WASHINGTON, D.C. (Jan. 26, 2015) — Engine, a non-profit advocacy and research organization with a network of more than 500 entrepreneurial startups, pioneers, innovators, investors, and technologists, joined Congressional leaders and members of the startup community today in convening the new Diversifying Technology Caucus.
This bipartisan, bicameral Caucus will work to increase representation of women, minorities, and veterans in the tech sector, and the ability of these groups to access the good jobs that this industry creates. The Caucus will be chaired by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Tim Scott (R-SC), and Representatives Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA),Barbara Comstock (R-VA), Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), Robin Kelly (D-IL) and Ruben Gallego (D-AZ).
Lack of diversity in tech is a well-documented and serious problem. Right now only one in 14 technical employees in Silicon Valley is African-American or Hispanic. Women currently represent fewer than 13 percent of employed engineers and hold fewer than 25 percent of STEM jobs. And just three percent of all startups are founded by women.
Congress can play a unique role in calling attention to these challenges, highlighting existing best practices, driving a public conversation, and designing initiatives that support and promote diversity. The Diversifying Tech Caucus will be a true partnership between policy makers, industry, and academia to organize, advocate, and create awareness about underrepresented groups and develop strategies for improving access and engagement. Industry and academic leaders will also work together to undertake extensive new research that legislators can use to elevate the issue and help develop meaningful solutions.
“Startups are driving new job growth in this country, and creating tremendous opportunities for Americans from big cities to small towns,” said Julie Samuels, Executive Director of Engine. “But all too often the face of the tech community doesn’t reflect the diverse faces of those Americans. The good news is we have real commitment to make a change – from startups and established tech companies, from advocates and policy experts, and from a growing list of leaders in Congress. Engine is incredibly proud to be convening this Caucus, and I believe we will generate real solutions that help make the tech community fully accessible for all.”
“If our country’s tech industry is going to stay at the cutting-edge, we have to enlist the creativity and ingenuity of all Americans,” said Senator Amy Klobuchar. “That is why I support efforts to promote careers for women, minorities, and veterans in the tech sector, and why I am excited to help launch the Diversifying Tech Caucus that will bring together lawmakers from both sides of the aisle, along with researchers and academics, to shape policy that will help increase diversity in the industry and move our economy forward.”
“For America to remain a leader in the innovation economy, we need to make sure that everyone can participate in the tech community regardless of race or gender,” said Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers. “This Caucus will be a true collaboration between elected officials, industry experts, and members of our communities. Working together we can build a more diverse tech sector, and I’m thankful to Engine and to my colleagues for helping make this effort a reality.”
“I’m excited that the startup community is no longer limited to Silicon Valley, New York City, or Boston anymore. Today, there are amazing things happening all across the country and I’ve seen technology companies opening offices right here in South Carolina,” said Senator Tim Scott. “The Diversifying Tech Caucus will be working to expand opportunities for underrepresented groups, such as veterans, women, and persons of color, to play an even larger role in the next generation of startups. I’m proud to be joining my fellow co-chairs and Engine to take on this important challenge.”
“So many of our returning veterans have skills that would make them a real asset to tech companies, and others who have the entrepreneurial spirit to launch ventures of their own,” said Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. “But so far veterans remain underrepresented in the tech community, along with women and minorities. Working with Engine, I’m proud to serve as co-chair of this caucus as we bring people together to find innovative solutions to the many challenges we face.”
“With the tech industry booming across the country, we need to make sure that everyone has equal access to the tech jobs of today and the future,” said Senator Shelley Moore Capito. “This Caucus will allow us to explore real solutions to the lack of diversity in tech, from improving access to capital to expanding STEM education. I look forward to working with my Congressional colleagues, Engine, and the startup community on this exciting new effort.”
“There’s never been a more important time to focus on increasing diversity in tech,” said Congresswoman Barbara Comstock. “The tech industry offers real hope to the many Americans still having trouble finding good jobs – but only if we ensure they have the skills and the opportunities to access those jobs. I’m thrilled to be joining Engine and my co-chairs in addressing this issue head-on.”
“We in Congress have a responsibility to ensure that all Americans have equal access to jobs and opportunity,” saidCongresswoman Robin Kelly. “With the tech sector responsible for more and more of our nation’s job growth, we need to focus on ideas that will increase diversity in this important industry. I’m very excited to be working with my colleagues, Engine, and other members of the tech community on this important effort.”
“I’m very proud to be part of a Caucus that will bring much-needed attention to the lack of diversity in the tech sector,” saidCongressman Ruben Gallego. “Engine has convened a committed group of strong leaders in government, tech, and academia. Working together, I know we can help build a more inclusive tech community with even greater opportunity for all.”
The Diversifying Tech Caucus will hold initial meetings in the weeks ahead to set a formal agenda, which will include goals such as:
● Proposing creative solutions to address obstacles to diversity in the tech industry.
● Bringing together researchers and academics to conduct in-depth research on diversity issues.
● Forming targeted working groups on specific Diversifying Tech issues such as #WomenStartups, #ClosingtheGap, #DiversityinTech, and #STEMEducation;
● Holding briefings, roundtables, media events, and training and networking sessions around the country, bringing together policymakers and tech community representatives;
● Forming a Hill Staff Advisory Council of ‘tech-friendly’ staffers representing a broad spectrum of Congressional offices.
Research demonstrates that the tech industry — and especially the startup community — is driving net new job growth in the United States. Policy makers must ensure that women and other non-traditional technology job seekers have the ability to compete for these good jobs. Additionally, a diverse technology workforce is in not only in the best interest of the American economy; it has broader implications for diversity in American society. Growing tech companies are shaping 21st century workforce and cultural norms, and it’s critical that women, minorities, veterans and other underrepresented groups have a voice to in these conversations. And since the tech industry creates general-purpose tools that change the way we communicate, conduct businesses, and access services, it is imperative that a true cross-section of Americans plays a role in developing these tools.
Engine is a non-profit organization that supports the growth of technology entrepreneurship through economic research, policy analysis, and advocacy on local and national issues. The startups we work with are among the most innovative and fastest growing companies in the country, fundamentally altering and challenging entrenched business models, ideas, and institutions across all industries. These are the businesses that drive our economic prosperity, create jobs, and improve our lives. We have worked with the White House, Congress, federal agencies, state and local governments, and international advocacy organizations to educate and inform them of the changing face of American high-tech entrepreneurship.
Engine is run by Julie Samuels, who has a long history working on technology policy issues. During her tenure as a senior staff attorney and the Mark Cuban Chair to Eliminate Stupid Patents, and a member of Engine’s board since 2012, Julie has frequently been the only woman at the table. As she compared experiences with others, she learned that her own situation was not unique and vowed to grow the number of women and minorities working in tech. The Diversifying Technology Initiative is one of her first major projects since taking the helm of Engine as our Executive Director and that signifies her commitment to the cause. You can learn more about Engine at http://engine.is.