News

August 20, 2014

USA Today:  Pandora’s staff mostly white in racially diverse Oakland

SAN FRANCISCO -- Pandora may be headquartered in Oakland -- one of the nation's most racially diverse cities -- but its work force is not much more diverse than any other major high-tech company.

In Oakland, blacks make up nearly a third and Hispanics a quarter of the population. But Pandora's staff is mostly white, according to demographics the music streaming company released on Wednesday.

The technical staff is largely white, Asian and male. Less than 18% of workers in technology jobs at Pandora are women and just 3.9% are Hispanic and 2.8% black work. Sixty-two percent of technology workers are white and 26% Asian.

The numbers are not as lopsided when it comes to women serving in non-technical roles. Nearly 58% of Pandora's non-technical staff are women, and Hispanics make up 8% of those workers.

But Pandora's non-technical ranks are also overwhelming white -- 73.4% -- with 8.5% Asian workers and 3% black.

In Pandora's leadership ranks, 38.8% are women and 84.6% are white with Hispanics accounting for 6.3%, Asians 5.7% and blacks just 1.1%.

Rev. Jesse Jackson, who has led the charge to diversify the high-tech industry, says Pandora has an even greater obligation than most to build a company that reflects its community.

Called the "rainbow" city of the West Coast, Oakland is the hub of one of the country's most diverse metropolitan areas: 34% white, 28% black, 25% Hispanic and 17% Asian.

Pandora is also a major player in the music industry which relies heavily on the star power of black and Hispanic artists, Jackson said. For example, a quarter of Pandora's 76.4 million active monthly users are Hispanic, according to ComScore.

"This is the music industry where we are over indexed in the product and in purchasing but not in employment and business," Jackson said.

Pandora grew from fledgling start-up to publicly traded company in Oakland across the bay from San Francisco and Silicon Valley where most high-tech companies and their investors congregate.

Founder Tim Westergren has credited Oakland with helping his 14-year-old company survive its scrappy early days. Oakland offered lower rents and forgiving landlords as well as deep musical roots and a vibrant digital arts culture.

Westergren says his company which has more than 1,300 employees in 50 locations in three countries has plans to build a work force "that reflects our audience."

Pandora is looking to recruit more women and people of color in its leadership ranks, recruit more employees from communities that are underrepresented in high-tech and work with youth in Oakland to mentor a new generation, he said.

Jackson said he is looking forward to "forging key partnerships" with Pandora to increase the diversity of its employees and leadership.

"There should be a strong pathway and few impediments to identifying and employing qualified blacks and Latinos from the local community and around the country so Pandora can reflect its user and consumer base," Jackson said.

Sobering statistics have emerged from Jackson's push to get high-tech companies to open up about the lack of diversity in their ranks. Companies from Facebook to Google have released demographic information that shows a tiny percent of high-tech workers are black or Hispanic.

"The tech industry is perhaps the worst industry in the nation when it comes to inclusion that locks out blacks and Latinos from participation and opportunity," Jackson said.

Jackson is calling on tech companies to establish goals and timetables as they do with "other priority business lines."

Rainbow PUSH plans to hold a public forum in October with tech companies, civil rights and community leaders, business organizations and diversity experts to begin the dialogue on how to move the needle on increasing the ranks of blacks and Hispanics in high-tech.

It's also asking tech leader to commit to releasing diversity numbers each year. It also plans to produce a scorecard on the racial and gender makeup of boards of directors, C-suite leadership and employees.