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'No-one has right to lock out creativity' - Reverend Jesse Jackson calls on tech scene to boost diversity

Reverend Jesse Jackson spoke about the importance of diversity during Social Media Week in New York earlier today - an area in which he said major tech companies, regardless of their financial success, are failing.

Jackson, a well-known American civil rights activist, pointed out the inconsistencies in demographics when it comes to race.

About 20 to 30 per cent of all Twitter users are black or brown, but only one to two per cent of the employees of the top 20 tech companies – Twitter, Google, Facebook included – are of colour.

In trans-investment start-ups, the figures are even smaller, with almost zero per cent of employees being non-white.

“The industry is driven as much by creativity as any other single thing,” he said. “Nobody has the right to lock out creativity based on ignorance and fear.”

Still, Jackson pointed out that the issue didn’t just begin with the hiring process. Rather, he said, young children of color, need to be given access to adequate education in the tech and engineering sectors.

One solution, he suggested, would be to create a “pipeline from Silicon Valley to the black and latino schools.”

Overall, while the road to ethnic diversity in the tech industry will be just as long as the same road in any industry, Jackson urged company leaders not to take the easy route.

“So many people adjust to insult because fighting insult is risky,” Jackson said. “It involves sacrifice, it involves extra effort.”

While many conferences during Social Media Week were so filled up that attendees have had to sit on the floor, the Jackson’s diversity talk was only at about 75 per cent capacity, which in itself, highlighted the issues facing the industry.

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