Silicon Valley tech companies show their hand at PUSHTech2020 Conference
By Kia Croom, Contributing Writer
More than 450 tech executives, startup entrepreneurs and venture capitalists converged at the PUSHTech2020 Summit to continue dialogues on increasing diversity in Silicon Valley.
Having acknowledged the elephant in the room—disparate workforce diversity trends that have characterized their companies for so long, Tech leaders finally showed their hand committing more than $1 billion to efforts aimed at recruiting diverse hires and suppliers.
In a keynote address, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich announced that the company will invest $5 million over the next five years in science and engineering programs benefiting Oakland Unified School District students (OUSD). The partnership between Intel and OUSD will serve as a model project designed to create pathways for underrepresented minorities and women in tech industry.
“We wanted to send high school graduates to college to study computer science and engineering. We are going to provide real jobs and guarantee graduates a job at Intel,” Krzanich said.
Krzanich reaffirmed Intel’s commitment to diversifying its workforce by year 2020. This past January, in a keynote address at the Consumer Electronics Show Krzanich announced Intel’s $300 million commitment to diversifying its workforce. He took a moment at PUSHTech2020 to share the company’s progress to date.
“Since I made the announcement at the “Consumer Electronics Summit,” we’ve made some incremental progress. Forty percent of new hires are diverse—up 30 percent from last year. Seventeen percent of senior hires are from underrepresented minority groups and 33 percent are women—both numbers have doubled since last year,” he said.
Apple VP Lisa Jackson took to the podium to discuss Apple’s workforce diversity data and company investments aimed at recruiting a more diverse cadre of employees.
“Let’s do the numbers. Apple is 7 percent Black. There’s room for us to do better,” she said. Before shifting gears to discuss the company’s efforts to attract minorities to the tech industry.
“We’ve committed $10 million to the National Center for Women in Technology to bring more women into the tech workforce. We’ve committed $40 million to the Thurgood Marshall Fund to accelerate the number of African-American students studying STEM and tech,” she said.
PUSHTech2020 attendees also participated in break-out sessions with tech executives, venture capitalists and thought leaders for deeper dialogues on diversity and inclusion.
The conference included a pitch competition where diverse tech, startup entrepreneurs competed more than $15,000 in cash prizes. Each startup gave a three-minute presentation followed by Q&A by a panel of judges representing venture capital firms including Cisco Ventures, Google for Entrepreneurs, Intel Capital Base Ventures, Comcast Ventures and others.
EHarvesthub, a cloud-based program that connects farmers with places to sell their products won first place and received a $10,000 cash prize courtesy of Salesforce Ventures and an HP laptop.
The Human Data Project, a platform that connects patients with cutting-edge medical research won Second Place.
Quarrio, a software company that offers an easy-to-use advanced reporting and analytics won third place. Both startups won a $2500 cash prize provided by Cisco Ventures and an HP laptop.
Honorable mention winners received a $1,000 cash award, courtesy of RainbowPUSH and an HP laptop. Winners included: Onēva, a company connecting sitters with persons in need of care; Crowdismo, a crowd funding platform that connects diverse funders with capital; Cocoon Cam, the first-ever smart video vitals monitor; LaborX, a job marketplace connecting employers with underserved jobseekers; Flipcause, a program offering fundraising tools to nonprofits; Studyroom, a social learning platform for college students and Nodal Industries a provider of network security boxes for home networks and small business.
The PUSHTech2020 pitch competitors were notably more diverse than their tech startup counterparts who typically compete in pitch competitions like Disrupt NewYork and the Startup Conference. When asked what needs to happen to increase the number of diverse founders competing at these event Laurence Tooney Partner, Catalyst Fund and PUSHTech2020 pitch competition judge replied.
“Diverse founders need to have the training and support in advance of the application process to maximize the opportunity to get selected. A lot of the founders that are selected for these programs have been building their companies for months if not years with mentors that have successfully gone through the programs.”
Toney says he’s impressed with tech accelerators like Y Combinator and 500 Startups that are committed to increasing the number of women and diverse founders within the sector.
The PUSHTech2020 Summit is part of the RainbowPUSH’s Coalition’s (RPC) campaign to diversify the tech sector. Last year RPC researched the racial and gender composition of 20 tech companies’ workforces and then published a report which showed African-American, Latino and women are severely underrepresented within these companies – accounting for 0-3 percent of their tech workforce.
RPC has since continued challenging tech companies to set measurable diversity and inclusion goals, targets and timetables.
Kia Croom is the Chief Corporate Social Responsibility Officer at Corporate Social Responsibility Advisors, a San Francisco-based firm. Follow her twitter @newsbykia or contact her directly at csradvisorssf (at) gmail.com.
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