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As The Trump Era Begins, Lawmakers Put Pressure On Silicon Valley To Improve Diversity

"They've got to do better," said Rep. Barbara Lee, who is leading a resolution on Capitol Hill to bolster inclusion in the tech industry.

Posted on February 17, 2017, at 5:43 p.m. ET

Timothy A. Clary / AFP / Getty Images

The leaders of the Congressional Black, Hispanic, and Asian Pacific American Caucuses, who represent more than 100 lawmakers in Washington, are pushing a resolution to bolster diversity in Silicon Valley.

Led by Rep. Barbara Lee, the resolution urges tech companies to develop inclusion plans to recruit underrepresented minorities; ensure that schools provide students with access to computer science classes and other STEM disciplines; and boost government investments in community colleges, HBCUs, and other minority-serving institutions to amplify the pipeline of skilled graduates.

Rep. Lee's message to the tech industry: "They've got to do better," she told BuzzFeed News. "When you look at the numbers while some companies have made progress, they've got a long way to go."

Lee said that with more oversight and public attention aimed at tech companies, "the more they will understand that they've got to do better in terms of inclusion for African Americans and other people of color."

Lee also questioned the commitment of President Trump to inclusion and diversity. "With many of his appointees, such as the attorney general, Jeff Session, you have to question how fully committed they are, really, to full participation in this economy, in the workforce, and in education," she said. "We kind of see where they're going, and it's troublesome."

But Lee added they she will continue to work with private companies and the White House to keep diversity as a priority.

Later this month, President Trump will sign an executive order related to HBCU's, although it is not clear what the order will do. During a press conference Thursday, April Ryan, the White House correspondent for the American Urban Radio Networks asked Trump whether he would meet with the Congressional Black Caucus to discuss his inner-city agenda. The president said he would "love to." But in a statement released after the press conference, CBC Chair Cedric Richmond criticized Trump for not contacting the caucus since his inauguration. Richmond said the White House has since requested a meeting with the CBC.

The resolution on diversity follows the creation of the CBC's Tech 2020 initiative, a five year plan unveiled in 2015 to achieve full representation of black workers in the tech industry. While many prominent companies in Silicon Valley release annual reports detailing the makeup of their workforce, often highlighting slight progress in diversity, glaring racial, ethnic, and gender disparities persist. "We're making progress, but it's slow," Lee said. "And that's why we are going to continue to partner with companies to make this happen."

The resolution notes that black and Latino employees make up 27 percent of the country's workforce, but claim only 14 percent of science and engineering jobs. Women account for 58 percent of the US workforce but occupy 46 percent of science and engineering roles. And of the country's computer science professionals, only 24 percent are women. Another goal of the resolution is to improve data collection and transparency tied to math, science, and engineering in American schools and the job market.

"We're going to continue to push for companies to really look inside themselves and understand the culture, and do something about it." Rep. Lee said.

Among the co-sponsors of the resolution are Rep. Cedric Richmond, Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus; Rep. Judy Chu, Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus; and Lujan Grisham, Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

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