"The George Floyd protests come home to the Tech Industry"
"The tech industry has generally wished that structural discrimination would go away, while pretending that it already has. But technology can be used by anyone for anything. And so, the world has watched video after video of police brutality against Black people in a real-time stream that plays through the closing days of quarantine, culminating in the death of George Floyd and ongoing protests. As employees have left their remote offices to hit the streets, even executives at the largest tech companies —who would usually avoid such complications — have expressed their support officially, online.
What can we expect to change now? After all, diversity and inclusion programs have been getting cut during the pandemic, and stats on employee diversity and VC partner/portfolio demographics have not seemed to be improving quickly over the past decade, at least in aggregate.
First up, a group of Black tech leaders in the Bay Area, including TechCrunch’s Megan Rose Dickey, has put forward a widely-signed petition that specifies five goals including local support and accountability, and commitment to hiring and investing in Black employees and founders.
On the ground in the startup world, a considerable range of investors say they are setting aside dedicated time and resources for Black founders.
Specific proposals for changes to the status quo strike at the heart of of tech as we know it.
To address existing systemic bias, algorithmic and otherwise, contributor Will Walker writes that tech companies like Amazon, Yelp and Grubhub should find ways to feature and favor Black-owned businesses — even if that means re-writing the recommendation algorithms.
And to address systemic bias in who gets funding, Connie Loizos writes that legislation could be the best answer:
Consider that already, most VCs today sign away their rights to invest in firearms or alcohol or tobacco when managing capital on behalf of the pension funds, universities and hospital systems that fund them. What if they also had to agree to invest a certain percentage of that capital to founding teams with members from underrepresented groups? We aren’t talking about targets anymore, but actual mandates. Put another way, rather than wait for venture firms to organically develop into less homogeneous organizations — or to invest in fewer founders who share their gender and race and educational background — alter their limited partner agreements.
Perhaps tech leaders are responding so strongly today because they realize what’s at stake for them if change does not happen faster?"