In an attempt to boost diversity and inclusion efforts and civic engagement between the growing technology industry in Los Angeles and the community that surrounds it, over 80 venture capitalists and entrepreneurs joined the city’s mayor, Eric Garcetti, and the non-profit Annenberg Foundation to announce PledgeLA.
The initiative is one way in which the Los Angeles technology community is attempting to ensure that it does not repeat the same mistakes made by Silicon Valley and San Francisco and alienate fellow citizens who could feel left out of the opportunities created by tech’s rise to prominence in the city.
“L.A.’s tech growth is no accident – it is a tribute to our region’s tradition of creativity, leadership in innovation, and wealth of talent. With PledgeLA, we will promote transparency in a growing sector and open the doors of opportunity to our diverse base of workers, no matter their race, gender, or background,” said Garcetti, in a statement.
As part of the diversity and inclusion effort, the signatories to PledgeLA have agreed to track civic participation and diversity data each year and to make that data publicly available.
The metrics that signatories will track include community engagement statistics like participation in mentorship programs, volunteering, board service, offering internships, using local banks, giving preference to vendors owned by women or minorities, dedicating a portion of annual spending to local impact initiatives, and investing in local Los Angeles startups.
Demographics at funds and startups will also be under the microscope, since signatories have agreed to report on their composition by race, gender, age, sexual orientation, disability status, immigration status, veteran status, educational attainment, socioeconomic origin, tenure at a firm. PledgeLA participants will also need a code of conduct around diversity and inclusion and are required to privilege diversity in corporate hiring practices.
Over the past five years, Los Angeles has emerged as one of the top five destinations in the U.S. for technology investment and corporate development. It’s one of the fastest growing tech hubs in the country with the 100 largest tech companies in L.A. and Orange County reporting a 24 percent increase in employment from the previous year, according to data provided by the Annenberg Foundation.
The local non-profit was instrumental in setting up the PledgeLA initiative, which grew out of discussions that the institute fostered among the Los Angeles venture community.
Nonetheless, diverse talent remains vastly underrepresented in the workforce of the local tech sector. The landmark
PledgeLA initiative grew out of a series of problem-solving sessions within the Los Angeles venture capital community.
“This commitment from L.A.’s venture capitalists and Mayor Garcetti means that change is happening, and this change is good, as long as we can work to make Los Angeles a more diverse, inclusive and community-focused city that benefits everyone,” said Annenberg Foundation Chairman, President and chief executive Wallis Annenberg, in a statement.
For Los Angeles investors like Upfront Ventures partner, Kobie Fuller, diverse hiring practices are just good business sense.
“Investing in a diverse array of founders, looking for talent in all corners of the city, and bringing different voices to the table when making decisions on investments is just smart business,” Fuller said in a statement. “We know companies with a diverse workforce are more successful, which, in turn, increases community engagement and provides opportunities for the community-at-large. PledgeLA will put Los Angeles on the right trajectory.”
Nearly every large investment firm and Los Angeles based company agreed to sign on to the pledge with at least three notable exceptions. Neither Snap, SpaceX, nor Tesla appear on the list of companies willing to participate in the diversity pledge.