Ian King (Bloomberg) -- Cisco Systems Inc. pledged to increase the number of Black employees and leaders, adding its name to a list of technology companies promising to try to fix the lack of diversity in their workforces.
The biggest maker of networking equipment said its goal is to increase the company’s workforce of Black people by 25% by 2023 in the entry-level to manager levels. In the director to vice president ranks, the San Jose, California-based company said it wants to raise black representation by 75%. Overall, Cisco pledged to create pay parity and promotion fairness.
Silicon Valley companies have come under pressure to match their in-house actions to the proclamations of support they made in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police in May, an event that energized the Black Lives Matter movement and prompted a nationwide focus on racial inequity. Statistics show that most U.S. technology companies don’t have enough Black employees to make their workforces representative of the general population.
Cisco was relatively quick to respond after Floyd’s death, but has faced some internal difficulties in the process. It was forced to fire some employees for their behavior during an all-hands meeting to discuss race.
In the U.S., 3.8% of Cisco’s workers are Black, according to its most recent corporate and social responsibility report. For technical positions roles, the number falls to 3.3%, followed by 1.8% of vice presidents. There are no Black executives on Cisco’s leadership team.
The company said it will invest in the next generation of Black technology leaders by providing money and support to historically Black colleges and universities. It will also create a $50 million venture investment fund to help startups with diverse founders and leadership and will advocate for social change, police reform and give employees a paid day off to vote.