Jesse Jackson wants Google to invest in startups led by Blacks, Latinos

Civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson asked Google to make an amendment to its governance byelaws to make a search for women and people of color a must before filling board positions, as part of his push to get higher representation for women and certain ethnic groups in tech companies.

Addressing a Google shareholder meeting Wednesday, Jackson also asked the Internet giant if it would invest in early-stage Black and Latino-led tech startups.

“Google reportedly has over $35 billion parked overseas,” Jackson said. “Would you consider repatriating some of this offshore money back to America to fund an Innovation Investment Development Bank? And in return, receive tax credits or a reduced tax rate on foreign profits?”

Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt said Google would like to repatriate the funds and invest them in the U.S., but has not been able to move the “political conversation” on it for many reasons.

The leader, who pushed tech companies last year to release data on the diversity of their employees, said he would ask companies to publish similar reports this year by Sept. 1, along with a report card on what had been achieved in the area of inclusion of underrepresented communities.

A number of companies including Intel and Google have announced plans to increase the number of Blacks, Latinos and women in their workforce.

But companies have not moved the “needle on representation” very much, Jackson said.

Google said Tuesday that though 21 percent of its tech hires last year were women, their share of the tech workforce went up by only 1 percent. The hiring of Blacks and Hispanics outstripped Google’s hiring growth overall, but the share of these groups was still about 2-3 percent, the company said. The share of women in the global workforce was 30 percent as of January this year, while the share of blacks among U.S. employees was 2 percent, and Hispanics accounted for 3 percent.

Moving percentage points takes a lot in a large company with 55,000 plus staff, said Google chief legal counsel David Drummond, who said that the change will take a lot of struggle.