Business/C-Suite

Black lawmakers visit Silicon Valley to press Apple, Twitter and other tech giants on diversity High?

Top black lawmakers are paying a visit to Airbnb, Apple, Twitter and other tech giants this week, as they continue their crusade to improve Silicon Valley’s hiring practices and train a new generation of diverse engineers and entrepreneurs. For members of the Congressional Black Caucus, who arrived in the Bay Area on Monday, the tech sector has been too slow to diversify its executive ranks, invest in minority-owned start-ups and assist workers who can’t find jobs in tech hubs, like San Francisco, or afford those cities’ sky-high costs of living. In response, lawmakers said they plan to raise those issues directly with tech companies on their home turf, hoping their political firepower — and subtle threats of bad press and tough regulation — might nudge some of the industry’s biggest players to be more mindful of black workers’ needs.

“We’re letting companies know they must provide greater opportunity to African Americans,” said Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.) in an interview, adding they would “expose any company that provides lip service.” A key, early goal of the visit: Butterfield said he and three fellow CBC members plan to ask tech executives to attend a public “summit” focused on diversity. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg previously signaled he might attend such a gathering during his first-ever testimony to Congress in April — a hearing that focused on privacy yet at times pivoted to the company’s hiring practices. Facebook declined to comment Monday. Already, CBC lawmakers said they had secured participation from PayPal, one of the firms they visited Monday. The company’s chief executive, Dan Schulman, said in a statement that PayPal is “fully committed to achieving a more diverse and inclusive workplace.”

 

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