Google boldly did the right thing

Last week, Google made the bold and necessary decision to release information about their employment diversity, detailing the race and gender makeup of its workforce, admitting in the words of Senior Vice President Laszlo Bock, “Google is not where we want to be when its comes to diversity and it’s hard to address these kinds of challenges if you’re not prepared to discuss them openly.”

It is time for other Silicon Valley companies to follow Google’s lead. According to Mike Swift of the San Jose Mercury, leading tech firms – Apple, Oracle, Yahoo and Applied Materials – waged an 18-month fight against a freedom of information request for their workforce data, lobbying the Labor Department to treat it as a trade secret.

But as Google’s figures – and those of Intel, which was the first to release its employment data – show, Silicon Valley has a big problem with equal opportunity. And, as Bock states, you can’t fix what you won’t admit. You can’t face the truth that you hide from.

And the problem is serious. Google reports that 83 percent of its tech workforce is male, as well as 79 percent of its leadership. Ninety-four percent of its tech workforce is White or Asian, with only 2 percent Hispanic and 1 percent Black. It starts at the top, where 95 percent of its leadership is White or Asian, with only 2 percent Black and 1 percent Hispanic.

This lack of diversity – the absence of equal opportunity for women and minorities – is a big deal. These are, after all, the companies that are creating the inventions and the markets of the future. The area south of San Francisco Bay is growing about twice as fast as the rest of the country. Unemployment in the tech sector is down to 1-3 percent.

The companies argue that this isn’t about discrimination but about merit. But this is much more a case of an old boys’ network. Referrals play a major role in hiring, and they come from networks dominated by White and Asian men. Pipelines are set up to draw from the old pool. Many of the Asians are from abroad, here on limited visas, allowing the companies to pay them less.

The companies argue that this starts in college, with a mere 12 percent of computer science undergraduate degrees as major universities going to women. But that is less a reflection of the absence of talent, than the absence of outreach. Instead of resisting reform, these companies should be leading it. Startups with diverse staffs are more likely to be successful, according to Fast Company, a business magazine.. Minorities and women are major users of social media, and purchasers of technology products. Diverse companies are more likely to anticipate the needs and the desires of their customers.

Other companies should now join Google and Intel and publish data on their workforce diversity. This week, we will send the leading companies a letter requesting action, and we’ll report on which respond and which do not. Once they fess up to the scope of the problem, the companies should be creative and entrepreneurial in responding. They should pioneer new ways to encourage young women and minorities to get involved in computer science and engineering. They should reach out in recruitment, setting targets and timetables. Intern programs can offer women and minorities a way in.

Let us not forget, more than half of the jobs in tech companies are not “science/engineering/tech related.” To say that potential tech workers must be rocket scientists is a diversion. They work in HR, finance, law, sales and marketing, administration – there is a huge talent pool that can and must be tapped. Blacks and people of color represent money, market talent and location. Tech companies have resources, innovation and capital. There’s a basis for two way trade and a mutually beneficial, reciprocal relationship.

And the companies should aggressively open up from the top down. Their boards are not composed of all tech people; they should be diverse. Their IPOS can be managed by diverse firms, not just the old White boy crowd. Their suppliers should be diverse.

This month, Google will send representatives to the Rainbow Push national convention in Chicago to meet with presidents from historically Black colleges that teach computer science and engineering. Other companies should send representatives as well. Reaching out will inspire interest and help identify skilled future employees.

By 2040, America will be a majority minority country. Polls show that this scares many Americans, but it should inspire, not scare tech companies. The customers of the future will be increasingly diverse. Companies should act aggressively now to insure that their workforce reflects the customers they are trying to reach. Google has joined Intel to break open the door. Now it is time for others to join them in striding through to a new day.

Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. is founder and president of the Chicago-based Rainbow PUSH Coalition. You can keep up with his work at

The joy of the Gospel

— Pope Francis is displaying an extraordinary style and passion that demands our attention. He addresses the needs of the poor, embraces the outcasts and loves those on the margins of society. In this recent “apostolic exhortation,” The Joy of the Gospel, he raises a moral challenge to both his church and his world.


Jesse Jackson, Sr.

Like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Pope Francis calls upon people of faith to “go forth” to preach and practice their faith. “I prefer a church,” he writes, “which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy for being confined and from clinging to its own security.”

Pope Francis raises a profound moral voice against “trickle-down theories,” which put a “crud and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power.” We have created “new idols,” he warns, in the worship of money and markets. The result is that “human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded.” We have witnessed “a globalization of indifference,” in which the poor are dehumanized and ignored.

Pope Francis’s exhortation, more than 50,000 words long, deals broadly with the church, the papacy and matters of the faith. He is not a revolutionary. He states that the priesthood will remain open only to men and the church’s opposition to abortion will continue. But he directs new focus and passion to the growing inequality between and within countries, the stark contrast between the wealth of our technology and invention and the poverty of our ethics.

Here, he addresses directly the plight of today’s America. We suffer mass unemployment while the stock market hits new highs. Profits set records, but working people don’t share in the rewards. The top five percent pockets literally all of the rewards of growth, while the remainder struggle to stay afloat. This extreme inequality, Pope Francis writes, is the direct product of “ideologies, which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. A new tyranny is born” and with it widespread corruption and tax evasion among the most powerful. Money, Pope Francis argues, “must serve, not rule.”

This is not a secondary concern, but the heart of the mission of today’s church. Pope Francis says just as the commandment says, “Thou shalt not kill,” we must say, “Thou shalt not” to an economy of “exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills.”

He warns of the corruption and the ethical poverty of ignoring the poor. In our politics, poverty has become literally unspeakable. Politicians talk about defending the middle class, or “middle out economics.” The poor are scorned as lazy or incompetent. Politicians vote to cut off food stamps, to cut unemployment insurance, even to cut back programs of nutrition for impoverished mothers and infants, while they refuse to close the tax havens that allow multinational corporations and the wealthy to avoid paying taxes.

Too many politicians devote their energy to raising funds from the affluent and protecting their interests. They seek careers and fortunes not public service. Pope Francis sees this as a moral corruption, and calls for “more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people and the lives of the poor.”

At the same time, Pope Francis issues a stern warning to the complacent. Without justice, there can be no peace. Building up police and armaments offers no answer. Peace will come only when there is hope, and a committed effort to provide opportunity and justice to those who are locked out or pressed down.

Economic populism is not foreign to the Catholic Church and has been articulated by previous holders of the papacy. But Pope Francis’s clear words and bold style make his message compelling. This is an authentic world-changing gospel of good news. This is a return to the original gospel that Jesus taught. It seeks not pity for the poor; it seeks their emancipation and churches cannot be silent in the face of growing inequality and desperation. People of faith must “go forth” and be willing to be “bruised, hurting and dirty” in the cause of justice. This is a charge all of us, whatever our faith, should take to heart.

Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. is founder and president of the Chicago-based Rainbow PUSH Coalition. You can keep up with his work at: