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Airbnb, Lyft among tech companies pledging to White House diversity initiative

The Obama Administration looks to change the landscape of technology and business by focusing on inclusion and diversity.


Megan Smith, Chief Technology Office of the United States

Chuck Kennedy/The White House

A host of companies, including Airbnb, Lyft and Spotify, have pledged to diversify their staff as part of a White House-led initiative to help the technology industry reflect the country's changing population.

Thirty-three companies on Wednesday committed to the Tech Inclusion Pledge, publicly stating their goals to recruit a diverse workforce, publish company data on diversity and invest in partnerships to continue strengthening that initiative.

"The United States is the best place in the world to start and grow a business," Megan Smith, the chief technology officer of the US, said in unveiling the pledge. "Yet, there's so much more that we can do to be able to field our whole team."

Diversity in the technology field has become an increasingly publicized issue, leading big companies such as Google and Apple to release annual reports describing the make-up of their workforces. Smith cited statistics showing that just 3 percent of US venture capital-backed startups are run by women and just 1 percent are run by African Americans.

The pledge, which was announced by the White House along with two other initiatives designed to foster the growth of young companies, comes as the Obama administration hosts the seventh Global Entrepreneurship Summit at Stanford University. The three-day summit has attracted more than 300 investors and over than 700 businesspeople. People from 170 countries are participating.

President Obama announced the first GES during a speech at Cairo University following the Arab Spring in 2011. Since then, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Morocco and Kenya have hosted the event.

"The more we are helping to grow emerging markets around the world and invest in innovative economic growth solutions the more those become markets for our own goods," Ben Rhodes, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said during a media briefing Wednesday.

The conference culminates on Friday with a chat between President Obama and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

In addition to the pledge, the White House unveiled two initiatives aimed at nurturing small businesses.

The Small Business Administration will roll out online tools that streamline typically arduous permit and licensing processes in more than 100 cities. It will also offer mentoring and business skill programs.

The White House also unveiled an expansion of the National Science Foundation's Innovation Corps, commonly referred to as I-Corps, to three new agencies, including NASA. The entrepreneur-training program helps employees use research data to develop new technology.