Apple has announced new projects for its Racial Equity and Justice Initiative (REJI), which is backed by $100 million in funding. If successful, these efforts will boost mentorship and education for technologists from underrepresented communities.
For starters, Apple will invest $25 million in the Propel Center, which is billed as a “first-of-its-kind innovation and learning hub” for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). The Propel Center will have a physical campus in the Atlanta University Center, as well as a presence at “partner institutions.” Educational courses will include everything from A.I. and machine learning to entrepreneurship, with “experts from Apple” helping develop curricula, according to the company.
Apple is also funding educational grants for HBCU Colleges of Engineering, along with a Faculty Fellows Program to support HBCU educators. There are also plans to “invest $10 million with Harlem Capital—an early-stage venture capital firm based in New York—to support its investments in 1,000 companies with diverse founders over the next 20 years,” according to an extensive breakdown of projects on Apple’s website. “The company will also invest $25 million in Siebert Williams Shank’s Clear Vision Impact Fund, which provides capital to small and medium-size businesses, with an emphasis on minority-owned companies.”
Other projects under the REJI umbrella include an Apple Developer Academy in Detroit, with two programs: A 30-day introduction to app development, and a 10- to 12-month program designed to build up participants’ app-building prowess. In theory, 1,000 students a year will proceed through the academy.
Apple’s Own Diversity Efforts
The protests over racial inequality and police brutality in the summer of 2020 compelled many companies to pledge more resources to both external and internal diversity efforts. Apple’s funding of REJI came in June, and the company will presumably continue to devote money to the initiative for some time to come.
Throughout his tenure, Apple CEO Tim Cook has made a big deal of his company’s focus on diversity. Closing the income gap between all demographics within Apple, for instance, has been one such longtime effort. “This past year, we looked at the total compensation for U.S. employees and closed the gaps we found,” noted a 2017 report. “We’re now analyzing the salaries, bonuses, and annual stock grants of all our employees worldwide.”
As with other tech companies, though, Apple has only managed to incrementally diversify its rankings over a multi-year period, as shown by this analysis of its diversity reports:
Overall, the technology industry seems to have embraced diversity as a critical initiative. According to last year’s Dice Sentiment Survey, a majority of technologists said their companies had made internal and/or external gestures of support toward diversity movements. Progress might be slow on some fronts, but it seems like the desire is there to make good things happen.