Tech companies made big pledges to fight racism last year — here’s how they’re doing so far

Last June, social media feeds became flooded with corporate statements about how companies would promote racial equity within and beyond their workforce. The commitments came after the police murder of George Floyd sparked protests around the country.

One year after those initial statements, many tech companies seem to have met several of their initial goals while promising to expand their commitments to diversity and inclusion efforts and racial justice causes.

Here’s how some of tech’s biggest players stacked up:

Airbnb
2020 commitment: Airbnb said it would donate a total of $500,000 to the NAACP and the Black Lives Matter Foundation. It also said it would match employee donations to both groups.

The company also said that by the end of 2021, 20% of its board of directors and executive team collectively would be made up of people of color. By the end of 2025, Airbnb said, its goal is to have 20% of U.S. employees be underrepresented minorities and for 50% of global employees who identify in the gender binary to be women.

Airbnb also said each member of its executive team would create and share a detailed plan to meet those goals with their teams.

2021 progress: Airbnb said it’s donated $1 million over the last year to organizations, including its $500,000 commitment to the NAACP and the Black Lives Matter Foundation. Airbnb also gave funds to Asian Americans Advancing Justice. The company said it matched employee donations to these groups and others, though it did not disclose the amount.

Airbnb said in its Q4 2020 shareholder letter that as of December 12.3% of its U.S.-based employees are underrepresented minorities and 47% of its global employees identify as women. It did not respond to a request for an update to its commitment to diversity among its board and execs.

Other notable updates: Airbnb plans to make Juneteenth a paid company holiday beginning this year.

Amazon
2020 commitment: Donate a total of $10 million to several organizations selected by its Black Employee Network that focus on fighting systemic racism or seek to expand education and economic opportunities for Black communities.

2021 progress: Amazon said that as of July 2020 it had donated $27 million to the organizations it identified, which includes the initial $10 million donation plus $8.5 million in employee donations and a match from the company.

Other notable updates: Amazon said it’s doubled the representation of Black directors and vice presidents in its ranks. The company’s workforce stats show that as of the end of 2020, 3.8% of senior leaders in the company were Black, compared with 1.9% in 2019 and 1.5% in 2018.

Apple
Apple CEO Tim Cook delivers the keynote address during the 2020 Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) at Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino, California.
Apple CEO Tim Cook delivers the keynote address during the 2020 Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) at Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino, California.
Brooks Kraft/Apple Inc/Handout via Reuters
2020 commitment: Invest $100 million in efforts to create opportunities for communities of color, including through education, economic equality and criminal justice reform as part of Apple’s Racial Equity and Justice Initiative. As part of REJI, Apple said it would increase its spending with Black-owned suppliers and add 10 regional coding centers at historically Black colleges and universities, or HBCUs.

CEO Tim Cook also said shortly after Floyd’s death that Apple would donate an unspecified amount to groups including the Equal Justice Initiative and match two for one all employee donations made in June 2020. Cook also told employees Apple would “reexamine our own views and actions in light of a pain that is deeply felt but too often ignored.”

2021 progress: In January, Apple announced the launch of several projects related to its $100 million commitment through REJI.

Apple said $25 million would go toward creating the Propel Center, a global innovation hub for HBCUs meant to “support the next generation of diverse leaders” through tech curricula. It’s expected to break ground later this year.

Apple also announced a new Apple Developer Academy in Detroit to help Black entrepreneurs and coders gain skills, in a collaboration with Michigan State University.

It announced two investments in venture capital and banking: a $10 million investment with early stage VC firm Harlem Capital to support investments in 1,000 companies over 20 years, and a $25 million investment in Siebert Williams Shank & Co.’s Clear Vision Impact Fund, which invests in small and medium-size businesses with a focus on minority-owned companies.

An Apple spokesperson said the company would issue an update on the commitment in a few months.

Other notable updates: The share of Black employees in Apple’s overall workforce has remained at 9% since 2016, according to the company’s latest diversity report. Black representation in leadership was 4% in 2020, the same as in 2019.

Box
2020 commitment: Box CEO Aaron Levie pledged to donate $500,000 to groups fighting racial injustice. Box said in a statement at the time that it was “committed to financially supporting nonprofit organizations working toward improving racial equality.”

2021 progress: A Box spokesperson confirmed Levie and his wife, Paradigm CEO Joelle Emerson, donated more than $500,000 to about 10 justice reform organizations.

Since the summer of 2020, Box said it has donated $200,000 through its Box.org fund to the Equal Justice Initiative, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Black Visions Collective and Gideon’s Army. Box said its Black Excellence Network employee resource group helped select the organizations that would be most impactful in working toward racial justice. The company also said it raised $70,000 in employee donations to support racial justice initiatives.

More recently, Box committed $100,000 to support AAPI organizations following the Atlanta spa shootings and uptick in anti-Asian violence.

Other notable updates: Box partnered with HBCUs to help it diversify recruiting, including a partnership with Spelman College for its summer 2021 internship program.

Cisco
2020 commitment: Cisco said it would donate $5 million to groups including the Equal Justice Initiative, the Black Lives Matter Foundation and its own fund to fight racism and discrimination.

The company also outlined 12 actions representing its commitment to the Black community, including:

Increasing representation of employees who identify as Black or African American by 25% at the entry-to-manager level and by 75% at the director-to-VP+ level by 2023. Cisco said this will serve as a “blueprint” to expand representation “across the full spectrum of diversity at every level.”
Increasing board diversity through succession planning and commitments to developing a diverse pipeline of talent.
Committing $50 million over 5 years to increase diversity of its partner ecosystem.
Launching a $50 million venture fund to invest in funds and start-ups with diverse founders and leadership teams.
2021 progress: Of its $5 million commitment, Cisco said it donated $1 million to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, $1 million to the Equal Justice Initiative and $76,000 to nonprofits identified as part of Cisco’s Fighting Racism and Discrimination Fund. The roughly $2 million remaining has not yet been distributed, and Cisco said it’s working on identifying partners.

On top of the $5 million commitment, Cisco employees also gave $800,000 to groups in the Fighting Racism and Discrimination Fund, which Cisco matched.

It has also made some progress on its other goals, including:

Cisco said it’s seen a 12% increase in Black employees up through the senior manager level, a 41% increase at the director level and more than 100% increase in the number of Black VPs since fiscal year 2021 began in July.
In January, Cisco announced the appointment of John D. Harris II, former CEO of Raytheon International and a prominent Black executive, to its board of directors.
A Cisco spokesperson said its plans to commit $50 million over five years to increase the diversity of its partner ecosystem is still in an early stage but in active development. The company said it created the internal African American Cisco Ecosystem program office this year, launching a pilot with eight Black-owned companies to help steer new executive engagements and identify investment needs.
A spokesperson said Cisco is still finalizing several investments and is not yet ready to publicly provide an update on the $50 million venture fund.
Comcast
2020 commitment: Comcast announced a multiyear plan to allocate $100 million to fight injustice and inequality. That commitment included $75 million in cash and $25 million in media to be distributed over three years.

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said in a blog post at the time that efforts would focus on partnering with and supporting groups working to end injustice and inequality, accelerating diversity and inclusion efforts including through hiring and training, highlighting Black voices through media channels, addressing digital inequity through connectivity and educational investments, and supporting small businesses run by people of color.

2021 progress: Comcast provided a public update on its commitment in February. It said it had expanded its low-cost Internet Essentials program and committed to launching by the end of 2021 more than 1,000 new Lift Zones, which are community centers it provides with WiFi. It also expanded partnerships with groups that provide educational resources to students, such as Black Girls Code.

Through Comcast’s new RISE initiative, the company awarded marketing and technology resources to more than 700 Black-owned small businesses. Comcast also launched the RISE Investment Fund to give $5 million in grants to hundreds of minority-owned small businesses.

Comcast announced partnerships and plans to make content with Black creators including LeBron James and Ava DuVernay. It also launched Black Experience, a hub for Black entertainment, on the Xfinity Channel in February. Comcast said it would invest millions of dollars to showcase emerging Black creators on the platform.

The company also launched NBCU Academy with 17 academic partners including HBCUs, Hispanic-serving institutions, or HSIs, and colleges with significant minority populations.

Other notable updates: Beyond the $100 million commitment, Comcast has since committed $1 billion over 10 years to help close the digital divide between high- and low-income communities.

Leave a Reply