White House Pushes For Tech Diversity in Its First Demo Day

White House Pushes For Tech Diversity in Its First Demo Day

THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION is joining the call for more diversity in tech.

Today, a battery of major tech companies, like Box and Amazon, as well as high-profile venture capital firms are announcing concrete commitments to increase and foster diversity in their ranks. The announcement is part of the White House’s first ever Demo Day, which kicks off later this afternoon and will showcase startups whose founders come from diverse backgrounds that are largely underrepresented in the tech community.

The goal of the day is to shed light on the fact that around only 1 percent of venture-capital backed startups are launched by African Americans, and only around 3 percent are founded by women. Now, with these new pledges, it seems tech leaders are finally getting serious about correcting that imbalance.

As part of the announcement, 40 venture capital firms, including Andreessen Horowitz and Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers, have promised to take an annual industry-wide survey, distributed by the National Venture Capital Association, which will track diversity within their individual firms, as well as within their portfolio companies. The inclusion of Kleiner Perkins is particularly noteworthy, given the accusations made by former junior partner Ellen Pao during their highly publicized gender discrimination trial earlier this year.

And yet, the gender and race gap in venture capital extends well beyond the walls of Kleiner Perkins, making women and minorities a scarcity in the upper ranks of top venture capital firms and the companies they fund. The results of the new NVCA survey will be made public, which should bring some much needed accountability to these firms.

A slew of tech companies have also agreed to take steps toward diversifying their staffs. Several—including Box, Amazon, and Microsoft—are adopting some form of the so-called Rooney Rule, which originated with the NFL, and requires companies to consider at least one diverse candidate for every senior executive position. Recently, both Facebook and Pinterest have adopted similar policies.

As part of this announcement, Facebook is launching a new Supplier Diversity program, which will increase the number of women and minority-owned businesses in Facebook’s supply chain. Meanwhile, Google is announcing its first Women’s Demo Day later this year. Indiegogo is implementing bias-monitoring software in hiring; ZestFinance has pledged to achieve gender parity in its workforce by 2016; and the list goes on.

Impressive as these commitments are, it’s important to note that we’ve seem similar promises in the past, with companies like Facebook launching internship programs for women and minority students. But they have led to little or no substantive change. Still, never before has the industry banded together in this way to take concrete steps to fix this persistent and pervasive problem, which they could never completely solve on their own.


1 Comment
  • adamjleonard
    Posted at 18:23h, 10 August

    RT @michaelhallTM: White House Pushes For Tech Diversity in Its First Demo Day: THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION is joining the call for… http://…