Tech industry hires by year through the Office of Economic and Workforce Development’s Tech SF program. (Courtesy OEWD)

SF renews call for tech industry to hire low-income, minority residents

Some six years after the tech boom began, low-income residents and minorities still feel left out of the fastest growing industry in San Francisco despite city efforts to place them in these high-paying jobs.

A Board of Supervisors committee hearing Wednesday revealed that major companies like Google and LinkedIn have only hired three employees each through a city program called Tech SF.

Tech SF, from the Office of Economic and Workforce Development, is geared toward low-income residents and minorities in San Francisco. It has helped about 1,300 people find employment and another 1,200 find internships in the industry since it started in 2012.

But Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer said that’s not enough.

“What this looks like to me, is that the trend is they could hire more,” Fewer said. “There’s room for improvement.”

The company that hired the most workers through Tech SF is not a tech company at all, but KQED. The nonprofit hired 11 employees, while Salesforce hired the second most with 10 employees from Tech SF. In total, more than 650 companies have hired employees through the program.

“It just shows how the scalability and the impact is not happening nearly enough at the level we need,” said Eddie Ahn, executive director of a public policy nonprofit called Brightline Defense. “There’s so much wealth flowing throughout [that] is not being tapped into by our communities.”

The tech industry added 9,000 jobs in 2016, a 35 percent growth rate compared to the year prior, according to Fewer’s office. The industry made up 1 percent of The City’s workforce in 1990, but comprised 12.4 percent of the workforce last year.

The numbers OEWD presented to members of the Board of Supervisors show that 43 percent of those who found employment through Tech SF are white, 23 percent are Asian, 18 percent are hispanic and 11 percent are black.

Tech SF participants are also 50 percent men and 50 percent women.

Katherine Daniel, deputy director at OEWD, said that those numbers “far exceed both racial and gender diversity compared to the tech industry.”

In May 2016, 55 percent of tech workers in the Bay Area were white, 32 percent were Asian, 7 percent were Latino and 3 percent were black, according to numbers from the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission.

Bay Area-wide, 63 percent of tech workers are men.

The OEWD numbers also showed that tech companies are hiring fewer employees through Tech SF than in previous years. The program helped less than 100 San Francisco residents find jobs so far this year compared to more than 400 in 2014.

The decline may be attributable to the industry’s slowing growth.

Asim Kahn, an economist in the City Controller’s Office, said “the slowdown in the tech employment in San Francisco and San Mateo has been noticeable and relatively rapid” over the last two years.

“Given the tech sector’s disproportionate role in The City’s economy, any prolonged slowdown will likely have a significant impact on the local economy,” Kahn said. “That’s one of the major concerns for the local economy, is how the tech sector will continue to do.”

Kahn said the slowdown can be seen in the number of tech startups that have been founded in The City in recent years. That number has fallen from more than 350 in 2012, to 62 in 2016, to just 7 so far in 2017.

Fewer called on Tech SF to provide more details on the retention, promotion and wages of those hired through the program. The supervisors will hear those numbers at a later date.

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