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1 year, $3.8 billion later: How 2020’s race reckoning shook up Big Tech

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Tech giants pour billions into diversity, equity, and inclusion
An FC survey of 42 tech companies reveals how much money the industry committed to DEI after summer 2020. Microsoft is committing the most money total ($772.5 million), but that's equivalent to just five days of profit.
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LAWRENCE HUMPHREY
Lawrence Humphrey is a design consultant and strategist at IBM, where he has worked for more than four years. Last summer, in the aftermath of George Floyd's murder and statements of solidarity from tech companies, Humphrey collaborated with other Black tech employees to start Tech Can [Do] Better, an initiative to help companies address systemic racism and inequities in the tech industry.

>“I had what I call my racial awakening in 2016. I shifted from the ‘I’m just not going to rock the boat; I’m going to make my own, do my work, and then in my own private influence make a difference.’ It was the summer of 2016—after Alton Sterling and Philando Castile—and that was when I was like, you know what? I’m done being quiet with this shit. If I make it and am successful, that still does nothing. That still won’t guarantee my life. So I’m gonna start getting successful and obviously doing great work and overperforming, all that stuff—but not at the sacrifice of speaking out.

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The problem with money, especially donations, is that donations don’t change attitudes and they don’t change policies.
The problem with money, especially donations, is that donations don’t change attitudes and they don’t change policies.
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CHLOË CHEYENNE ROGERS
CURRENT ROLE:Founder and CEO of activism platform CommunityX
Previous employer:Google
The percentage of Black employees at the Big 5 remains stagnant
At the five biggest U.S. tech companies by market cap—Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, and Google—representation numbers show little progress, especially among engineers and leadership.
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CHARLTON MCILWAIN
CURRENT ROLE:Historian, vice provost, and professor at NYU
Author of:Black Software: The Internet and Racial Justice, From the Afronet to Black Lives Matter
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The under-representation of people of color in this industry reverberates: not having people available to point and draw attention to devastating consequences, or to think about alternatives, or to have the kinds of influence to say no to a particular course of action or not…But moving forward, I think the greater issue is that we have already nurtured such an investment socially, emotionally, politically, economically in the buildup of technologies that serve to increase inequality, to exclude people from the social and economic promise of technology and the potential wealth that it brings.
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Ifeoma ozoma
In June 2020, former Pinterest public policy manager Ifeoma Ozoma and her colleague Aerica Shimizu Banks went public with allegations of race and gender discrimination. Now Ozoma is lobbying for a California bill to release workers who’ve faced any kind of workplace discrimination from their nondisclosure agreements.

“These companies spend…more on the marketing around their bullshit DEI programs than they do on the actual programs, which I think says everything. Even if they were spending money that was actually meaningful, you still have people at the top of the companies who don’t actually care about these programs, don’t care about any sort of accountability, don’t care about doing the very basics. And the basics to me are hiring, paying fairly, and retaining talent of color and particularly Black people and Black women. All of it is comms. All of it is marketing….What I’m interested in is consequences, legislatively, from shareholders, whether in the form of resolutions or lawsuits, and from workers.

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I don’t think you can have an anti-racist tech company at scale.
I don’t think you can have an anti-racist tech company at scale.
CHRIS GILLIARD
CURRENT ROLE:Harvard Kennedy School Shorenstein Center Visiting Research Fellow
Member of:the UCLA Center for Critical Internet Inquiry Scholars Council and the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project community advisory board
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More whistleblowers are coming forward
This timeline of high-profile allegations of anti-Black discrimination in tech reveals a rise in media coverage and attention paid toward the treatment of Black tech workers.
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It takes people standing in their truth and shedding light on the disconnect that’s happening for there to be true change.
On why uncomfortable conversations are crucial for positive change
Rhett Lindsey
CURRENT ROLE:Founder and CEO of recruiting platform Siimee
Previous employer:Facebook
It takes people standing in their truth and shedding light on the disconnect that’s happening for there to be true change.
On why uncomfortable conversations are crucial for positive change
External and internal pressure pushed tech leaders to shift DEI policy
In FC's survey, companies shared how—and when—they changed internal rules and structures with the goal of retaining talent and building a more diverse workforce.
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Timnit Gebru
Renowned AI researcher Timnit Gebru says she was pushed out of her role as co-lead of the AI Ethics team at Google in December 2020 after writing a paper critiquing the technology that powers Google Search. She is an outspoken advocate for DEI through her nonprofit Black in AI.

“If [tech companies] actually paid their fair share of [taxes], which they spend so much time trying not to, then we wouldn’t need their guilt million here, a million there, which is nothing for them. It’s so offensive that [Google] even had those commitments. The thing is that really irritates me is…we’ll give you this money with one hand, and we’ll completely mistreat people with this other hand.

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Ken Chenault
CURRENT ROLE:Chairman and managing director of VC fund General Catalyst, director at Airbnb
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My view is you control the pipe and you control what goes into the pipe.
On CEOs citing the “pipeline problem” as an excuse for lack of diversity in senior management
My view is you control the pipe and you control what goes into the pipe.
On CEOs citing the “pipeline problem” as an excuse for lack of diversity in senior management
2021 data shows an increased investment in Black founders
According to Crunchbase data, venture capital funding to Black founders in Q1 2021 exceeded $1 billion for the first time—but is still a fraction of overall VC investment.
rotateToView2021 Data Shows An Increased Investment In Black Founders
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This lighter was thrown into the mix, but I think it would have happened anyway.
On the increased investment in Black and brown founders after the racial justice protests in summer 2020
This lighter was thrown into the mix, but I think it would have happened anyway.
On the increased investment in Black and brown founders after the racial justice protests in summer 2020
Arlan Hamilton
CURRENT ROLE:Founder and managing partner of VC fund Backstage Capital
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Jennifer Bates
In May 2020, Jennifer Bates started working at a new Amazon fulfillment center in Bessemer, Alabama. She was a key organizer and advocate behind a failed effort to unionize the warehouse, even testifying at a Senate hearing in March. The results of the union vote are still being appealed.

“I worked for Amazon for a week, [and] I really said, ‘No way.’ My legs were hurting, and I was limping. And I’m like, ‘This is not normal. Why you don’t have elevators?’ So that’s how it started. That’s when I really started finding out the gruesomeness of the facility. I was used to being on my feet and doing a lot of work and walking and stuff. But it was nothing like at Amazon.

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A homogenous workforce builds racist products
Over the last five years, users, journalists, and researchers have highlighted how technologies harm Black people, from biased facial recognition to exclusionary advertising.
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CHLOË CHEYENNE ROGERS
CURRENT ROLE:Founder and CEO of activism platform CommunityX
Previous employer:Google
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When Mike Brown Jr. was murdered in Ferguson, no one was talking about it, not even the Black Googlers network...I realized a lot of that discussion had been oppressed by the dominant white culture of tech. And so the good part about opening that gateway was that a lot of people felt like they were finally able to express themselves, express how they felt about the situation, and feel heard to some extent. We were asking for more infrastructural change, real products supporting real problems, and [leadership wasn't] willing to do that. So when it comes to the question of should we be satisfied by all of these commitments and donations that all of these brands in and outside of the tech industry are making, my opinion on that is absolutely not, for so many reasons. But mainly because those things are just cover-ups for them addressing the real systemic things within their company and within the communities where they operate.
DURETTI HIRPA
While working as an engineer at Slack, Duretti Hirpa founded and ran Earth Tones, an employee resource group for people of color. After a stint at Mailchimp, Duretti now works as a principal engineer at project management tool Zipper. She is also a speaker and essayist with her own newsletter.

>“I worked at one place where they were really excited to say, ‘we have this particular police department using our software.’ And employees were like…let’s Google this police department. One of the first things that came up was that this police department has some pretty serious allegations of police brutality. Maybe we should take this [deal] down. And the response back was like, ‘Well, your coworkers worked really hard on this case study.’ And Black employees were like…”That’s great that everyone has worked really hard, but that police department has [these] pretty serious allegations around police brutality and murdering people, so is that something we necessarily want to be associated with?’ And at the end of the day [the decision was made to] to keep this case study up.

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Tech companies are working on going to Mars. And so to look at a social problem and throw [their] proverbial hands up is inexcusable.
Tech companies are working on going to Mars. And so to look at a social problem and throw [their] proverbial hands up is inexcusable.
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MIMI FOX MELTON
CURRENT ROLE:CEO of Code2040
What they do:a nonprofit that works to eliminate systemic barriers for Black and Latinx tech workers
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