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Juneteenth & the Future of Tech: A Look at Diversity & Inclusion Efforts

Juneteenth & the Future of Tech: A Look at Diversity & Inclusion Efforts

In the U.S., tech company teams only hire 7.4% African Americans; in the U.K., ethnic minorities fill just about 13% of the significant roles in the industry. Juneteenth isn’t just a day off; it’s a real nudge for the future of tech to look at these gaps. The day shines a light on the crucial need for various voices in tech.

Let’s discuss how the big names in tech are celebrating Juneteenth. We’ll see how they’re improving to welcome diversity and ensure everyone is included.

Understanding Juneteenth

Juneteenth (June 19th) marks the day when, back in 1865, enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, found out they were finally free. That’s actually over two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. Because it represents the end of slavery in the U.S., Juneteenth is significant. 

In the tech scene, Juneteenth prompts all sorts of initiatives. For many companies, this is their chance to educate people on racial injustices, aiming to deepen understanding and commemorate Black history. Google and Amazon are some of the major players in hosting such events, talks, and panels. 

The Importance of Diversity and Inclusion in Tech 

Due to their varied perspectives, diverse teams are essential for generating creative and practical solutions, particularly in cloud services. These teams better anticipate and address user needs, leading to numerous advantages. Diversity inspires new ideas through different perspectives and experiences, which is crucial in a tech industry reliant on advancements. 

Diverse teams excel at problem-solving by approaching issues from multiple angles, boosting customer satisfaction, and creating inclusive, user-friendly products. Inclusive workplaces also enhance employee morale and retention, reducing turnover rates and associated costs.

However, reports from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for 2020–2021 highlight significant demographic disparities in the high-tech sector compared to the overall private industry. The tech sector employs a more substantial proportion of whites (68.5% vs. 63.5%), Asian Americans (14% vs. 5.8%), and men (64% vs. 52%) while underrepresenting African Americans (7.4%), Hispanics (8%), and women (36%). 

In the UK, the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology reported in 2023 that 25% of tech workers belong to ethnic minority groups, up from 20% last year. However, ethnic diversity nearly halves in senior roles, dropping to 13%. Disclosure rates for ethnic identity range from 76% to 86%.

Observing Juneteenth: Initiatives by Major Tech Companies

Leading tech companies are celebrating Juneteenth with various initiatives. Here’s an overview of how several tech giants are honoring this significant day in 2024.

Apple’s “Freedom Songs 2024” Initiative

Apple has chosen to celebrate Juneteenth by highlighting the contributions of black musicians through a specially curated collection called “Freedom Songs 2024.” This collection features original songs and covers that reflect the black community’s rich cultural heritage and artistic expression. “Music has always been a powerful medium for conveying the struggles and triumphs of the black experience,” said an Apple representative. “With Freedom Songs 2024, we hope to honor that legacy and inspire our listeners.”

AT&T’s Community Engagement and Mentorship

The foundation of AT&T’s Juneteenth celebration is community engagement and education. Jackie Jackson, Director of Marketing, has been pivotal in integrating the company’s efforts with local Juneteenth events. “Juneteenth is a day that I celebrate in my community,” said Jackson. “About ten years ago, I created an addition to the Central NJ Juneteenth to include an AT&T Technology tent where we would partner with our New York/New Jersey retail team and employee groups to share with the community how AT&T’s products, services, and jobs connect people to new possibilities.” 

Google’s Juneteenth Doodle and Educational Events

In 2024, Google anticipates releasing a special Juneteenth doodle, similar to previous years. These annual doodles educate and inspire a global audience about the historical significance of Juneteenth. A Google representative remarked, “Our Juneteenth doodles are a way to celebrate the day and highlight the contributions of black artists and culture.”

Through these eclectic endeavors, tech companies are honoring Juneteenth and reiterating their dedication to diversity, equity, and inclusion. These businesses celebrate Juneteenth and the fight for racial equality by bringing attention to cultural contributions, encouraging community involvement, and spreading education.

Previous Juneteenth Celebrations by Leading Tech Companies

The tech industry has been very progressive in recent years regarding diversity and inclusion. Here are some of the successful Juneteenth celebrations of big tech companies. 

Adobe’s Comprehensive Diversity Initiative

Recognizing the importance of reflection and advocacy, Adobe granted its 26,000 employees a day off on June 19 to observe Juneteenth. That same year, Adobe launched the Taking Action Initiative (TAI), forming five task forces dedicated to diversity and inclusion: community, growth and advancement, hiring and recruiting, responsibility and advocacy, and transparency and governance.

Specific Initiatives and Programs:

  • Community: Engaging with local communities to foster inclusivity.
  • Growth and Advancement: Creating opportunities for professional development for underrepresented groups.
  • Hiring and Recruiting: Implementing strategies to diversify the workforce.
  • Responsibility and Advocacy: Promoting corporate responsibility and advocacy for social justice.
  • Transparency and Governance: Ensuring transparent practices and accountability.

Under TAI’s leadership, Adobe started celebrating Juneteenth as a day to learn about Black history and racial justice. The company arranged events for all employees, including volunteering and listening to podcasts about the Black experience in America.

Google’s Support for Black History and Small Businesses

With educational content like “Juneteenth” and “The Historical Legacy of Juneteenth,” as well as its annual Juneteenth Doodle, Google has long advocated for diversity and inclusion. By bringing attention to the achievements of Black people throughout history and culture, these initiatives hope to raise awareness of Juneteenth and its importance.

Specific Initiatives and Programs:

  • Showcasing Black Historical Figures, Moments, and Places: Through Google Doodles and dedicated content.
  • Supporting Black Small Businesses: Providing resources and visibility to Black-owned businesses.
  • Creating Space for Employees to Reflect, Learn, and Celebrate: Hosting internal events and discussions on Juneteenth.

Thanks to Google’s efforts, more people, both inside and outside the company, are familiar with and appreciative of Black history and culture. Google has shown it is serious about diversity by supporting Black businesses and regularly highlighting Black historical contributions. The internal programs’ emphasis on self-reflection and continuous improvement has resulted in a more welcoming workplace for all employees.

Unityfest’s Partnership with Tech Companies like YouTube

Unityfest, founded in 2021 by the Robert Randolph Foundation, is an annual event celebrating Juneteenth and Black culture. This gathering celebrates different voices coming together to recognize the critical impact that Black individuals have made on American history and culture.

Specific Initiatives and Programs:

  • Unityfest Annual Event: A celebration featuring performances and discussions highlighting Black culture and history.
  • Partnership with Tech Companies: Collaboration with companies like YouTube to broaden the event’s reach and impact.
  • Highlighting Black Artists: Featuring prominent Black artists such as DJ Spinna to celebrate cultural contributions.

Unityfest has successfully created a platform that amplifies Black voices and celebrates cultural heritage. Partnerships with tech companies like YouTube have extended the event’s reach, allowing for greater participation and visibility. This collaboration has celebrated Juneteenth and fostered a broader understanding and appreciation of Black culture among diverse audiences.

Challenges and Opportunities

One of the most significant issues with diversity and inclusion in the tech industry is the lack of representation of certain groups in executive positions. Despite all the efforts, companies continue to have more white male executives than female executives. This imbalance shows systemic problems, like unfair hiring practices and few chances for underrepresented groups to move up.

However, these obstacles also offer opportunities for progress. Inclusive hiring practices, robust diversity training, and mentorship programs can bring significant change. Adobe’s Taking Action Initiative, centered on community involvement and professional development, is a solid basis for promoting a diverse workforce. 

Juneteenth and similar celebrations are crucial for advancing these efforts. When tech companies observe these critical dates, they demonstrate their commitment to fostering diverse and inclusive workplaces while acknowledging the history and culture of underrepresented communities. 

The Path Forward for Diversity and Inclusion in Tech

Despite the challenges of getting fair opportunities at higher levels, these obstacles also have silver linings. It is crucial to hire inclusively, provide thorough diversity training, and support community-driven projects. Celebrating Juneteenth demonstrates tech companies’ dedication to encouraging cultural awareness, conversations, and learning, all essential for creating a diverse and adaptable industry.

If you’re ready to be part of the tech scene, book a 10-minute intro call now. 

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Silvana Zapanta

Sil brings a wealth of experience to her writing and editing projects. After nearly a decade guiding college students in research and communication, she shifted her focus to freelance writing and editing. Her passion for education continues through volunteer work, where she empowers others by teaching research and writing skills.

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