facebook and Google told lawmakers that it will create a new director of diversity and inclusion position to address “diversity, technology, and workforce policy issues.”

"The Director [of Diversity and Inclusion] will facilitate industry-wide efforts to improve diversity and inclusion in the tech industry,” Internet Association President Michael Beckerman wrote in a letter to Reps. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) and Bonnie Watson ColemanBonnie Watson ColemanHillicon Valley: Sanders finds perfect target in Amazon | Cyberattacks are new fear 17 years after 9/11 | Firm outs alleged British Airways hackers | Trump to target election interference with sanctions | Apple creating portal for police data requests Cyberattacks are a constant fear 17 years after 9/11 Beware the ides of the African American woman MORE (D-N.J.) that was obtained by The Hill.

“This individual will work in coordination with our member companies to ensure that tech policy initiatives take into account diversity and inclusion perspectives and collaborate with our economics team to produce accurate and relevant industry-wide employment data,” he continued.

The Internet Association’s (IA) letter comes in response to another letter sent by Cleaver and Watson Coleman to the tech trade association pressing it on the lack of diversity among major technology firms.

ADVERTISEMENT

"The Internet Association has responded in a very serious and proactive manner to our concerns that there was no one guarding the guardians when it comes to the internet and its potentially negative effects on racial and gender bias," Cleaver said in response to the group's letter on Tuesday.

"It is critical that this position be given a high level of authority and respect such that any perceived racial and gender biases can be immediately identified and addressed."

A recent study conducted by the Government Office of Accountability found black and Hispanic workers to be significantly underrepresented in the technology workforce.

According to a not-yet-released description of the job attached with the letter to lawmakers, the position will focus on a range of aspects surrounding diversity, race and technology.

The director of diversity and inclusion’s duties will include making sure IA’s policy initiatives on matters regarding artificial intelligence, algorithms, advertising and other areas incorporate “diversity and inclusion principles,” leading all diversity and inclusion initiatives and helping the communications team with its messaging on related matters.

The Congressional Black Caucus, of which Cleaver and Watson Coleman are members, has pressed the technology industry on the lack of diversity within its ranks and the problems that this has caused.

In November, the caucus had a contentious meeting with Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, who promised that the company would soon appoint a black individual to its board. This month, Facebook appointed American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault to its board.

The caucus has also expressed frustration over tech platforms inadvertently enabling racial discrimination in advertising and hopes such issues can be mitigated, in part, with more diversity in technology companies.

In the past year, outlets like ProPublica and BuzzFeed have found examples of how Google and Facebook’s advertising platforms can be used to target racist individuals and discriminate against races by excluding them from seeing certain ads.