Black Lives Matter movement inspires tech nonprofit to create 1,000 internship opportunities for minorities in Los Angeles
LOS ANGELES – When the Black Lives Matter movement began to sweep the country last year, tech entrepreneur Adam Miller called up his fellow executive director at LA-Tech.org and wanted to do something bold in their industry.
The tech industry has had a long history of shutting out minorities, especially those in the Latinx and the Black and African American communities.
Miller wanted to do something about it finally.
"I said, 'Sean [Arian], we can't just talk about diversity,'" Miller recalls.
Sean Arian is the executive director at LA-Tech, a nonprofit coalition of leaders in LA's tech community.
"We need to actually do something about it," Miller said. "Let's do something bold. Let's do something audacious."
So, Miller, the founder and co-chair at LA-Tech.org, called up their partners and CEOs of tech companies from across Los Angeles County to participate in an initiative to uplift women and minorities in underserved communities across the LA region.
Called the 1,000 Intern Project, the new program plans to provide 1,000 paid internships for minority students and young adults, ages 16 to 24, who live in underserved areas of Los Angeles and place them to work at tech companies across Los Angeles County.
Along with city officials and tech leaders, the nonprofit group discussed the new program during a press conference in Los Angeles Wednesday.
"The goal is to create a talent pipeline for the tech industry," said Miller, speaking to Spectrum News 1, following the press conference.
But can this tech coalition promote and provide minorities with opportunities that Silicon Valley companies and the tech industry, in general, have struggled to create for more than a decade?
Miller says they can.
"There's been a lot of talk in this area [diversity and inclusion in tech] but not a lot of action," said Miller. "If we're going to do it, we're going to really do it."
For years, tech companies have grappled with the lack of diversity in their industry.
A Wired report found that in 2019, Blacks, Hispanics and Indigenous people made up 5% of employees at Silicon Valley tech firms despite years-long efforts from the big tech companies that they would do better and hire more people of color.
Along with too few minorities in tech, the ones that are employed face discrimination and other obstacles.
Last year, a USA Today study analysis found that Facebook has a little more than 1,000 Black employees despite having a workforce of more than 27,000 employees in 2020. Only 32 Blacks were executives, about 3% of all executives working at the company.
A Facebook spokeswoman told USA Today, "things have improved, but they are nowhere near stellar."
Miller blamed the lack of diversity on tech companies wanting to grow quickly.
"As companies try to grow as fast as possible, they are hiring as quickly as possible, and often, they would take the easy route," Miller said. "They would hire the most obvious people. They hired people who went to the top schools, who have the mathematical degrees, the computer science degrees, who had prior internships at tech companies. So, you end up with the chicken or egg problem. And we're here to break up that cycle."