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Human Capital: Uber’s Black employee base shrinks

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Welcome back to Human Capital, where I break down the latest in diversity, equity and inclusion, and labor in tech.

TL;DR: This week, Apple announced its third head of diversity and inclusion in four years, Uber’s Black employee base shrunk despite the company committing to anti-racism and Reddit brought on its second Black board member this year. 

Meanwhile, Facebook’s content moderators spoke out against the company for forcing some of them to work in the office during a pandemic and a new report from Silicon Valley Rising showed 63% of blue-collar tech workers are Black or Latinx. 

Sign up here to get this as a newsletter in your inbox every Fridays at 1 p.m. PT. However, I’m taking next week off so you won’t be hearing from me until December 4.

Facebook content moderators demand better protections and benefits

A group of more than 200 Facebook  content moderators, as well as some full-time employees, demanded the tech company “stop needlessly risking moderators’ lives,” they wrote in an open letter to Facebook and the company’s contractors that manage content moderators, Accenture and Covalen. The demands came after The Intercept reported how some Facebook content moderators — who deal with things like sexual abuse and graphic violence — were required to come back into the office during the pandemic. Shortly after they returned to the office, a Facebook content moderator reportedly tested positive for COVID-19.

Facebook later defended its decision to bring some content moderators into the office, saying it’s “not able to route some of the most sensitive and graphic content to outsourced reviewers at home,” its VP of Integrity Guy Rosen said on a press call. “This is really sensitive content. This is not something you want people reviewing from home with their family around.”

Turo commits $1 million to addressing wealth inequality

Car-sharing marketplace Turo teamed up with Kiva to offer interest-free loans to Black people and folks from traditionally underserved communities to buy cars and then share them on Turo. The $1 million commitment aims to address the issue of wealth inequality in the United States.

Called the Turo Seed Initiative, those who are eligible can raise up to $15,000 via crowdfunding and Turo’s matching program. In order to raise money on Kiva, folks must use the funding for business purposes, which includes car sharing on Turo. Through Kiva, they can raise up to $7,500 and Turo will then match up to $7,500. From there, they can buy a car and list it on Turo.

Tech’s cafeteria workers, security officers, etc. are predominantly Black or Latinx

A Silicon Valley Rising report recently showed about 63% of blue-collar tech workers are Black or Latinx. These are the workers who cook and serve food in tech company cafeterias, drive tech shuttles or work as security officers or custodians.

Also this week, a group of cafeteria workers who formerly worked inside Verizon Media’s offices protested outside its CEO’s home in San Francisco. These workers were laid off by Verizon Media contractor Compass in September. Meanwhile, LinkedIn stopped paying more than 260 food service workers at the end of June and Tesla laid off 280 janitors and bus drivers in April

Transitioning from Trump to Biden: Now is not the time for complacency 

On this week’s episode of TC Mixtape, we spoke with Y-Vonne Hutchinson of Ready Set about DEI and what a new administration means for the work she and so many others are doing. Here’s an excerpt from our conversation:

While I’m optimistic and so thrilled at the prospect that we’re not going to see harm like we did under the Trump administration, I also remember the Obama administration. This isn’t like these structures that got spun up — this didn’t happen out of the blue.

I hope that we have learned some really valuable lessons when it comes to the impact that not just like lack of diversity inclusion, because that feels so milk toast to say, but like these exclusionary and harmful organizations, platforms, powerful people in our industry, like I hope we’ve learned from our mistakes there. But I think that there’s always going to be a temptation to say, ‘well, we got Trump out and the work is done’ [or] feel a little bit complacent. I worry about that complacency. Because, you know, the dirty, nasty undercurrents, all of that stuff that got us to where we are today — all of that’s still there, all that festering toxicity.

We still have work to do, and I’m not saying that everybody’s a bad actor and you know, get rid of it. But I think that we really need to be critical and think about what accountability looks like for our industry and make sure that we’re not falling into the same bad habits that we did that got us here in the first place. So I’m kind of waiting to see how that plays out.

Apple announces a new head of D&I 

Apple recently announced Barbara Whye, former head of D&I at Intel, will be joining them as its VP of inclusion and diversity in early 2021. The announcement came after its former head of D&I, Christie Smith, left the company in June “to spend time with her family,” an Apple spokesperson said at the time. Smith had been in the role since late 2017, after Denise Young Smith, the company’s first-ever VP of diversity and inclusion, left after only being in the role for six months.

Uber’s D&I efforts fall short this year

Uber recently released its latest diversity report, showing a decline in the overall representation of Black employees in the U.S. despite an increased focus on racial justice this year in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd. In 2019, Uber was 9.3% Black while this year, only 7.5% of its employees are Black.

Uber attributes the decline in Black employees to its layoffs earlier this year, where about 40% of its employees in community operations were laid off, Uber Chief Diversity Officer Bo Young Lee told TechCrunch.

“As a company that has so publicly stated its stance on anti-racism, that’s not acceptable,” she said.

That unintentional decline in the Black population at Uber “led to a lot of soul searching,” she said. “Dara was certainly upset by it. Every leader was. It reinforced how easy it is to lose some ground after all the work you’ve done.”

Reddit adds another Black director to the board

Reddit has appointed Paula Price, who has served on the board of six public companies, including Accenture and Deutsche Bank, to its board of directors. Price’s appointment makes her one of two Black directors on the company’s board.

“Paula’s vast experience as a world-class financial leader and strategic advisor will be a tremendous asset to us in the years ahead,” Reddit CEO Steve Huffman said in a statement. “Best of all, she embodies the two qualities most important to us for this Board seat: expertise leading companies through periods of transformative growth and real passion for Reddit’s mission.”

Before Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian stepped down from the board and urged the company to appoint a Black director to take his place, Reddit had zero Black board members. Reddit took Ohanian’s advice and appointed Y Combinator Michael Seibel to the board.

LAPD bans commercial facial recognition

Following an inquiry from Buzzfeed regarding officers’ use of Clearview, the LAPD has banned the use of commercial facial recognition programs. That’s not to say LAPD won’t continue using facial recognition that compares images to suspect booking records but it will no longer use facial recognition tools that rely on social media and other websites. 

Lyron Foster is a Hawaii based African American Musician, Author, Actor, Blogger, Filmmaker, Philanthropist and Multinational Serial Tech Entrepreneur.

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