Juneteenth and the Big Five tech companies

Black woman on MacBook with coffee

Juneteenth is an annual holiday held every June 19, commemorating the anniversary of the day in 1865 that the last slaves (in Texas) were finally freed.

Last year’s Black Lives Matter protests saw increased attention to Juneteenth, with various local governments deciding to make it an official holiday. On Thursday, President Biden signed into law a bill making Juneteenth an official federal holiday—the first new one since Martin Luther King Day was established nearly 40 years ago.

The attention to Juneteenth has also extended to the tech sector. Here’s a look at how the “Big Five” (Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft) are handling Juneteenth. (Information drawn from CNN and TechCrunch.)

Amazon

Amazon plans to sponsor several Juneteenth observances. There’ll also be a page on Prime Video featuring relevant movies.

That said, it’s apparently still not a day off for Amazon workers, just like last year.

This week’s episode of the NPR podcast “Code Switch” wondered if we’ll see Juneteenth used as a sale-oriented holiday. Given Amazon’s Prime Day this year starts on Monday, June 21, and Father’s Day is already in mid-June (the day after Juneteenth this year), that might not be too far-fetched a concern.

Apple

Apple added Juneteenth as a recurring holiday in its calendar app back in 2018. It’s also giving US corporate workers (but not Apple Store or support center workers) Friday off.

Facebook

Facebook is offering employees the option of taking a paid day off on Friday. The social media giant is also hosting a company-wide “Day of Learning” event to discuss the meaning of Juneteenth.

Google

Google added Juneteenth as a recurring holiday on its calendar app last year. This year, Google’s eliminating all employee meetings on Friday, as well as hosting a two-hour event featuring singer Erykah Badu.

Microsoft

Instead of a vacation day, Microsoft is using Monday as a day for employees to learn about the meaning behind Juneteenth, as well as ongoing issues faced by African-Americans.

Tech companies’ diversity

Black woman on a MacBook

Photo by WOCinTech Chat (Flickr / CC BY / cropped from original)

All of the above is interesting. That said, I hope these tech giants’ future plans including hiring more Black workers. Per the most recent comprehensive figures I could find:

  • Apple’s employee base is 9% Black. Only 3% are in leadership roles, however.
  • Amazon’s employee base is 26.5% Black as of 2019. However, the majority of these workers are in their distribution centers, versus technical or leadership roles.
  • Facebook’s employee base is 3.8% Black.
  • As of 2018, 2.6% of Google’s US employees are Black.
  • As of 2020, 4.9% of Microsoft’s US employees are Black.

The numbers for Latinx employees at tech companies aren’t much better. Overall, the tech industry’s US employment base is estimated at 7% Black and 8% Latinx; the US population meanwhile is 13% Black and 18% Latinx. While I’m glad to see tech companies observe Juneteenth, it’d mean more if they hired a more diverse staff.

As for the future of Juneteenth as a federal holiday, I expect it’ll be similar to Martin Luther King Day: some companies will give the day off, as well as some local governments and schools, but otherwise it’ll still be a work day for most people. Not helping is that it’s sandwiched between Memorial Day several weeks earlier and Independence Day two weeks later; also, the US is pretty stingy compared to other countries regarding paid time off.

Photo by WOCinTech Chat (Flickr / CC BY / cropped from original)

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