Author Archives: oclynchjr

Embracing a Remote Workforce Can be a Catalyst for Diversity

remote workplace

Civil unrest, systemic racial injustice, political turbulence, and a global pandemic has dramatically altered the way we live, work, socialize, connect, and move about the world. The disparity is mind-bending, and suddenly, unexpectedly, life has upended. And as the prevalence of COVID-19 continues to intensify, the vast majority of companies have embraced long-term remote operations.

They’re throwing away their playbooks, relearning schedules, defining work differently, and collaborating in new ways. Many leaders are discovering that working remotely can help their companies be more agile and even more productive. But there’s another way remote work can be a force for good that doesn’t get enough attention: It can widen our talent pools to be more inclusive and introduce much-needed diversity into our workforce. Now more than ever, it’s imperative to acknowledge and prioritize being present, taking accountability, and doing what we can to make a powerful stand – for equality and the greater good of humanity.

The shadow talent pool

There’s a shadow talent pool out there, a population of motivated, skilled, hard-working individuals for whom the job market is out of reach simply because of circumstances beyond their control—geography, a medical condition, or a spouse’s military job, for example. These individuals have the desire to work, but they lack the means to get to an office each day. By pivoting to a remote work model, you’re essentially opening your workplace to an untapped resource and giving yourself the advantage of hiring based on merit, tenacity, and skill instead of proximity.

Before the pandemic took hold and all non-essential travel was put on pause, my company hosted regular meetups for our employees throughout the U.S., the U.K., and India. These informal get-togethers gave hundreds of remote workers the chance to meet each other in real life, outside of company chat rooms.

I attended many of these gatherings to share company updates and news, hear concerns, and answer the questions that tend to crop up in a distributed work model. Invariably, I’d have someone walk up to me during lunch or a networking session. Sometimes they’d have tears in their eyes, sometimes merely a warm smile. Their message was almost always the same: They wanted to express how being able to work anywhere had changed their lives.

I’ve heard stories from stay-at-home moms who were reluctant or unable to place their children in daycare to get back into the job market. I’ve heard from military spouses who couldn’t hold a steady job due to frequent moves. I’ve listened to caretakers who needed extra income but couldn’t leave a disabled person home alone. They all came bearing a message of gratitude that they could finally put their skills to use.

Reap the benefits of a diverse workforce

I want to make it very clear: This isn’t some charitable way of giving back to your community. You are going to benefit from hiring them. Pulling from this shadow talent pool, rather than limiting new hires to people within commuting distance, allows you:

  • Access unique skills and experience. Stay-at-home moms re-entering the workforce are some of my best employees. A mom accustomed to managing a household spends her day prioritizing tasks, juggling multiple schedules, settling conflicts, and maximizing her time. Many stay-at-home moms are well-educated women who stepped away from lucrative careers to raise children, but they’re half as likely to get a call-back for a job interview than other candidates. With women-led companies yielding triple the returns of S&P 500 companies, it’s time to examine our misconceptions.

    Military families are another overlooked demographic. I can’t count the number of military spouses who’ve told me that they put their careers second to their partner’s. Statistically, these individuals hold a higher education than their peers yet are chronically underemployed. Working for a company that offers flexible schedules and steady employment has given our employees who are military spouses their power and independence back—and that doesn’t change even if they have to relocate again.

  • Add diversity to your workforce. A wide array of perspectives is essential for innovation and creativity. Expanding your potential job candidates to include remote employees could empower an underrepresented group of people while providing better insights into the needs of your diverse customer base.

    Remote work is a natural equalizer. Remember, diversity doesn’t stop at the hiring process. Having a diverse and inclusive workplace means creating a work environment where all voices and opinions are given equal weight. In a remote workplace, where the quality of work trumps time logged in a cubicle, workers are evaluated on what they produce, leaving no room for bias, intentional or otherwise.

  • Overcome your geographical limitations. My company’s main headquarters is located in Portland, Oregon. It’s an expensive city in which to live. In fact, there’s a growing migration to the suburbs as people grow hip to the fact that location isn’t everything. People want affordable homes, and they want to stay closer to their families and hometowns. You’ll see this echoed in other tech-heavy cities, like Seattle or San Francisco. The talent pools in major cities are shrinking, and if you don’t take steps to expand that talent pool, you’re not going to stay competitive. When we were located in an office building, we had a hard time maintaining the staff needed to provide Spanish-language coverage 24/7/365. Once we started to recruit from Texas, everything changed. Not only were we immediately able to fulfill our robust Spanish and bilingual coverage needs, but we also increased our Latinx population at work.

Remote companies are set up to be more diverse, inclusive, and equitable than traditional co-located offices because of their model. When a company can recruit, hire, and retain the best talent—not the closest—the talent pool is limitless. My company employs hundreds of remote employees who include stay-at-home moms, military spouses, people in rural communities, and people whose health issues keep them from commuting. We’re growing every year, and our customer feedback is overwhelmingly positive. I’m proud of my team; open up your remote workforce, and I guarantee you will be too.

Anthony Mackie Says Marvel Movies Need to Do Better About Diversity

Anthony Mackie has played Falcon seven times in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, starting with 2014’s “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” In an interview for Variety‘s Actors on Actors issue, Mackie talked to Daveed Diggs about the need for more diversity in Disney’s Marvel movies.

The conversation started out with both actors talking about their most recent projects on TV. Diggs is the star of the TNT drama “Snowpiercer.” Mackie appeared in two Netflix TV shows in the last year: The second season of the sci-fi series “Altered Carbon” and in a stand-alone episode of “Black Mirror,” called “Striking Vipers.”

“What are the ways that you find yourself interacting with the moment?” Diggs asked Mackie about Black Lives Matter. “I find a lot of my interactions are just trying to make things better in the gigs I have in front of me — how can I affect different kinds of representation? What is the thing you feel compelled to do? What is your participation in this moment?”

Mackie responded by mentioning the new Marvel TV series for Disney Plus that he’s starring in. “When ‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’ comes out, I’m the lead,” Mackie said. “When ‘Snowpiercer’ came out, you’re the lead. We have the power and the ability to ask those questions. It really bothered me that I’ve done seven Marvel movies where every producer, every director, every stunt person, every costume designer, every PA, every single person has been white.”

“We’ve had one Black producer; his name was Nate Moore,” Mackie continued. “He produced ‘Black Panther.’ But then when you do ‘Black Panther,’ you have a Black director, Black producer, a Black costume designer, a Black stunt choreographer. And I’m like, that’s more racist than anything else. Because if you only can hire the Black people for the Black movie, are you saying they’re not good enough when you have a mostly white cast?”

Mackie spoke about what changes he’d like to see in hiring practices. “My big push with Marvel is hire the best person for the job,” Mackie said. “Even if it means we’re going to get the best two women, we’re going to get the best two men. Fine. I’m cool with those numbers for the next 10 years. Because it starts to build a new generation of people who can put something on their résumé to get them other jobs. If we’ve got to divvy out as a percentage, divvy it out. And that’s something as leading men that we can go in and push for.”


Beta CareerTown App Now Available on Android Mobile Devices

career town on google play

The beta version of the Career Town app has now been published and is distributed on Android mobile devices.
If you have an Android mobile device, please download the new mobile version of the Career Town virtual career fair app.
Just go to Play Store on your Android device and search “CareerTown” and the app should show allowing you to download.
This “beta version”  of the mobile application has different functionalities from the desktop version of Career Town with only a few virtual events available as we gradually test roll this out.

From Apple to Facebook, Tech’s New Diversity Pledges Follow Years of Failure

tech diversity pledge

Big U.S. tech companies have not hired many Black employees, especially in technical and leadership roles.

Spurred by nationwide protests and calls to end systemic racism after the police killing of George Floyd, Google, Microsoft Corp. and Facebook Inc. recently vowed to increase the diversity of their workforce. If this sounds depressingly familiar, that’s because it is. The industry has been making similar pledges for years, with little progress.

The world’s most valuable tech companies are still predominantly white and male, according to a Bloomberg News analysis of diversity reports published by Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple Inc. and Inc. Photos of Black workers feature prominently in these reports but remain mostly absent from management ranks and are underrepresented in technical roles. Photos of leadership ranks pictured here are based on named executive officers listed in the companies’ latest annual proxy statements.

Big Tech's Diversity Push Makes Very Slow Progress

If tech companies really want to increase representation, they must do more, Black employees and corporate diversity experts say. That means hiring diverse talent into higher levels of management and creating a workplace that is inclusive enough to retain people of color after they join, said Tina Shah Paikeday, an executive at consulting firm Russell Reynolds Associates who helps companies hire executives to run diversity and inclusion programs.

“Tech values the notion that innovation comes from a diverse perspective, but it’s been more of an academic thought,” she said.

There's a Lot of Room at the Top for Black People


Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook launched a $100 million Racial Equity and Justice Initiative earlier this month. “To create change, we have to reexamine our own views and actions in light of a pain that is deeply felt but too often ignored,” Cook wrote in a letter to employees.

V2 Tech Diversity Apple
Apple’s leadership team: Tim Cook, from left, Kate Adams, Angela Ahrendts (left Apple last year), Luca Maestri, Deirdre O’Brien, and Jeff Williams
Source: Bloomberg (3); Getty Images (2); Apple (1)

The percentage of Black employees in technical roles at Apple in the U.S. remained unchanged in 2018 from 2014 at 6%, according to the company’s most recent diversity report. Apple is the only tech company among the big five not to release 2019 diversity figures yet. Half of Apple’s overall U.S. workforce was White, while Asian and Hispanic employees made up 23% and 14% of total employees, respectively. Black workers were 9% of the total. Last week, Apple’s chief of diversity and inclusion, Christie Smith, left the company.

Message From the Top


Google CEO Sundar Pichai said last week that the company will improve Black representation at senior levels and increase leadership representation of all underrepresented groups by 30% by 2025. He committed to post all jobs externally and ramp up investment in cities outside the Bay Area, while creating a talent liaison within each product and functional area to retain workers from underrepresented groups.

Tech Diversity Alphabet
Google’s leadership team: Sundar Pichai, from left, Ruth Porat, David Drummond, Larry Page, and Sergey Brin. (Drummond retired from Alphabet earlier this year. Page and Brin also stepped down from executive roles last year).
Source: Bloomberg (4); Getty Images (1)

Just 2.4% of tech employees at the company were Black in the U.S., according to Google’s latest data, up from 1.5% six years earlier. Statistics on the company’s total workforce paint a similar picture. David Drummond, a veteran Black executive, retired from Google parent Alphabet Inc. earlier this year.

Google Is Becoming Less White, But Not Much More Black


Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos took to Instagram this month to defend Amazon’s decision to place a Black Lives Matter banner on the company’s homepage. He also pledged $10 million for racial and social justice organizations. “We stand in solidarity with our Black employees, customers, and partners, and are committed to helping build a country and a world where everyone can live with dignity and free from fear,” the e-commerce company said in a blog post.

V2 Tech Diversity Amazon
Amazon’s leadership team: Jeff Bezos, from left, Jeffrey Blackburn, Brian Olsavsky, Andrew Jassy, Jeffrey Wilke
Source: Bloomberg (3); Getty Images (1); Amazon (1)

Just 8% of Amazon’s U.S. managers were Black last year, while 59% were White, according to the company. Unlike its big tech rivals, Amazon includes all managers in its leadership diversity data.

Management Moves


Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company would give $10 million to social justice organizations in a June 1 post. “The violence Black people in America live with today is part of a long history of racism and injustice,” he said. “I know that $10 million can’t fix this. It needs sustained, long term effort.” Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg also said the company would pledge $200 million for Black-owned businesses and committed to have 30% more Black people in Facebook leadership positions by 2025.

V2 Tech Diversity Facebook
Facebook’s leadership team: Mark Zuckerberg, from left, Sheryl Sandberg, David Wehner, Jennifer Newstead, and Mike Schroepfer
Source: Bloomberg (4); Facebook (1)

Just 1.5% of Facebook employees in technical roles in the U.S. were Black in 2019, up from 1% in 2014, according to the social media company’s diversity report. Among senior leadership, 3.1% is Black.

Facebook's Technical Makeup Has Changed


Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella pledged to double the number of Black employees in senior and leadership positions by 2025, in an email sent to employees Tuesday and posted publicly. He also said the company will add $150 million to its diversity and inclusion investment. “Seeing injustice in the world calls us all to take action, as individuals and as a company,” he said in an earlier blog post. “We cannot episodically wake up when a new tragedy occurs. A systemic problem requires a holistic response.”

V2 Tech Diversity Microsoft
Microsoft’s leadership team: Satya Nadella, from left, Jean-Philippe Courtois, Amy Hood, Peggy Johnson, and Brad Smith
Source: Bloomberg (5)

According to Microsoft’s 2019 diversity report, 3.3% of its tech employees were Black in the U.S., up from 2.4% in 2016. More than 70% of its overall workforce was male, down slightly from 2016.

Not Even a Percentage Point of Progress


Actor-Rapper Tip “T.I.” Harris, Kevin Hart Producing Partner Jeff Clanagan Hit Hollywood Diversity Efforts, ‘Gone With The Wind’

America Protests , Los Angeles, United States - 09 Jun 2020

Actor and rapper Tip “T.I.” Harris and Jeff Clanagan, Kevin Hart’s business partner, represented the entertainment perspective in a virtual panel Thursday examining issues across society and culture raised by the George Floyd protests.

“There is no perfect revolution,” Harris said. But even if ultimate outcomes don’t match “what we have in our heads,” the key is to continue “attacking the financial base of what we consider this power of oppression.”

Clanagan, president of Hart’s Laugh Out Loud and CEO of Codeblack Films, said the recent Gone With the Wind episode shows how much progress is yet to be made. HBO Max this week temporarily pulled the 1939 film off its streaming service after objections were raised about its depictions of slavery, among other issues. “But the next day, Gone with the Wind becomes the No. 1 movie on Amazon,” Clanagan said. “So what does that say to America and the world? HBO Max did the right thing and took the right step, but the hunger for that media is there.”

‘Gone With The Wind’ Returns To HBO Max With Contextual Spotlight On Film’s Denial Of Slavery’s Horrors & Black Characters

The death of Floyd, who was Black, in May at the hands of a white police officer has set off large-scale protests across the country and started to set off significant changes in organizations and many facets of modern life. The panel, called a “Town Hall for Change,” was convened online by trade show organizer Advertising Week. Other speakers included Ndaba Mandela,  founder and chairman of the Mandela Institute for Humanity; Marc Morial, CEO of the National Urban League; and Jayanta Jenkins, co-founder of advertising collective Saturday Morning. Monique Nelson, CEO of UWG, the oldest multicultural media agency in the U.S., served as moderator.

Keisha Lance Bottoms, major of Atlanta, appeared for a few minutes at the start of the event before logging off, citing a busy schedule. She addressed the systemic glitches in this week’s Georgia primary vote, which have raised concerns about November. “As unorganized and frustrating as it was, what was not lost on me was that people were showing up to vote,” she said. “They were willing to stand in line for six to eight hours to exercise their right to vote. I think that’s what we will see going into November.”

Clanagan emphasized the need to dismantle the historically “racist structure” of Hollywood, complementing recent gains in on-screen diversity with real change inside studios.

“Studios are willing to pay for [Black-created] content because it generates revenue for the company but they’re not willing to share the power in the boardroom,” he said. “We don’t control anything. We don’t control distribution, we don’t control marketing. We’re not making decisions. And yet, the insensitivity that a lot of studios have, they don’t understand the culture, there’s no one inside. So what do they do? They go hire a VP of diversity. A token person at the studio, you know, who can’t really make a lot of changes. A lot of times, the VP of diversity is not sitting in the room where a lot of decisions are made.”

Unity will be a key priority as things move forward, he added. “We have to work as a unit. We have to speak up and now’s the time,” he said. “I’m really encouraged by black, brown, white coming together and vocalizing what’s going on. But we have to keep that going. It can’t be a hashtag, social-media cause and then a month later we don’t even think about.”

Kerry Washington talks diversity in Hollywood, “We’re still centering whiteness”

kerry washington

When it comes to diversity in Hollywood, Kerry Washington says there is still work that needs to be done and she opened up about it on Tuesday’s episode of the Hollywood, The Sequel podcast.

“When we say that we’re committed to diversity — it’s diverse from what? We’re still centering whiteness as the most important thing and inviting diversity around that or when we talk about inclusivity, there’s still an in and an out,” the Little Fires Everywhere star explained. “We’re still centering certain kinds of people and maybe in tiny fractions allowing other people to the table.”

“There’s just so much of it that needs to reexamined,” she said adding that she hopes “a lot of good” comes out of that reexamination and “that we can see each other, and have courage to make room for each other.”

Washington also shared her optimistic hopes for what progress in realm of diversity would look like in the future.

“I think what people are realizing is that it’s not enough to just not be racist — that because our institution were built in the fabric of racism, because our country was born with Black Americans being designated a fraction of a human being — it’s not enough to just not be racist, we have to be actively anti-racist and for that desire to come from a deep understanding that we all deserve full rights of humanity,” the 42-year-old actress said.

Yes, all lives matter, but accepting to be in an anti-racist society, we affirm that Black lives matter. I think people are finally understand that and our institutions need to understand that — not just interpersonal relationships,” she continued. “It’s important we’re having these conversations at our dinner tables, in our class rooms and in our highest systems of government.”

Why are Black and Latino people still kept out of the tech industry?

black latino tech

It seemed like tech was turning a corner.

For years, the industry’s giants had resisted calls to disclose workforce diversity data, making it difficult to pinpoint precisely how much whiter and more male Silicon Valley was than the population at large. But Google’s 2014 decision to publish the racial and gender breakdown of its workforce appeared to signal a sea change.

The numbers revealed an industry dominated by white and Asian men. Of nearly 50,000 employees at Google in 2014, 83% were men, 60% were white, and 30% were Asian. Just 2.9% were Latino, and 1.9% Black. A year later, as other major Silicon Valley companies began releasing their own diversity numbers, Google announced it would dedicate $150 million to increasing diversity at the company.

In the years since, Google has more than doubled its workforce but made minimal progress toward a more representative one. The numbers are similar across the industry.

This lack of diversity — as of May, Google reported that 5.9% of its employees and contractors are Latino and 3.7% are Black—extends up through the ranks of top executives, entrepreneurs who found companies, and venture capitalists who invest in startups.

The industry, which prides itself on agility, has failed to move the needle on workplace diversity. The net result is an entire sector of the economy — the sector that has created the most wealth in California in the last 10 years, minted billionaires, and reshaped the San Francisco Bay Area in its own image — that is functionally barely open to Black and Latino people.

Tech leaders have often pointed to a “pipeline problem” to explain away the lack of Black hiring and promotion. But in 2016, 12% of graduates with a degree in science, technology, engineering or math were Black, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Even the graduating class of computer science majors at Stanford, Silicon Valley’s elite training ground, is more diverse than the companies just down the road from campus.

Whether you set targets based on the national population or STEM graduates, few tech companies come close, said Freada Kapor Klein, a founding partner at the venture capital firm Kapor Capital who’s been advocating for increasing diversity in tech for decades.

“There are a lot of hard and fast numbers you could use to set the goalposts,” Kapor Klein said. “But [tech companies] aren’t even in the parking lot — they’re so far from the field they need binoculars to see them.”

The problem, in Kapor Klein’s estimation, is not one of education but of access and support. A number of Black tech professionals agree that the industry’s reliance on personal relationships to grant access and opportunity is partly to blame, producing a network effect that militates against Black and Latino inclusion.

The origin of the tech ecosystem — venture capital funds — typifies the problem.

Kanyi Maqubela, managing partner of Kindred Ventures, said that the industry’s reliance on personal relationships perpetuates a system of gate-keeping that is almost designed to keep investors like him out.

Black investors make up less than 1% of venture capitalists. And it’s a small world to begin with. In 2018, just 713 individual investors at large venture funds, defined as having more than $250 million under management, had the power to lead deals, sit on boards, and write checks to invest in companies, according to an Information survey. Of that group, 11 were Latino and seven were Black.

A number of premier firms — such as Sequoia, Benchmark, Greylock, and Kleiner Perkins — have no Black partners at all.

The large pools of money that invest in venture capital funds as limited partners will trust new venture capitalists to handle their money only if more established investors they’ve worked with in the past will vouch for them — and more established Black investors are few and far between.

When a Black VC goes out to try to raise a new fund from those limited partners, Maqubela said, “They’re taking all the demographic patterns they know and applying them purely against you.”

“I was fortunate to have attracted or recruited a number of mentors who decided to coach me and vouch for me, almost all white men,” Maqubela said, “so when I went out to raise a fund I had over a dozen people talking and making calls on my behalf as a way of indicating that I was in the club.”

That barrier makes it difficult for Black VCs to establish strong track records of investing large amounts of money and generating large returns for their LPs on their own. BLCK VC, a group founded in 2018 as a support and organizing network, has the stated mission of increasing the number of Black VCs from 200 to 400 by 2024, in an industry with nearly 4,000 active investors nationwide.

“I’ve spoken to a black VC who could run circles around me intellectually on finance, product, you name it, but didn’t know you needed strong references to go to LPs credibly,” Maqubela said. “It is a testament to the structural nature of how venture capital is broken.”

This system has made for a venture capital landscape that is less diverse than more mainstream financial institutions. Six percent of investment bankers and nearly 9% of financial consultants are Black, compared with less than 1% for venture capital, according to a 2017 Harvard Business School study.

The issues in venture capital persist throughout the industry.

The percentage of Black employees at major tech companies remains low: 2.9% at Salesforce, 3.8% at Facebook, 4.4% at Slack, 4.5% at Microsoft, and 6% at Twitter. Lyft and Uber’s workforces are 9% and 9.3% Black, respectively, but that skews heavily toward their lower-paid operations teams. Apple’s workforce is 9% Black, but that includes retail employees. Amazon, which employs nearly 800,000 people around the world, mostly in its low-wage warehouse and logistics jobs, has a workforce that’s 26.5% Black as a whole, but only 8.3% Black among managers.

The number of Black people in leadership or highly compensated technical roles is lower still. For instance, at Google, only 2.6% of leadership and 2.4% of technical workers are Black. At Facebook, Black people make up only 3.1% of those in leadership roles and 1.5% of those in technical roles.

Fewer than 1% of startup founders who receive venture funding are Black. And with few Black investors sitting on their boards, the percentage of Black top executives at major tech companies is even lower.

The problem is not a lack of qualified candidates, but the companies’ unwillingness to open the door, said Bari Williams, the head of legal at Human Interest, a financial services startup.

Companies are reluctant to broaden the schools they recruit from to include historically Black colleges and universities, said Williams, who advocates for diversity in Silicon Valley. “It always comes down to some semblance of seeing it as lowering the bar,” she said. Williams, who used to work at StubHub and Facebook, said she’s seen candidates get passed over because they attended an HBCU.

Many tech companies also rely heavily on referrals from current employees, a system that is not unusual in business but which can reinforce the network effects. “Who do you typically refer? People that look and act and dress and speak and do the same things that you do,” Williams said.

Once hired, employees have to overcome further hurdles to success. People in senior roles “want to mentor and groom people who look like them or remind them of themselves,” Williams said. “So you don’t have somebody who’s going to advocate for you.”

The result is that even when Black and Latino people do get in the door, they often find themselves looking for the exit before long, and turnover remains high.

“Tech’s approach to diversity the last few years has been like filling the bathtub with the drain open,” said Kapor Klein, who co-wrote a 2017 study on the topic. She said companies need to do the hard work of inspecting everything from hiring and investment practices to who runs the HR department to root out practices that alienate and exclude underrepresented groups. “If they’re biased, fix ‘em,” she said.

Since the national protests over the killing of George Floyd in police custody sparked an examination of structural racism across American society, a number of venture capital funds and tech companies have announced initiatives to readdress the lack of Black and Latino representation.

The Japanese tech giant SoftBank, which has made waves in the tech world with its $100-billion Vision Fund in recent years, announced a $100-million Opportunity Fund in early June to invest exclusively in entrepreneurs of color. The same day, Andreessen Horowitz, a leading venture fund in Silicon Valley with $14 billion under management, announced a similar fund that began with $2.2 million from the firm’s partners but is slated to grow with more contributions.

A number of companies have put out statements of solidarity with the protests, though some have been at odds with the companies’ business and hiring practices to date. Microsoft and Apple have committed to focusing on hiring and retention of Black employees, with Apple pledging $100 million to support the effort. And many companies have committed to supporting racial justice nonprofits or Black-owned businesses, with Google pledging more than $175 million and Facebook and Amazon donating $10 million to racial justice nonprofits. Facebook also announced that it would dedicate $100 million to supporting Black-owned businesses this year, through a mix of grants and free advertising credits on its platform, and commit to give $100 million of business to Black-owned suppliers each year, among other efforts.

Black tech professionals, who have seen waves of commitment come and go, say they are waiting to see whether these pledges result in concrete changes in hiring, mentorship and investment.

Brentt Baltimore, a senior associate at the Los Angeles venture fund Greycroft and a member of BLCK VC, said that he and his peers in the group have been inundated in recent weeks with questions from people across the industry asking how to do better.

Baltimore said that he’s glad more people are talking about the problem, but that what’s really needed is “boots on the ground”: consistent money, time and leadership dedicated to actively bringing more Black tech professionals and investors into the industry.

Without that, he said, “I don’t see much structural change.”

Anne Chow, CEO Of AT&T Business: On The Journey To Inclusion And Diversity By 2030

ann chow

By 2060 women of diverse color will be 50% of the population: Anne Chow, the CEO of AT&T, on how we accelerate diversity and inclusion by 2030.

Even the words diversity and inclusion are dangerous as they sound like-gating. We need to talk about words like belonging. Inclusion in the future is about companies going to where employees are, and not having employees integrate into your organization. Employees need to drive positive change in periods of seismic shifts in demographics, and this should be easy; the evidence is right in front of us. Anne Chow, the CEO of AT&T Business, talked to us about four critical steps needed to change the focus of senior leaders with or before any of these seismic changes transpire.

STEP ONE: Flat facts are undeniable, so lean on them. Any board should see the flat facts about the labor force before they make decisions about the composition of their boards because it cuts down the desire to move to emotional levels of response.

STEP TWO: Ask where are you today as an organization? That view of where a company is today on its’ overall hiring and promoting behaviors will tell you very quickly if you have broken rungs and or hard glass ceilings. In an increasingly cross-cultured world, seeing these hard failings should encourage you to recognize the need to get qualified and culturally rich candidates direct P&L experience. We cannot improve our perceptions of others unless we allow them to own a metric that measures success.

STEP THREE: Be honest with yourself and where you need to be. Ask yourself how to build a personal support network of those with similar experiences. AT&T has recognized this, and it has a network of networks inside AT&T to get support working for diverse communities. Programs like this started 50 years ago, and new ones are popping up today as the cost of creating them is almost zero. People belong to multiple tribes at the same time, so belonging is vital as people have various dimensions. In effect, having many moments of connectedness across these support networks builds the skills, knowledge, and confidence needed. Anne created one of AT&T’s fastest-growing Employee Networks AT&T Women of Business, which has 4,800 members across 27 countries.

STEP FOUR Build from the bottom up as a living organism We need to ask ourselves if the organization who I am and what I want to become in a new world of near-perfect information about companies, cultures, and diverse representation at management levels. We should be asking ourselves if the company fits you. Technology has awakened our expectations, so decisions about where we work with and what that company represents about inclusion and diversity should be part of a personal formula.

If we do not make these fundamental observations and decisions on entry or even at the selection point, it might take another 90 years before we get to the right places for women, let alone multi-colored women. As candidates, we have choices to make too.

Anne also talks about the need for the whole employee base to be part of this culture shift. She points to the idea of 100% of the employee base being committed to doing the right thing. Podcasts like this should be shared with colleagues as we all bear responsibility for building work environments that generate a constant sense of belonging.

This sense of belonging has and will remain a vital element of strength for corporations and their employees as we battle the current experiences and consequences of Covid-19. Anne Chow has held leadership positions in engineering, sales, marketing, customer care, international operations, product management, and strategic planning before becoming CEO of AT&T business. In 2005, she played a crucial role in the AT&T/SBC merger with overall responsibility for the Sales and Marketing integration planning effort.

Anne holds a Master’s Degree in Business Administration with Distinction from The Johnson School at Cornell University, as well as a Bachelor of Science Degree and Master’s of Engineering Degree in Electrical Engineering from Cornell University. She is also a graduate of the pre-college division of the Juilliard School of Music.

The Confederate Flag Didn’t Bother Bubba Wallace…Until It Did.

Bubba Wallace flag

Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr., the only black driver in NASCAR’s top racing series, has drawn widespread attention and acclaim for his principled stand that got the Confederate flag banned from races in a largely white sport.

Yet, after years of often quiet acceptance of the sport’s “racist label,” as he put it, nobody was more surprised than his mother that he had become a central figure in the sports world’s upheaval regarding race.

“I was shocked,” his mother, Desiree Wallace, said in a telephone interview. “I said, ‘Wait a minute, is this my son? The one who doesn’t really care about anything but getting in the car and driving?’ I’m tripping that he’s gone from being a racecar driver to becoming a daggone activist. Who does that? Not Bubba.”

Yet a series of events, particularly the killing of a black man, Ahmaud Arbery, while he was jogging in a predominantly white neighborhood in Georgia, flipped a switch in Wallace, he and those who know him said.

Unlike other African-American athletes now speaking out in a tide of conversation and debate around race and denouncing police brutality, Wallace has found his voice in a sport surrounded by white peers. Many have supported him, but others have stayed silent.

ImageBubba Wallace wears an “I Can’t Breath/Black Lives Matter” T-shirt during the national anthem before a race at Atlanta Motor Speedway this month.
Credit…Chris Graythen/Getty Images

For a long time, Wallace, 26, tried to focus solely on racing and not disturb the culture of a sport whose fan base remains predominantly white and conservative. From the time he first started racing a souped-up go-kart at age 9, his main concern was simply going fast and crossing the finish line first.

Wallace, who was born in Mobile, Ala., but grew up in the heart of North Carolina’s NASCAR country, would show up at races with his father, Darrell Sr., who is white, and sometimes his mother, who is black. Wallace put on his helmet and blended in.

“I never saw color and never thought I was treated differently because I was black,” Wallace said in a telephone interview. “I was way too young to understand what a trailblazer was or a pioneer was.”

When he was about 13, though, a driver’s parent and a race official called him a racial slur, prompting Desiree Wallace to sit her son down for a serious talk.

He asked her what the slur meant.

“Those are ignorant people, Bub,” Desiree Wallace recalled telling him, using the short version of the nickname his sister, Brittany, gave him when he was a baby.


Wallace, foreground, racing in a go-kart as a young boy.
Credit…Richard Petty Motorsports

She went on to explain: “You don’t use violence and you don’t fight them when they say that to you. You get them back by winning. You earn their respect by winning.”

Still, Wallace’s mother made clear the challenges ahead.

“You’re in a white man’s sport and not everything is going to be easy for you,” she told Bubba.

He said, “OK, mom. I understand, mom,” and headed to his room to play a video game.


Wallace celebrating a victory with his parents, Desiree and Darrell Sr.
Credit…Richard Petty Motorsports

As Wallace made headway in the sport, it was clear NASCAR saw his potential to broaden its pool of competitors and its audience.

When he was 16 years old in 2010, he earned a spot in NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity development program.The racing academy is headed by Max Siegel, a lawyer and former president of global operations for Dale Earnhardt Inc. It serves as a training ground for the most promising women and minorities in the sport.

Wallace still had braces on his teeth when he showed up with a level of determination that immediately impressed Siegel, who recalled this week that Wallace “was the entire package” because he was smart and showed immense talent.


Wallace, center, after winning at Greenville-Pickens Speedway in South Carolina, becoming the youngest driver ever to win at the track. 
Credit…Max Siegel Incorporated

“He’s had a maturity about him from the day I met him,” said Siegel, who became chief executive of USA Track & Field in 2012 but still runs the Drive for Diversity development team, Revolution Racing. “He’s never compromised himself as a person, good, bad or indifferent, and he’s got a lot of authenticity to him.”

Siegel said Wallace began to understand the extra burden he carried because he represented an entire community of people who were underrepresented in the sport, and he took that role seriously.

Wallace graduated from the development program, and in 2013 he became the first black driver since Wendell Scott in 1963 to win a race in one of NASCAR’s national series. In 2017, he signed on to drive the famed No. 43 Chevrolet full time for Richard Petty Motorsports in NASCAR’s top series. Every day, he said, he batted away racist comments from the sport’s fans on social media.

The critics nagged him so much that he was moved to pin a message on his Twitter page reminding everyone that he will be known as “the black driver” for years because there is only one African-American athlete at NASCAR’s top level. “Embrace it, accept it and enjoy the journey,” he said.


Wallace got into racing through his father but they have a rocky relationship.
Credit…Richard Petty Motorsports

Wallace gained stature with the Revolution Racing team.
Credit…Richard Petty Motorsports

He has tried to enjoy that journey without raising alarm at the lack of diversity among fans or the Confederate battle flags they have often displayed in his presence.

“The only flag that mattered to us was the checkered flag,” Desiree Wallace said, adding that the Confederate symbols never bothered her at the track because she was more worried about Bubba staying safe during races.

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Recent Changes Sparked by the Protests

Updated June 22, 2020

Ryan Blaney, a top NASCAR driver and Bubba’s close friend, said they often mingled with fans on race weekends, heading to the infield of tracks where campers are known to party all night.

They would challenge fans to beer pong competitions and play what Wallace called “redneck Jenga,” in which people try to dismantle a stack of two-by-fours without toppling them. The drivers would laugh and sign autographs, while the fans’ Confederate flags flew atop motor homes and pickups.

Yet Wallace said he has struggled at times. In the back of his mind, he understands that to keep his job in the top series he must start winning.

In 88 starts, Wallace has had only two top-five finishes and six top-10 finishes. On Monday, he said being winless since 2017 “has been eating at me every day.” Also, his team, as well as many others in NASCAR, has struggled to secure lasting sponsorships.

Darrell Waltrip, a retired three-time NASCAR Cup series champion, said performance is crucial for everyone in NASCAR, but that it is especially important for Wallace, who wants to use his stardom to make an impact outside of the sport.

“I don’t care who you are or what you’re talking about,” Waltrip said, “If you want people to keep listening to you, you have to to run up front with the big boys and can’t just be in the middle of the pack. You’ve got to perform to have any credibility in any sport.”

That burden, Wallace said, has only grown heavier as his life has grown more complicated.

Last year, he admitted publicly that he has battled depression for many years. Desiree Wallace said her son was especially bothered in 2016 when she and Darrell Sr. separated and later divorced. The parting was acrimonious, she said, and Bubba Wallace’s relationship with his father has been rocky since then.

Part of the reason for his tears after he finished second in the Daytona 500 in 2018, Desiree Wallace said, was that Bubba’s father wasn’t celebrating with them at the track. That finish is still his best result in the top series.

While Wallace has been mindful, he said, of upsetting current and potential sponsors, his perspective changed last month, when one of his cousins shared the video of Arbery’s killing on Instagram.

Wallace said he stayed up that night to watch the video again and again. The idea seared into his brain, he said, that a black man, one who was just about his age, could be gunned down on a jog by white people who appeared to hunt him. He said he can still hear the gunshots in his head.

The death broke his heart, he said, and opened his mind to the urgency of fighting for racial justice.

Not long after came the case of George Floyd, a black man who died May 25 after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on the back of his neck for several minutes. Wallace sent a group text to other top drivers, telling them he was frustrated that so many of them had been silent about it as people protested around the nation.


Wallace adorned his car with #BlackLivesMatter and other symbols during nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd.
Credit…Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

He told them that he understood everyone had to be careful of what they say publicly but that it was more important to speak out about injustices.

“Our sport has always had somewhat of a racist label to it,” he wrote to those drivers, he said in an interview on Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s podcast earlier this month. “NASCAR — everybody thinks redneck, Confederate flags, racists. And I hate it. I hate it because I know NASCAR is so much more. I said, ‘Do you all not care about what’s going on in the world?’”

Many of his peers, he said, listened and supported him as he opened up like never before.

Jimmie Johnson, the seven-time NASCAR Cup series champion, organized about two dozen top drivers for a video condemning racial inequality and racism. “It is all of our responsibility to no longer be silent,” they said in the video.

Bubba Wallace


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On Instagram with another driver, Ty Dillon, Wallace described his experiences with profiling, including getting pulled over by officers who drew guns and doubted he was the owner of the Lexus he was driving.

On the Fox show, “NASCAR Race Hub,” Wallace broke down in tears while reading a text his mother had sent him after Floyd’s death.

“I pray as a mom of a black son that I never have to hear you crying out ‘I can’t breathe,’” the text said. “I love you, Bubba, and your life matters to me.”

Watching from her home, Desiree Wallace cried. “I didn’t know I had an impact on him until that interview,” she said on Wednesday. “It was shocking to me to see how much black lives mattered to Bubba.”

Bubba Wallace said he finally understands the pain his mother felt when his 19-year-old cousin, Sean Gillispie, was shot and killed in 2003 in the parking lot of a convenience store in Knoxville, Tenn., by a white police officer.

The police said he was reaching for a gun but the family and a witness said he was grabbing for his cellphone; the family lost a negligence suit against the city.

And Wallace said he finally believed that the Confederate flag should not be flown at races because it represented hate, not heritage. Two days after telling CNN that, and hours before he raced his No. 43 Chevrolet with #BlackLivesMatter logos emblazoned on it, NASCAR banned the flag.

“My mom texted me just last week to say that God has a bigger plan for me than just being a racecar driver,” Wallace said. “And she was right.”


Wallace’s evolution into an activist surprised even his mother.

You want diversity, inclusion in tech? Embrace remote work

remote work diversity

Tech giants have pledged to hire more people of color and address inequality. To deliver, remote work has to be embraced due to economic realities in tech hubs.

Technology giants are pledging to hire more Black workers and people of color to address inequality, but for actions to become more than words remote work has to be a big part of inclusion efforts.

2020 will go down as the convergence of two trends that could finally move the needle on racial diversity in tech: Remote work and a movement to address racism. These trends are intertwined.

Companies are working to diversify their labor base and address inequality amid racial injustice protests, police brutality and a host of issues that have plagued the US for years. The COVID-19 pandemic forced a move to work remotely and proved that productivity can be maintained. To date, remote work has been seen as a business continuity practice, but we need to think bigger.

The remote work and diversity movements go together. How? Technology companies have typically required employees to work in places that are expensive and out of reach for those without generational wealth. Without some financial help, it is almost impossible for an upwardly mobile poor or working-class person to relocate to a region that takes more economically than it gives. These regions — New York, Boston, San Francisco, Seattle and increasingly Austin — are out of reach for the middle class too.

By having a business practice that requires employees to move to an expensive tech hub, companies are torpedoing diversity efforts. Companies need to go where the talent is.

Here’s the cycle:

  1. Aspiring working class college student from Philly applies to work at Google and garners interest.
  2. Choices are New York or Bay Area.
  3. Parent(s) have already shouldered some of the student loan burden and barely getting by.
  4. Break out the calculators and allow the checkbook to hit you upside the head and you realize it makes no economic sense to move. Let’s get real: The move is financially impossible. Candidate stays local.

Now you can replace Google with any tech company such as Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft and get the same cycle. And these companies wonder why they can’t move the needle on diversity — racial, economic or otherwise. Unless a candidate has generational wealth moving to an overpriced location isn’t much of an option.

Without remote work, tech giants will stay in the cycle of hiring candidates from wealthy backgrounds. It’s a prep school merry-go-round.

Google last week noted that it is looking to improve Black+ representation at senior levels by 30% by 2025 and will spend $175 million to create economic opportunity “to support Black business owners, startup founders, job seekers, and developers.” Google also noted that it will “increase our investments in places such as Atlanta, Washington DC, Chicago, and London.”

Investing in those locations may not help much on the diversity front since it’s hard to argue those are low-cost locations although Atlanta and Chicago may hold promise. I’d be a bit less cynical if Google said they would invest in offices in Baltimore, Philly, Louisville and Camden.

Fortunately, COVID-19 just forced the greatest A/B test on remote work and accelerated a shift that would have taken years if not decades to play out. Companies are planning to close out commercial real estate leases and adopt a hybrid remote work model. That shift will enable companies to hire in more locations and diversify the employee base.

The argument against using remote work to enhance diversity efforts is that you’d create an underclass of workers that wouldn’t move up to leadership ranks. That criticism may be valid, but remote work has given workers a voice they might not have had otherwise. When everyone is a square on a video conference it’s just easier to speak up compared to knocking on a corner office door.

In other words, you can identify leadership remotely. And once you identify that talent remotely you can put in relocation programs to make a move economically feasible. By then, these candidates would also have a few years of salary and a financial cushion to consider relocating.

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