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Rep. DelBene: High Tech Still Has Work to Do on Diversity

Rep. Suzan DelBene says Big tech diversity still needs work
Rep. Suzan DelBene says Big tech diversity still needs work (Image credit: N/A)

Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.), co-chair of the Women’s High-Tech Caucus, says that high tech companies still have a long way to go when it comes to inclusiveness.

DelBene was speaking, virtually, at an ITI-sponsored event on "Covid-19. TEch and Economic REsilience."

Silicon Valley has long been under scrutiny over the dearth of various minority populations (https://www.nexttv.com/news/groups-say-facebook-civil-rights-audit-needs-audit) in its workforce and the impact of its algorithms on those populations.

She said progress has been made, starting with providing educational tools like the Girls Who Code initiative. She also said that the pandemic has shown a spotlight on disparities and challenges, including the lack of access impact on the availability of STEM education for young women. She said there has been a "huge" educational push, but there is room to build on that,

Also Read: D.C. Is Ticked Off at Big Tech, Big Time

She also said that there are ongoing issue with the tech sector, and corporate sector in general, in terms of making sure women and communities of color are represented "from the board all the way down."

She also said that a new Administration that "believes in science and data" should make a big difference in keeping and bringing back talent of all types in tech roles.  

On broadband deployment, DelBene said that tech was a key element of the COVID-19 response and that her district was emblematic of the challenge, with part of it hosting a global tech hub and another where there is no broadband access, or even cell service. 

She said broadband access, which means both availability and affordability, is critical not only during COVID-19 but beyond. She said basic consumer privacy is a related, key, issue that needs to be addressed before larger issues--like use of facial recognition tech--can be dealt with.

ITI President Jason Oxman, agreed, saying: “Digital technology has been essential to adjusting to life during the pandemic, and it will be even more essential to our resilience going forward.”

The ITI virtual conversation was tied to the group's release of its key policy recommendations to the Biden Administration, which were:

1. "Investing in an essential workforce through immigration reform, as well as education and training investments; The Biden Administration should support immigration reform that successfully meets the demands of a globally competitive, digital economy, including through increased funding for STEM and computer science education as well as public-private initiatives to ensure that Americans have the right set of digital skills. 

2. "Building the digital infrastructure necessary to close the digital divide;The Biden Administration should set a goal of making high speed wireless broadband and 5G available to all Americans within 5 years. The Administration should commit at least $80 billion in secure broadband infrastructure funding.

3. "Adopting innovative technologies to improve the delivery and efficiency of civil infrastructure development and digital government services. The Biden Administration should modernize and improve the U.S. public sector’s IT and cybersecurity to improve the delivery, security, and efficiency of digital government services and access to public data."