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Rev. Jesse Jackson releases remarks made before Microsoft shareholders meeting

(December 10, 2014) The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., head of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, continued his recent efforts to bring more diversity to the nation's top technology companies by delivering remarks at last week's annual shareholders meeting of Microsoft in Bellevue, Washington.

Prior to the shareholders' gathering Jackson met with new Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, who is Indian-born, and Chairman John Thompson, who is African-American. Also in attendance, and seated next to Jackson, was Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's largest individual stockholder, and former CEO.

Rainbow PUSH recently released a transcript of Jackson's remarks at the shareholders' meeting, and it appears  below:

Chairman Thompson, Mr. Nadella, Board members and Microsoft leaders, fellow shareholders -- I speak to you today representing the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, about the need to open up a new era of growth and inclusion of African Americans and people of color, and women, in the technology industry.  

But first, let me congratulate and commend our new leadership: Chairman John Thompson, with whom I've had the privilege of working with over the years -- ascending from Florida A&M University, an HBCU school that teaches computer science and engineering succeeding Bill Gates to become Chairman of our Board.

And to Satya Nadella -- thank you for taking the time to meet with me this week, and to share your values of "learning and inclusiveness" that drive Microsoft in this ever changing global technological economy.

This past year, Rainbow PUSH Coalition has challenged companies to disclose their EEO-1 and workforce diversity data. We've researched the racial and gender composition of corporate boards and C-suite leadership.

The tech industry is data driven.  And the diversity and inclusion data are indisputable and undeniable: The leadership and workforce of the technology industry does not look like America or reflect the population and consumers that it relies upon for success. 

Most companies have between 0 to 3% Blacks in their tech workforce; virtually the same for their non-tech workforce.

Of the twenty companies we researched, there were only 3 African Americans out of 189 total Board Directors; just 1 Latino. 153 men and just 36 Women. 11 (over half) have all-white Boards.

Of 307 top "C-suite" leaders, there are just six African Americans and 3 Latinos.   244 Men and just 65 Women. 7 of the 20 companies have all white leadership.

To its credit, Microsoft demonstrates unusual inclusion with John and Satya occupying the top leadership positions of our company. 

More importantly, the technology industry is not capturing the tremendous value that will propel it into the future -- after all African Americans, Latinos... People of color are the biggest per capital users of social media and the internet -- we use Microsoft software and play Xbox. We use Windows, iPhones and Android mobile phones.  We are the innovators of the future; the consumers of the future.

It's time the Boards of Directors and C-suites and workforce transform themselves to look like the New America.  

We issue a Call to Action. Now that the data has been delivered, let's turn to the next steps to change the face of technology -- to place inclusion, diversity and innovation at the forefront of the agenda.  Let's set measurable goals, targets and timetables to move the needle.

Microsoft is uniquely position to lead this new era. Inclusion and fairness is part of the DNA of Microsoft's history. Your supplier diversity program and business partnerships with minority businesses is at the top of the class; your Law Firm Diversity program is one which deserves to be replicated throughout the industry.

I argue there is no talent deficit, but an opportunity deficit. And by tapping the unfound talent, untapped capital and underutilized markets in communities of color, the technology industry -- looking forward -- can unleash a new era of opportunity where everybody is included.

The tech industry has demonstrated that it can solve the most challenging complex problems in the world. Inclusion is a complex problem -- if we put our collective minds to it, we can solve it, too. There's nothing we can't do, together.  

Access to technology and its boundless opportunities are this era's civil rights imperative.  There are some right now shovel ready opportunities that we must seize:  Consider partnering with:

- The TAF program, a STEM focused school teaching 600 children in trailers;
- Ariel Investments, Loop Capital and Williams Capital and other top flight minority financial services firms;
- Black Enterprise, Ebony, BET, NNPA, TV and Radio One -- key media outlets;
- Lawyers, marketing and ad agencies, construction and building contractors, accountants that can provide critical services.

Our mission to ensure that Blacks, Latinos, people of color, women -- everybody shares in this opportunity, and grows together. Rainbow PUSH is seeking partners to change the face of technology. In Microsoft, we find a willing partner who's inspired and leadership can help set the pace.

Mr.  Chairman, if I might ask a few questions:

1. Will Microsoft commit to annually releasing its Equal Employment Opportunity report?

2. Will Microsoft commit to a by-law amendment that will require an explicit and active search for women and people of color for all future Board openings, and commit to a "Rooney Rule" like provision to mandate that women and people of color are included as part of any search for C-suite level positions?  Will you consider expanding your Board?

3. Will Microsoft commit to the inclusion of Black and minority firms in debt offerings and future financial transactions?

4. Will Microsoft set goals, targets and timetables to measure its diversity and inclusion progress related to its workforce; supplier diversity; and the inclusion of people of color in your financial and professional services work.

5. Will Microsoft consider legislation that will provide tax credits to corporations who repatriate offshore profits back to the US, to be invested in a development bank aimed at reinvesting in America's infrastructure, and establishing a Technology/Education Inclusion Fund?

6. What programs will Microsoft put in place; and what partnerships (locally and nationally) can be designed and expanded to build the pipeline needed to create a 21st century, multi-racial, inclusive workforce?

Thank you again for the opportunity to speak to you today. Let's make the technology industry look like America. Inclusion leads to growth, and where there is growth, everybody wins. Let's grow and let's win.

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