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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Murkowski backs ACA individual mandate repeal

Photo: Jose Luis Magana / AP

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a moderate Republican who broke ranks over the summer to vote against GOP plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act, has written an op-ed declaring her support for a repeal of the ACA's individual mandate. She writes, "I believe that the federal government should not force anyone to buy something they do not wish to buy in order to avoid being taxed."

Why it matters: The Senate tax plan includes a repeal of the mandate, which helps stabilize insurance markets by incentivizing healthy people to buy coverage. This may be a signal Murkowski intends to vote yes on the plan.

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Military personnel reassigned over conduct on Trump Asia trip

President Donald Trump, center, and Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang. Photo: Andrew Harnik / AP

Three military personnel who worked for the White House Communications Agency are being reassigned for alleged "improper contact with foreign women" during President Trump's Asia trip, according to the Washington Post. The service members are responsible for providing "secure communications" to the president, vice president, and secret service.

Flashback: Four members of the same team faced similar allegations in August while in Panama ahead of Vice President Pence's arrival in the country.

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Russia-friendly Congressman under scrutiny

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif. Photo: Paul Holston / AP

California Congressman Dana Rohrabacher has come under scrutiny in recent months from special counsel Robert Mueller and the Senate Intelligence Committee for his close ties to the Kremlin, according to the New York Times. One eye-catching line: "the F.B.I. warned him in 2012 that Russia regarded him as an intelligence source worthy of a Kremlin code name."

Why it matters: Rohrabacher, a Republican, had no role in President Trump's election, but there have been several instances of him "showing up" at moments relevant to the Russia investigation, per the Times. His position as chairman of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats is also a point of concern for some.

  • He accepted a "confidential" memo including accusations against Democratic donors in April 2016 in Moscow, which later resurfaced in the Trump Tower meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and Russian lawyer Natalia V. Veselnitskaya.
  • He met with last August at the Ecuadorean Embassy with Julian Assange , who is believed to have "acted as a conduit for Russian operatives seeking to release a trove of hacked Democratic emails."
  • He had dinner with Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of a Russian central bank that tried to set up a "backdoor" meeting with then-candidate Trump and Vladimir Putin.
Rohrabacher said "none of the meetings were untoward or inappropriate," per the Times: "I want to treat Russia as if it is a nation state that deserves to be judged as all other nation states are judged."
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Apple reportedly bought a VR headset maker

Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP

Apple has acquired Canadian VR headset maker Vrvana (whose product was praised but never shipped) for about $30 million, according to TechCrunch.

Between the lines: The acquisition adds to the growing rumors that Apple is planning to develop more augmented and virtual reality products in the future. The release this year of its ARKit showed the company's interest in augmented reality using smartphones, but it's hard to believe Apple isn't interested in adding new devices to its lineup. Also in June, it confirmed it acquired a small German maker of eye-tracking glasses.

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Report: Mueller probing Kushner contacts with foreign leaders

Kushner arrives on Capitol Hill in July to meet behind closed doors before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Photo: Andrew Harnik / AP

Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his team are looking into contacts Jared Kushner had with foreign leaders, including over a December UN resolution condemning Israeli settlements, before President Trump took office, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Why it matters: It's illegal under the Logan Act for a private citizen to communicate with a foreign government to attempt to influence U.S. policy, but no one has been convicted under that law and it's unclear whether that's what Mueller is investigating. What is clear is that the Mueller investigation is going far beyond collusion with Russia to influence the election.

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Court files show allegation of "daily" harassment by Conyers

U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich. Photo: Carlos Osorio / AP

A former scheduler in Rep. John Conyers' office said she was the victim of "unwanted touching 'repeatedly and daily'" according to court documents from this February, BuzzFeed reports.

Why it matters: This woman was not a part of the sexual harassment settlement made in 2015, which Conyers admitted to making on Tuesday while denying claims of sexual harassment. The victim of the new incident sued Conyers for over $100,000, but later withdrew the lawsuit after the court denied her request to keep the complaint private.

  • According to BuzzFeed, the staffer describes daily harassment by Conyers from May to July 2016, including "rubbing on her shoulders, kissing her forehead, covering and attempting to hold her hand," and more.
  • She said this caused "insomnia, anxiety, depression and chest pains," which was made worse after Conyers' wife Monica called her a "whore."
  • The staffer "eventually became so unwell" that she attempted to take sick leave in 2016, and was fired after Conyers' chief of staff Raymond Plowden "demanded" proof that she was sick.
  • She filed a motion in February to file a lawsuit kept private from the public because she wanted to avoid "irreparably [harming]" the Congressman. It was ultimately rejected, and she "sought to withdraw her lawsuit with prejudice," which would keep her from re-filing later, per BuzzFeed.
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A new obstacle to Mideast peace talks

President Trump meets with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas at the White House in May. Photo: Evan Vucci / AP

The Jerusalem Post reports: "Palestinians have frozen ties with the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem and American officials visiting the West Bank ... If Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump's senior adviser, or Jason Greenblatt, the administration's main peace envoy came to the West Bank, PA officials would not be able to meet with them."
Why it matters: A senior adviser to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said they're freezing communications because the State Department won't renew the certification of the Palestinian Liberation Organization's representative office in Washington, D.C. If the office is forced to close, it would almost certainly derail the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations being brokered by the Trump administration.

The details:

  • The PLO office is the de facto Palestinian embassy to the U.S. and was an important symbol for Palestinian diplomatic achievements.
  • The Palestinians say closing the office would be the equivalent to cutting diplomatic ties between the U.S. and the Palestinian Authority, and would be a proof the Trump administration can't be an honest broker in future peace talks.

Between the lines: There's been speculation that the Trump administration's refusal to certify the Palestinian office was a tactic to gain leverage over the Palestinians in the peace talks. That's false. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had to sign a letter of decertification regarding the PLO office because the law obliged him to notify Congress if the Palestinians are encouraging the International Criminal Court to prosecute Israel for alleged war crimes (which Palestinian President Abbas did in his UN speech in September).

  • Until now, the Palestinian actions and rhetoric regarding their relations with the U.S. had been mostly symbolic.
What we're hearing: Both sides are still talking to each other, and the office is still open — for now. Relations are not suspended yet. State Department officials tell us they're still in contact with Palestinian officials about the status of the PLO office, as well as about the administration's larger efforts to advance a lasting and comprehensive peace.

The bottom line: The Trump administration is sorting through its political and legal options to navigate this tense — and potentially disastrous — situation.

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How Macy's lost $11 billion in value in 3 years

Photo: Bebeto Matthews / AP

Former Macy's CEO Terry Lundgren takes in on the chin in a new feature in Bloomberg Businessweek, which quotes one retail consultant as saying that Lundgren's 2005 decision to double Macy's size with the purchase of May Department Stores, was "one of the top 5 worst decisions in retail history."

Why it matters: Amazon aside, Macy's has made numerous mistakes — like doubling down on department stores the same year Amazon Prime debuted — which have hastened the retailer's decline and put it in a position to see its profits halved over the past three years.

Macy's existential test, per Bloomberg: "The premise of a department store—to be able to buy a mattress and pajamas in the same place — is still valuable. But today that place is called Amazon, and there you can buy toothpaste, too, and have it all delivered in two days. So the question is, What do department stores have that Amazon doesn't?"

  • New CEO Jeff Gennette is a Macy's lifer who believes the answer to that question is Macy's sales staff.
  • "Macy's needs to turn its associates into Apple geniuses who can engage and have personal information about their customers on their iPads," Robin Lewis, who publishes a retail strategy newsletter, tells Businessweek. "If Gennette can get personal profiles on the 10 percent of his customers who account for over 50 percent of his business, he can market to people individually, as Amazon does."
Even if Macy's executes, more closures are likely ahead: If Macy's is to succeed by selling to its core base of shoppers, that will still require the firm to shrink.
  • There are more than 660 Macy's stores in America, but CFO Karen Hoguet says that only 245 would be "critical" assets if the company were to start over today.
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Uber concealed 2016 hack affecting 50 million customers

Photo: Jaap Arriens / Getty Images

Uber has parted ways with chief security officer Joe Sullivan and one of his deputies, over their handling of an October 2016 data breach in which hackers stole account information of 50 million customers and 7 million drivers, the company told Bloomberg.

The big deal: Instead of immediately disclosing the incident to customers and relevant government agencies, Uber paid the hackers $100,000 to delete the data and keep the incident quiet. Ex-Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, who was ousted in June, learned of the incident one month after it happened. The attack was discovered recently by an outside law firm hired by Uber's board to investigate the activities of Sullivan's security team.

New order: This is the latest attempt by new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi to set a new tone for the company, which has long been known to skirt regulations.

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Trump: AT&T merger "not good for the country"

Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

President Trump reiterated his stance against AT&T's merger with Time Warner on Tuesday, the day after the Justice Department sued to block the deal. While he didn't wade into litigation, he added, "personally, I've always felt that that was a deal that's not good for the country."

What's next: AT&T is expected to request an expedited trial to fight the Justice Department's lawsuit. The case has been assigned to Judge Richard Leon, a senior judge on the District of Columbia District Court, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, Reuters reports. Some observers see that as a good sign for the deal, as Republican-appointed judges are typically more business-friendly.