Jesse Jackson Says Government ‘Has A Role To Play’ In Increasing Diversity In Tech

Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter
Font Size:

Progressive activist Jesse Jackson says he thinks the Obama administration should intervene to help increase diversity in the tech industry, and that Americans should be given first priority in tech jobs over foreign workers.

“The government has a role to play,” Jackson told a USA Today editorial meeting Monday, about what he sees as a dearth of women and minorities in Silicon Valley.

The Rainbow/PUSH Coalition founder suggested that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission should also investigate employment contracts at tech firms. He plans to file freedom of information act requests with the agency to obtain employment records for tech firms that have yet to supply it, the USA Today reported.

Several tech giants, such as Google, Twitter, Facebook and Yahoo have disclosed their employee demographics. According to USA Today, men make up between 62 percent and 70 percent of employees at those companies, while between 88 percent and 91 percent of workers are white or Asian.

Jackson cited internal figures released by Twitter, which showed that its employees are only 3 percent Hispanic and 5 percent black — while making up 41 percent of tech consumers when Asians are included.

Closing that gap is “the next step in the civil rights movement,” Jackson told the editorial meeting. “The struggle for emancipation is my life. It’s my calling.”

Jackson also discussed tech firms’ use of work visas.

Before attending USA Today’s meeting, Jackson met with U.S. Labor Sec. Thomas Perez about H-1B visas, which are granted to foreign workers. Many tech titans, including Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, have pushed for more H-1B vias to shore up what they claim is a tech worker shortage.

But Jackson said he disagrees with that view.

“There’s no talent shortage. There’s an opportunity shortage,” he told USA Today staff, citing data which indicated that the American talent pool is deep enough to fill those jobs.

Follow Chuck on Twitter