Jesse Jackson Targets Apple, Other Tech Companies for Lack of Board Diversity

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Jesse Jackson and his Rainbow PUSH Coalition think there is a serious lack of diversity in leadership at technology companies, including Apple. Never one to sit on the sidelines, he is taking action to draw attention to this issue.

AP reports Mr. Jackson is planning to attend Hewlett-Packard's Annual Shareholder Meeting with a delegation to draw attention to the lack of diversity in high-level positions in Silicon Valley. This event will help launch the Rainbow PUSH Coalition's Digital Inclusion Initiative. It should be noted this isn't the first time Mr. Jackson has accused Apple of this behavior, but it seems that 15 years later he's delivering the message with a bit more finesse. 

In a letter to a number of Silicon Valley tech companies including Apple, Mr. Jackson decried the lack of people of color. From the letter:

Technology is supposed to be about inclusion, but sadly, patterns of exclusion remains the order of the day. When it comes to African Americans on Board - ZERO. C-suites, ZERO. Minority firms in IPO's and financial transactions, advertising and professional services - ZERO. These ZEROES are contrary to the enlightened values exposed by the industry. Rainbow PUSH is seeking meetings with tech leaders to address these ZEROES head on.

AppleInsider noted Apple added this to their Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee charter: The Committee is committed to actively seeking out highly qualified women and individuals from minority groups to include in the pool from which Board nominees are chosen.

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Jesse Jackson has a point. You hear a lot about the lack of women in tech these days, but not a whole lot about lacking any other diversity. Certainly in looking at the breakdown of numbers from Rainbow PUSH, it's easy to see that mahogany row is pretty homogenous. And it's refreshing to see a non-Apple company be the focus of a Valley-wide issue. (Foxconn, anyone?) Especially since this is something Apple has already considered and is moving to fix with the inclusion of Andrea Jung on the Board and Angela Ahrendts as the head of Apple Retail. 

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Roland Estrada

It does no good to have Jackson making this point. Frankly, he’s a race bating, extortionist hustler. Hire the best people and that’s the end of it. Stop the “whoa is me” handwringing.

Lee Dronick

Perhaps they should bring Neil deGrasse Tyson onto the board, science advisor.


Jackson may not be wrong about the actual numbers but he is addressing the wrong audience.  With both the African-American and Hispanic community having dismal high school graduation rates and even worse college graduation rates, there is little to no pool from which to draw.

As always, Jackson picks the easy target.


Iunno, when your blackest member of the board is Al Gore you might have a racism problem.

But I personally think the biggest issue is in the design department of Apple, the section that could be best served by racial diversity (and frankly isn’t a job that’s caught up in the graduation rates of race) is oddly white only. Seriously, why isn’t there diversity under jony Ive?



I’m late to the party on this one, because this is a sensitive topic and I wanted to get my thoughts straight. I begin with a story from 1985.

I was an undergrad transferring into a new school my junior year, for computer science. I won one of the five Presidential scholarships the university offered every year; my girlfriend won another. Someone we didn’t know won the third. (We were all white; presumably still so.) At the scholarship banquet, we found that there were no winners for the remaining two scholarships. Those two scholarships were set aside for minorities. And not a single minority student had applied for a Presidential Scholarship that year.

As a result, four students lost out: Two minority students who may have wanted to attend the school yet not know about the scholarships, and two non-minority students who may have applied for the scholarship but didn’t win because—let’s face it—their skin was the wrong color.

This is a two-fold problem: Why didn’t any minority students apply for the scholarships that year? Any why didn’t the university—with no minority applicants—award the scholarships to two deserving non-minority students, assuming such applicants existed?

Now onto Jesse Jackson and Apple.

There is a saying that correlation is not causation. Using the example of the scholarships, the correlation of no minority winners does not equal that minority status was the causation for such—that the mere lack of minority recipient status equalled the university’s decision to purposely shun minorities that year. The truth was just the opposite: Minority students shunned the scholarship that year, for whatever reason. That paints an entirely different picture. Likewise:

How many minority candidates have applied to jobs at Apple in any capacity as opposed to non-minorities? Do we know this? How many aspire to be on the board, in the c-suites, for IPOs? Do we know this? Until we know this, to call out Apple and other tech firms as the cause of these minority ZEROES (quoting Jesse Jackson’s shouting, mind you) would be no different than for Jesse Jackson to call out my undergrad university and demand to know why there were no minority scholarship recipients in 1985.

The blame trail lies far below the IPOs, c-suites, and board rooms. If Jesse Jackson wanted to make an actual difference, he would be working to reduce high school drop-out rates, teen pregnancies, absentee fathers, drug use, inter-city violence, and other ills affecting the minority communities and preventing potential minority candidates from even stepping a foot on a path towards the rewards he seeks for them.

That would be far more difficult than attacking Apple and Google and others. Besides, it might actually deliver results, and that would put Jesse Jackson and his ilk out of business.

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