Since its inception, the American tech industry has had a diversity problem. For all of its innovations, change and hope, the field has largely been dominated by rich, white men. But PledgeLA, a new initiative from Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and the Annenberg Foundation is working with more than 80 venture capital and tech leaders in the city bring a more inclusive and diverse approach to recruitment and retention in technology.
“The tech industry looks a little different because people are wearing T-shirts and flip-flops,” Garcetti said during PledgeLA’s announcement launch on Monday. “But the boardrooms and C-suites look like something out of ‘Mad Men.’”
Some of the bigger names taking part in the initiative include Dollar Shave Club, Boingo Wireless and Baron Davis Enterprises.
Though Silicon Valley is the most recognizable tech hub in the world, Los Angeles has quietly become one of leading centers for technological innovation. And Los Angeles is trying to learn from some of the painful challenges cities like San Francisco have experiences where the tech boom has created a massive level of economic disparity between its most well-off residents and virtually everyone else.
“Our city’s diversity is our competitive advantage, so we are always looking around the corner for ways to ensure every Angeleno has a chance to succeed in the industries of tomorrow,” Garcetti in the announcement. “With PledgeLA, we will promote transparency in a growing sector and open the doors of opportunity to our diverse base of workers, no matter their race, gender or background.”
It’s also more than simply pursuing diversity for altruistic reasons. Recent studies have found that in coming years there literally won’t be enough people to fill the rapidly growing number of engineering jobs – unless public-private partnerships like PledgeLA make a concerted effort to expand the talent pool of people available to fill those jobs.
And as employment opportunities continue to grow, Annenberg has been working to provide the resources to amplify a more widespread recruitment effort.
The full scope of PledgeLA’s mandate includes investments in tech education, increasing access to technology across the city’s communities and even improving the focus on affordable housing and a more equitable workforce; all factors that can be prohibitive barriers to entry for those without the economic tools to compete for jobs and educational opportunities.
“We saw an opportunity to become a catalyst to help launch PledgeLA,” said Annenberg Foundation Chairman, President and CEO Wallis Annenberg. “This change is good, as long as we can work to make Los Angeles a more diverse, inclusive and community-focused city that benefits everyone.”
Each of the 48 venture capital firms and 39 tech firms who are taking part in the initiative will provide a fully transparent update on diversity recruitment efforts and results, working directly with Mayor Garcetti’s office on strategies and implementation. It’s one of the first and the largest public-private partnerships aimed to bring a more diverse set of talents into America’s growing tech sector.