Startup aims to rank Silicon Valley companies on diversity - Axios
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Startup aims to rank Silicon Valley companies on diversity

Photo: Blendoor Illustration: Rebecca Zisser / Axios

There is a lot of talk in Silicon Valley. And a lot of hand wringing. What there isn't always enough of is accountability.

Stephanie Lampkin is trying to change that. She is CEO of Blendoor, a startup that helps companies measure just how well they are doing across a range of tangible benchmarks. On Friday, Blendoor ranked 138 Silicon Valley companies on just how well their diversity efforts are doing. The inaugural rankings, published Friday, gave the highest marks to HP, PayPal, Cisco, Apple and Yelp.

How they build a score: Blendoor tracks a variety of metrics on companies' recruitment, retention, leadership and impact. Among the types of things that it looks at are both the actual percentages of diverse candidates screened for a job, hired and promoted, as well as characteristics that go to the type of environment the company is creating.

Axios caught up with Lampkin for some frank talk on her findings and the state of diversity in Silicon Valley.

There's this perception that all tech companies are equally bad at actual results on diversity but your scores show a wide range. Is it a misperception?

Yes, definite misperception. Unfortunately, I think the media has played a role in creating this reality because once we pull back the layers, with companies like Slack for example, we're surprised to find how homogenous their leadership team still remains. What I'm hoping to do is show the real differentiation because many companies are just hiring a chief diversity officer, giving money to non-profits, but still aren't putting underrepresented people in positions of real power/influence.

Who is doing more than talking about diversity?

I'd say that top 3–5 companies on the BlendScore list are doing a pretty good job, but there is definitely still room for improvement. I've created the algorithm such that attaining a score of 100 doesn't take extreme measures (much like the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index). Most of these companies have zero underrepresented minorities on their board or executive teams….diversity for them is often White, occasionally Asian, cis-gender straight women which is why I put photos up there too.

What is actually working?

CXO's and Board Members that genuinely give a f**k! Hiring and rewarding talented people equally is more important than driverless cars, AI, and virtual reality and it has to be regarded as such…why? Because there are talented people who can solve these problems that aren't even able to get in the game or get there and aren't treated well. Investment in education/STEM pipeline and human resource management that is comparable to R&D will work.

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Lawmakers agree on Russia sanctions as election-meddling punishment

Evan Vucci / AP

A group of bipartisan lawmakers agreed today to move forward with legislation that would impose sanctions against Russia for their meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, NYT reports. Congress will vote on Tuesday. The expansive sanctions are not just punishment for their election interference, but also for continuing to deploy military forces in Ukraine, annexing Crimea, and abusing human rights.

Trump and his admin don't want these sanctions to be enforced. The White House has argued that Congress should allow Trump to maintain flexibility in the way he handles Russia. Trump has tried to manage the U.S.' relationship with Russia by himself (by taking meetings with Putin, for example).

Why it matters: Congress will force Trump into a difficult decision: either veto the bill, which would convince many that he's working in Russia's interests, or move forward with it and risk his efforts to improve our relationship with Russia. Also, the legislation includes sanctions on North Korea and Iran, two countries Trump's admin has wanted to sanction as punishment for their actions.

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Major problems plague start of Pokemon Go Fest

Credit: Niantic

The creators of Pokemon Go held their first major in-person event in Chicago on Saturday but things got off to a rough start. Many of those who paid to attend the event reported being stuck in line or unable to log into the app. Attendees would have a chance to catch rare Pokemon — including a Pokemon "monster" if certain goals were met, per Chicago Tribune.
CEO John Hanke was booed as he took the stage in Grant Park, and festival attendees reportedly started chanting "fix the game" at him when they realized they were unable to log on. Niantic is currently working on the issue and the company will reportedly refund participants for their tickets and give them $100 in virtual currency for the game.
Why it matters: Live events are seen as a big part of the company's strategy to keep the game's most active players engaged, so technical issues during a highly-anticipated event do not bode well for the company.
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Inside the White House "rival gangs"

Mark Von Holden/Invision via AP

On this week's episode of The New Yorker Radio Hour, Editor David Remnick talks with the N.Y. Times' Maggie Haberman (transcript here):

  • On the White House atmosphere: "We're used to a team of rivals. We are not used to a team of the Bloods and the Crips. ... [T]hese are rival gangs. ... I need to add in some new gang names, too, because Bloods and the Crips makes it sound like there are only two teams. There's something like six."
  • On Trump's mental state: "I think that he has an amazing belief in his own ability to will what he thinks into reality. And I think that he thinks of reality as something that is subjective. So I think that what people characterize as 'he's out of touch' or 'he's not understating this' or 'he seems off,' or whatever — I think he has an amazing capacity to try to draw the world as he wants it."
  • How Trump really feels about the press: "I think that he loves the press. I think he lives, at least loosely, by the theory that, if not all press is good press, that most press is good press. I think you find the press has been his nurturer and validator for thirty to forty years."
  • "This is a person who courted the tabloids aggressively in New York City in the nineteen-eighties. He found a way to make himself a commodity for the gossip pages and play the tabloids off each other. He likes attention, and he likes media. He loves to manipulate the media. He's a master at it."
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Spicer: resigning was "the right thing to do"

Alex Brandon / AP

After his sudden resignation yesterday, former press secretary Sean Spicer sat down for an interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity. The one exchange you need to know:

HANNITY: Have you been thinking about this for a while?

SPICER: No.

HANNITY: So it was really sudden?

SPICER: Well, I knew what the right thing to do is. I think I have a pretty good compass, and I made a decision that it was in the best interest not of just myself, but ... for the President and for this administration, was to step aside and let Anthony and Sarah lead the team.

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Trump finds a new favorite member among divided WH

Laurent Gillieron / Keystone via AP

The day's stunning dominoes ("Abrupt chain reaction for Trump" is the five-column head in the WashPost):

Trump, backed by Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, settles on "Mooch" to head comms, largely because he likes the financier's feistiness defending POTUS on cable.

  • Trump doesn't consult his senior aides. They flip out, both because of personal grievances with Mooch, and their belief that heading White House comms requires Washington skills and experience. Some staff learns about the move when Axios' Jonathan Swan pops the story Thursday night.
  • In a 10 a.m. meeting, chief of staff Reince Priebus, chief strategist Steve Bannon and press secretary Sean Spicer object vehemently. Trump ignores them.
  • Spicer quits ("the last straw," a source close to Spicer told me), drawing applause when he graciously tells his staff he wants Scaramucci to have a clean slate.
  • Scaramucci goes to the podium in the White House briefing room and announces that Sarah Huckabee Sanders (daughter of Mike Huckabee), who has been Spicer's top deputy, will be press secretary.
  • Asked by ABC's Jon Karl about the time on Fox Business in 2015 that he called Trump "another hack politician," Scaramucci parries: "[H]e brings it up every 15 seconds, OK? (LAUGHTER) ... So, Mr. President, if you're listening, I personally apologize for the 50th time for saying that."

Phew. As Spicer told Fox's Sean Hannity last night (not as a quip, but as part of an argument about working tirelessly to advance Trump's agenda): "We had a very successful Made in America week this week, garnering over millions of impressions."

Some atmospherics from all-terrain Jonathan Swan:

  • Trump thought Mooch killed it. He was pumped about it.
  • Very bipolar West Wing. Source tells me Reince's people seemed "kind of freaked" about what happened. And certainly in the dark.
  • They were trying to spin the new narrative that Reince and Anthony are BFFs and that Reince was "100%" supportive of Trump making Mooch comms director. The President would laugh if you told him that.
  • Jared, Ivanka and Hope Hicks were all pushing for Mooch and very happy with it.
  • Bannon went in hard, lost badly but seemed to have moved on very quickly. Doesn't want to dwell on it.
  • What we're watching: Will Mooch add to the team, and possibly some unexpected names from outside of politics?
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What Trump's tweeting after a week of WH leaks

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

President Trump knows how to use Twitter to his advantage, particularly when he wants to control the news narrative. After Press Secretary Sean Spicer abruptly resigned yesterday following Anthony Scaramucci's appointment as communications director, the news about the White House only got worse.

The Washington Post dropped a late-evening story claiming Attorney General Jeff Sessions — who Trump had dismissed earlier in the week, saying he wouldn't have hired Sessions if he had know he'd recuse himself from the Russia investigation — had discussed campaign-related issues with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak during the 2016 election. Later, reports surfaced that the House Intelligence Committee (in addition to the Senate Intelligence Committee) is now inviting Jared Kushner to testify on Tuesday regarding the Russia probes. And, new reports detailed Kushner had failed to disclose more than 70 assets in his security clearance forms and that Ivanka Trump is benefiting financially while she serves in the administration.

Here's what President Trump has decided to focus on this morning:

  • "ObamaCare is dead and the Democrats are obstructionists, no ideas or votes, only obstruction. It is solely up to the 52 Republican Senators!"
  • "The Republican Senators must step up to the plate and, after 7 years, vote to Repeal and Replace. Next, Tax Reform and Infrastructure. WIN!"
  • "In all fairness to Anthony Scaramucci, he wanted to endorse me 1st, before the Republican Primaries started, but didn't think I was running!
  • "My son Donald openly gave his e-mails to the media & authorities whereas Crooked Hillary Clinton deleted (& acid washed) her 33,000 e-mails!"
  • So many people are asking why isn't the A.G. or Special Council looking at the many Hillary Clinton or Comey crimes. 33,000 e-mails deleted? ... What about all of the Clinton ties to Russia, including Podesta Company, Uranium deal, Russian Reset, big dollar speeches etc."
  • "While all agree the U. S. President has the complete power to pardon, why think of that when only crime so far is LEAKS against us.FAKE NEWS."
  • "This morning I will be going to the Commissioning Ceremony for the largest aircraft carrier in the world, The Gerald R. Ford. Norfolk, Va."
  • "The Failing New York Times foiled U.S. attempt to kill the single most wanted terrorist,Al-Baghdadi.Their sick agenda over National Security."
  • "A new INTELLIGENCE LEAK from the Amazon Washington Post,this time against A.G. Jeff Sessions.These illegal leaks, like Comey's, must stop!"
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Dems want to rebrand as the economic party

Senate and House Dems, after an intensive process spanning seven months, on Monday will unveil a new economic agenda, Axios has exclusively learned, meant to counter the perception that Democrats are only the anti-Trump party, with no message of their own.

Top Dems see the new message as the key to turning things around after their losses in the presidential race and this year's House special elections.

An opening theme/frame: "excessive corporate power and its impacts."

Pollster Geoff Garin writes in a memo kicking off the project: "[T]he Democratic policies related to curbing excessive corporate power that are being highlighted in the first day of the rollout have real resonance with voters and are strongly supported by a significant majority of Americans."

The agenda's big idea: "Too many families in America today feel that the rules of the economy are rigged against them. Special interests have a strangle-hold on Washington — from the super-rich spending unlimited amounts of secret money to influence our elections, to the huge loopholes in our tax code that help corporations avoid paying taxes."

"If the government goes back to putting working families first, ahead of special interests, we can achieve a better deal for the American people that will raise their pay, lower their expenses, and prepare them for the future."

See Garin's two-page memo.

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Jared Kushner to testify before House Intelligence Committee

Susan Walsh / AP

Jared Kushner's testimonies about his potential ties to Russian officials just increased: he will now testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, July 25, the committee announced last night. And Kushner's lawyer confirmed to ABC News that he will cooperate with their request for questioning.

This comes just days after news broke that Kushner (along with Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort) were asked to testify in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee next week. Kushner's Senate hearing is on Monday.

Why this matters: Kushner is the first member of Trump's inner circle to face questioning in the ongoing Russia probes, and the additional testimony suggests both committees have questions about a number of things — his failure to disclose the June 9 Trump Jr. meeting, as well as issues with his security clearance forms (his revisions to them have retroactively revealed contacts with more than 100 people tied to foreign governments).

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Trump makes history for lowest approval rating in first 6 months

At the six-month mark of his presidency, America is becoming less impressed with Donald Trump's performance as president. And this is how he compares to his predecessors:

  • No other president has received an approval rating as low as Trump in their first six months in office.
  • Trump has received a lower approval rating than Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and Gerald Ford ever had in office.
  • Many former presidents received their highest approval ratings early on, some within the first 6 months.

Data: The American Presidency Project; Note: Trump and Obama distributions are weekly averages from daily polls; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon / Axios

It's not all bad: Trump has struggled to pass the key legislative items on his agenda, but he still has three and a half more years to push policy through and improve his ratings.

The best and worst ratings of the past nine presidents, and when.

Donald Trump

High: 46%, Day 2

Low: 35%, Day 65

Barack Obama

High: 69% — Day 2

Low: 38% — Day 942

George W. Bush

High: 89% — Day 380

Low: 25% — Day 2,813

Bill Clinton

High: 71% — Day 2,886

Low: 36% — Day 136

George H.W. Bush

High: 89% — Day 769

Low: 29% — Day 1,288

Ronald Reagan

High: 71% — Day 1,835

Low: 35% — Day 738

Jimmy Carter

High: 74% — Day 54

Low: 28% — Day 887

Gerald Ford

*Inaugurated August 9, 1974

High: 70% — Day 4

Low: 37% — Day 151

Richard Nixon

High: 66% — Day 1,464

Low: 22% — Day 1,808

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The companies that dominate Chinese internet

While companies like Google, Amazon and Facebook are favored by most of the world, they are blocked in China. There, the titans of the internet are Alibaba and Tencent. Below are some of the most popular social platforms in China and their U.S. equivalent.

WeChat

  • U.S. equivalent: Facebook Messenger
  • Parent Company: Tencent — one of the two major companies in China.
  • # of users: 938 million (compared to 2 billion for Facebook)
  • Details: WeChat is the most popular messaging app in China, similar to iMessage, Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp.


Weibo

Baidu

  • U.S. equivalent: Google
  • Parent company: Baidu
  • # of users: 665 million active mobile users last December
  • Details: Baidu was the first Chinese company to be included in the NASDAQ-100 index. Microsoft is currently teaming up with Baidu to work toward autonomous cars.

Alibaba

  • U.S. equivalent: Amazon, Walmart
  • Parent company: Alibaba
  • # of users: 454 million over all three properties — Alibaba.com, Taobao and Aliexpress. (Amazon has 65 million users who have bought Prime memberships.)
  • Details: Alibaba, founded by Jack Ma, is the 6th largest retailer in the world and the only foreign retailer to make it into the top 10, according to Forbes. Alibaba.com focuses on businesses, connecting suppliers and buyers all over the world, while the company also owns online shopping companies Taobao and Aliexpress which oversees purchases by public consumers.

Taobao

  • U.S. equivalent: Amazon, Ebay
  • Parent company: Alibaba
  • Stats: 40 categories of goods, buyers and seller send 100,000 messages on a daily basis.
  • Details: Taobao was founded 4 years after Alibaba.com is a consumer-to-consumer retail website, similar to Ebay or Craigslist.

Tmall

  • U.S. equivalent: Amazon
  • Parent company: Alibaba
  • # of users: 100 million in 2013
  • Details: Tmall allows brands to sell their products to consumers online and is the most popular B2C business in China.