“Jesse Jackson is bringing a strategy borrowed from the traditional civil rights era playbook to the age of social media and a booming tech industry known for its disruptive innovation,” Martha Mendoza and Jesse Washington report for The Associated Press. “Jackson plans to lead a delegation to Hewlett-Packard’s annual shareholders meeting Wednesday to bring attention to Silicon Valley’s poor record of including blacks and Latinos in hiring, board appointments and startup funding.”
“Jackson said he isn’t singling out HP, he’s just using the company’s annual meeting to highlight the broader issue. ‘Technology is supposed to be about inclusion, but sadly, patterns of exclusion remains the order of the day,’ Jackson wrote in a letter released Monday to Apple Inc., Twitter Inc., Facebook Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., Google Inc. and others,” Mendoza and Washington report. “About 1 in 14 tech workers is black or Latino, both in the Silicon Valley and nationally. Blacks and Hispanics make up 13.1 and 16.9 percent of the U.S. population, respectively, according to the most recent census data.”
“Yet as recently as 2011, The Allstate Corp., in alliance with Jackson’s RainbowPUSH organization, recognized HP for its commitment to diversity,” Mendoza and Washington report. “‘While we certainly agree that diversity is an important issue in corporate America, we’re puzzled by Rev. Jackson’s sudden interest in HP,’ HP Executive Vice President Henry Gomez said in a statement emailed to The Associated Press. ‘Today, HP is the largest company in the world with both a female CEO and CFO, and nearly half of our leadership team and board of directors are women and minorities. Additionally, nearly 50 years ago, HP established the first minority business program in the United States.’ Gomez also points out that in 2013, HP spent nearly $1 billion with almost 500 minority business enterprises in the U.S. and an additional $500 million with businesses owned by women. ‘We look forward to seeing Rev. Jackson at our shareholder meeting,’ Gomez said. Apple and Google declined to comment on Jackson’s grievances.”
“In the past, Jackson’s critics have accused him of profiting from similar protest actions. These critics say that after Jackson targeted companies over diversity issues in the financial sector and other industries, some have ended up donating large sums to Jackson’s organizations,” Mendoza and Washington report. “In other cases, the targeted companies gave contracts to minority-owned firms that paid Jackson for referrals.”
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