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Diversity 2.0: Jesse Jackson Turns Up the Heat on Tech Companies

/ Source: Associated Press
Image: Jesse Jackson, Kacie Gonzalez, Nick Norena
In this photo taken Monday, Dec. 8, 2014, Rev. Jesse Jackson, center, visits Kacie Gonzalez, left, vice president of business development and Nick Norena, both with the company Shoto, at the Workshop Cafe in San Francisco. Jackson and his group, Rainbow Push, are stepping up the pressure on technology companies to confront a shortage of women, African-Americans and Hispanics on their payrolls.AP

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Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson spent most of this year pressuring the technology industry into facing up to the glaring scarcity of women, blacks and Latinos at companies renowned as great places to work. Now comes Diversity 2.0 — finding ways to reverse a deep-rooted problem that isn't going to be as easy to fix as writing new lines of code for a computer bug. The challenges, along with some of the potential solutions, were explored Wednesday at a Silicon Valley summit organized by Jackson and his group, Rainbow Push. Google, Apple, Facebook and more than other 20 other tech companies sent representatives to the forum held at the Santa Clara, California headquarters of computer chipmaker Intel Corp. The crowd of roughly 300 people also included entrepreneurs, academics and nonprofit groups eager to change the cultural and educational milieu that turned computer programming into an occupation dominated by white and Asian men.

"It definitely feels like we are entering a new phase," says Laura Weidman Powers, CEO of Code2040, a San Francisco nonprofit that has been lining up technology internships for black and Latino college students for the past three summers. "When we first started, diversity just wasn't on the list of these large companies that have power and potential to make change. Now, it really feels like it is. They may not know exactly what to do yet, but they are interested in taking steps in the right direction."

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— The Associated Press

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