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Jesse Jackson Talks Diversity as Silicon Valley Outsources Jobs

Jesse Jackson Talks Diversity as Silicon Valley Outsources Jobs

Reverend Jesse Jackson and his Rainbow PUSH road show flew into Silicon Valley this week to chastise top tech corporations for being overly white and Asian males. Jackson, who was hosted by Intel Corporation at their Santa Clara campus,  lectured representatives from twenty tech giants on the importance of diversity. Despite tech’s new empathy regarding race, gender and sexual rights; the most important discrimination by Valley giants is against American workers as their jobs are increasingly being off-shored to Asian contractors.

The San Francisco Chronicle and San Jose Mercury News complained that they have tried for years to obtain a breakdown of race, gender and sexual orientation from tech companies. Yet big tech firms kept their U.S. demographic and ethnic work force employment data private as a trade secret.

In May, Google began blogging about its workforce diversity by admitting, “We’ve always been reluctant to publish numbers about the diversity of our workforce at Google. We now realize we were wrong, and that it’s time to be candid about the issues.” Google admitted that 70% are men and 91% are white or Asian. Hispanics represent only 3% and blacks only 2%.

Discrimination has become hot topic in Silicon Valley, but most action has been about age bias. After Mark Zuckerberg in 2007 said, “Younger people are just smarter,” at a Stanford University event, the Valley was hit with a slew of high visibility lawsuits.

In 2011, Google paid out a multi-million-dollar settlement in a suit to computer scientist Brian Reid, who was fired from the company in 2004 at age 54. Reid claimed that employees made derogatory comments about his age, referring to him as “obsolete,” “sluggish,” and an “old fuddy-duddy” whose ideas were “too old to matter.” Apple, Facebook, and Yahoo were smacked by the EEOC for posting job listings as “new grad.” Facebook settled a case last year with California’s Fair Employment and Housing Department for attorney posted recruitment as “Class of 2007 or 2008 preferred.”

But after Google disclosed its diversity data, most large Valley tech companies followed Google’s graphic disclosure of female and minority employment. LinkedIn has 39% females and 91% white and Asian; Yahoo is 37% female and 89% white and Asian; Facebook is 31% female and 91% white and Asian; Twitter is 30% female and 88% white and Asian; eBay is 42% female and 87% white and Asian.

With the Silicon Valley disclosures in hand, Rainbow PUSH started crusading for tech to diversify their ranks to represent the American gender and ethnic make-up.

Speaking to the big audience at an Intel lecture hall, Jackson preached about the woeful lack of diversity in the Valley. He argued that companies should be just as diverse as the users of their products. Jackson said expanding access to the tech industry is the civil rights imperative of the new era.

Jackson demanded the tech crowd repeat after him again and again: “Beyond slavery, segregation and the right to vote, we need the fourth stage: access to capital, industry, technology, deal flow and relationships.”

Several industry representatives gave speeches about how diversity was now an important issue. Yet no one in the crowd spoke about expanding American tech jobs by bringing back out-sourced tech manufacturing and service jobs to the U.S.

Small and start-up companies are actively hiring for U.S. tech positions this year, but many Silicon Valley tech majors continue reducing positions in the U.S. Conference host Intel Corporation is slashing 5,000 positions or 5% of employment this year, including 700 factory jobs in Massachusetts. Its newly built factory in Chandler, Arizona, originally slated as a $5 billion project that was supposed to begin producing Intel’s most advanced chips in 2013, remains closed for the foreseeable future. Co-host Hewlett-Packard Co is still in a multi-year restructuring that will shed 34,000 jobs, or 11 percent of its workforce.

Consulting and major accounting firm BDO USA found in its latest report, based on interviews with 100 U.S. technology chief financial officers, that 63% of tech companies plan to outsource or manufacture products outside of the United States, up from 35% in 2011. The percentage was at the highest level since BDO began tracking U.S. tech out-sourcing expectations in 2008. Manufacturing has already been heavily outsourced by more than 60% of U.S. technology firms. Research and development, IT services and programming and distribution are functions that are expected to be rapidly outsourced.

As the Valley workforce diversifies, employees may be competing for a shrinking number of jobs.

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