02.17.17

Rep. Barbara Lee Calls for Diversity in the Tech Industry

Washington, D.C. - Today, Congresswoman Barbara Lee and members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) and Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) reintroduced a congressional resolution to address the persistent racial disparities in the technology industry. The resolution also calls for robust diversity and inclusion plans, strengthened partnerships with institutions of higher education serving students of color, and improve data collection on diversity in STEAM education and the technology sector.

The resolution is part of a larger Congressional push for greater diversity and inclusion within the tech sector. In 2015, the Congressional Black Caucus launched the CBC TECH 2020 Initiative, co-chaired by Diversity and Inclusion Task Force chairs: Congressman G. K. Butterfield and Congresswoman Barbara Lee.

“The jobs of the future are in technology. Sadly, communities of color are woefully underrepresented in Silicon Valley, which all too often treats diversity and inclusion as an afterthought. While the Trump Administration refuses to address issues of equity and diversity, I will not stop working to create greater opportunities for people of color – especially in the tech industry,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee. “I am proud to introduce this resolution with my colleagues in the Tri-Caucus to ensure the technology workforce mirrors the remarkable diversity of our nation. We will keep fighting to ensure inclusion in tech – all the way from the classroom to the C-Suite.”

CAPAC Chairwoman Judy Chu (CA-27) stated, “Our vibrant technology sector must ensure that minority communities are represented at all levels – including in top positions. While Asian Americans as a whole are represented within the industry, they continue to lack representation in senior executive level positions and on company boards. In addition, when we disaggregate the data for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, the results are even worse. Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders and Southeast Asians continue to face an opportunity gap in STEAM education, and are disproportionately underrepresented in all levels of the tech industry. As Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, I urge tech leaders to prioritize diversity and to build a workforce that better reflects the makeup of our nation.”

“We need to focus on creating an environment that not only funds STEAM courses and programs but creates a welcoming, supporting environment for boys and girls of color from a very young age to the pivotal ages of 6th and 7th grade when most girls begin to disengage from STEAM interests,” CHC Chairwoman Michelle Lujan Grisham (NM-01) said. “We also need to tear down stereotypes. As technology changes and intersects with almost every facet of our life, the opportunities to use tech and invent new tech within any area of interest are boundless.”

“The tech sector is a booming industry that offers thousands of good-paying American jobs,” said Congressman G. K. Butterfield (NC-01).  “Unfortunately, many of our best and brightest students are left out of these rewarding careers simply for lack of access and resources.  I applaud my colleague, Rep. Barbara Lee, for her continued leadership in clearing a path for students of color and women to gain access to this industry.  This resolution is a step in the right direction to ensuring true diversity in the tech space.”

“The Silicon Valley’s diverse population makes it one of the most vibrant regions of the country, but innovation should not be associated with barriers. We must expand opportunities for people of color in the tech sector and build the foundation for all students to receive a STEAM education. The next great tech founder cannot be left behind," said Congressman Ro Khanna (CA-17).

Congresswoman Robin Kelly (IL-02) said, "All too often girls and people of color are locked out of the high-paying tech jobs of today’s innovation economy. We can and must do more to empower all students with the skills and experience to compete in the 21st century global economy,”

“Workers skilled in technology, science, engineering, and mathematics are increasingly crucial to our global competitiveness. However, while Latino students are just as likely as their Caucasian counterparts to major in STEAM subjects, they are far less likely to earn a degree or certification due to financial, personal, or academic barriers. As a result, Latinos comprise just 10% of the STEAM workforce. We must do more to increase access, success, and inclusion for minorities pursuing careers in the technology sector. I am proud to join my colleague Congresswoman Barbara Lee in this resolution because our economy increasingly demands jobs in technology and STEAM fields,” said Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40).

The resolution has earned the support of teachers and organizations dedicated to expanding access to computer science and technology education for all.

“Information technology is a major driver of today’s and tomorrow’s economy, and jobs in this field should be available to everyone. Without greater access to computer science education in communities of color, minorities will be locked out of these opportunities. Austerity budgets and the diversion of funds to privatized alternatives have deprived public schools of adequate funding to ensure that all students get the education and skills to prepare for computer science jobs. We commend Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) for introducing a resolution calling for greater transparency and access to computer science education for all students. It’s a big step in the right direction for equity, diversity and greater access to the American dream,” said American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten.

"Diversity is the jet fuel we need to turbocharge the engine of innovation because without diversity of thought, experience, or background how do we spark the creativity needed to push beyond the status quo and create the next breakthrough?" said tech trade group ITI President and CEO Dean Garfield. "Technology is no longer a stand-alone industry because our innovations are driving every part of our economy to new heights. The jobs of the future will require these skills, and if we want our country to succeed, then we need to create as many opportunities for as many of our children to pursue a dream of computer science education. We applaud Congresswoman Lee’s commitment as a partner to ensure all students have this opportunity and commend her for reintroducing this resolution." 

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