Over the course of my career, I’ve seen how Presidential focus and support of certain issues radically transforms not just how we approach those issues, but even how we understand and define them. With Race to the Top and ACA, for example, both transformed how talked about education and health, ushered in new organizations and innovations, new expectations for government, and different demands for what it means to do well.
I’ve also seen what happens when said support is pulled away.
Specifically, now in watching how the Obama administration’s focus on the intersection of a diversifying workforce and a rapidly increasingly tech sector — which brought us CTOs who would engage with companies, create events, share resources, and dedicate budgets to inclusion work — has all but disappeared. Now, in the shadow of a tech community afraid of being accused of liberal bias, what was once a bipartisan issue has become a “lefty progressive” issue by virtue of its focus on Black and Latinx people.
This is why Senator Elizabeth Warren’s new proposals for diversifying the recipients of start-up capital made me ecstatic. Up until now we have seen candidates propose solutions for STEM training, but none that have addressed the structural barriers to entry and leadership in the tech sector. As we at Code2040 have said to as many people as will listen, we are in the middle of the Digital Revolution. The rules of the economy have not shifted in this way since the Industrial Revolution, and the absence of a diverse set of architects for the new economy has already had punishing consequences for our democracy, economy, and communities.
The importance of diversifying the innovation economy cannot be overstated.
2040 is the beginning of the decade when Black and Latinx people will become the majority. As our demographics shift, our economy will suffer terrible consequences if Black and Latinx people are not building, creating, and leading the industry. We have to stop pretending that lack of a trained workforce is the only barrier to people entering it. Our companies have not been built for the management and success of diverse workplaces. Every best practice we see now is based on information for a workplace that is quickly ceasing to exist.
To get to true representation and inclusion we need accountability and transparency. As we move further into the 2020 election, we can use this time to put forth ideas for candidates. I’m going to focus on the EEO-1 because this legislative responsibility really falls between the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) and the Department of Labor. I see the most potential for workforce change here and these departments already serve multiple functions that if tweaked could have exponential impacts on an issue we desperately need to solve.
It cannot be overstated how these two departments will be in charge of preparing the country for the shift between an economy moving from industrial to digital production — all the while experiencing a demographic shift.
Here are three actions we suggest.
Overturn the federal statute prohibiting EEO-1 survey data from being available to the public
Silicon Valley finally acknowledged it had a diversity problem in 2014, when Google released their company data. Until then, advocates of this work were in the position of proving Silicon Valley’s diversity issues.
While Google sharing its numbers was a huge moment in the sector, we still rely on companies choosing which data to share (if they share at all) and when. Very few are willing to open their companies to scrutiny until their PR shops are robust enough to handle the blow back. However by requiring this information to be public, this creates an expectation and accountability. It would allow for diversity to be a regular topic of conversation with companies. Further, the data, by company for all companies, would provide folks on the ground with a clearer picture of what sector and subsectors are having the most problems. It also gives every day employees data they can use in change management conversations with senior leaders.
Expand the EEO-1 survey to include the top of funnel applicant rates and retention/attrition rates of full-time employees
The Kapor Center’s Tech Leavers study tells us that company attrition is costing tech $16B in employee replacement costs a year. This is not a healthy workforce.
By releasing attrition/retention rates and having the ability to segment the data by race and gender, we will understand the working conditions of Black and Latinx employees across the country in a much deeper way. If attrition rates are significantly higher in underrepresented communities it gives the EEOC and employees grounds for accountability. It will encourage companies to focus on more than the pipeline as the end-all-be-all of inclusion work. Anyone who has been working in the guts of this work for the last decade can tell you that the $1.2B tech has spent on this work has been a sieve through which robustly talented people have disappeared. We cannot leave this much talent on the table as the economy shifts in the way it is currently shifting.
Require that companies over 100 people exceeding 20% of its full-time staff in contractor services need to report EEO-1 type data on it’s independent contractors
Black and Latinx workforces make up 3%-5% of Silicon Valley’s workforce but 25% of its white collar subcontractors and 58% of blue collar subcontracted workers. You often hear stories of talent that is sitting in what is essentially full-time work but getting paid on a different scale without access to benefits, career mobility, or equity. There needs to be a forcing function that prevents employers from putting Black and Latinx employees on a “try-out” that disenfranchises their economic prospects. We enshrine the racial wage and wealth gaps in these choices and companies are allowed to make their fortunes, yet again, on underpaid Black and Latinx people.
There is more, there is always more, but we wanted to get us started on thinking broadly to ensure we make the changes at the pace our economy dictates. We want to see candidates address the structural barriers to entry and leadership.
The next version of the Department of Labor and EEOC will be overseeing one of the most monumental labor shifts in American history and it’s time our Presidential candidates have to start addressing that. How else will America be competitive in a global economy? It is time you shake the table. We have already delayed too long.