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Congressional Black Caucus: Big Tech is dawdling on diversity

Reps. Meeks, Waters, Butterfield, and Lee seated on stage
Reps. Meeks, Waters, Butterfield, and Lee at Lyft HQ. Photo: Scott Rosenberg/Axios

Tech companies are moving too slowly to remedy under-representation of African Americans in their ranks, senior members of the Congressional Black Caucus said Tuesday on a swing through Silicon Valley.

Why it matters: Regulation of the tech industry looks like more of a real possibility in the wake of Facebook's privacy controversy. If Democrats win control of the House in November, many of these representatives will be in a position to spotlight this issue — and even promote legislation.

Addressing an event at Lyft's China Basin headquarters, Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA), G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), Maxine Waters (D-CA), and Gregory Meeks (D-NY) said the Black Caucus's two previous visits to Silicon Valley had produced promises but little progress in increasing African American employment in tech, currently at around 5%, or in boosting their numbers in leadership and board positions.

"We're going to demand that these companies become more diverse," Butterfield said.

Ideas on the table:

  • Hold tech companies with government contracts to federal diversity rules.
  • Require the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to collect more data on the tech industry, not only about the breakdown of employee populations but also about salary, promotion and investments.
  • Expand the principles of the Community Reinvestment Act, which requires financial institutions to meet the needs of lower-income communities, to cover the tech industry.

What they're saying:

  • Lee: "We're revving it up a bit... We're going to push forward very aggressively."
  • Waters: "This is taking too long... I'm about to hit some people on the head with a hammer."