Reverend Jesse Jackson is relaunching an effort that began nearly 15 years ago to push for more diversity in the tech industry. His first stop? A company his organization praised for its commitment to diversity just a few years ago.
The Associated Press reports that Jackson headed a delegation to Hewlett-Packard’s annual shareholders meeting on Wednesday to highlight what he sees as a lack of diversity in Silicon Valley. “Technology is supposed to be about inclusion, but sadly, patterns of exclusion remains the order of the day,” the civil-rights leader wrote in a letter to some of the biggest tech firms, such as Apple, Facebook, and Google
But Jackson and his organization, the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, commended HP for its efforts in hiring minority employees in 2011. That has the firm confused: “While we certainly agree that diversity is an important issue in corporate America, we’re puzzled by Rev. Jackson’s sudden interest in HP,” an executive said.
Jackson has clarified that his effort is not intended to target HP specifically, but was instead supposed to use the company’s high-profile meeting to draw attention to his cause.
In the late 1990s, Jackson rolled out a similar campaign against tech giants, accusing them of underserving minorities both in their hiring practices and their provision of services. Calling it the “Silicon Valley Project,” Rainbow/PUSH held various conferences and events where speakers and participants called on companies to promote more minorities to their corporate boards and invest in minority-owned firms.
More than a decade later, Jackson doesn’t seem to think the situation has improved: The San Jose Mercury News says the reverend characterized the situation as ”apartheid.” He and his supporters will continue to push the industry to ensure that its employees match the demographic makeup of their customers, he said.
“To make America ‘America,’ all of us must play,” the reverend said. “This is not about diversity as much as it is about justice.”