SAN JOSE — Silicon Valley Leadership Group, in its first big initiative with new Chief Executive Officer Ahmad Thomas at the helm, has launched a major push to prod Bay Area companies to institute racial diversity in their executive ranks.

25×25 is the name of the new racial diversity initiative that the Leadership Group is instituting to ensure more members of under-represented groups become executives at Silicon Valley companies.

“We want to do something that will catalyze change,” Thomas said in an interview with this news organization to discuss the diversity initiative. “We want this to be something to have a measurable impact on corporate diversity in Silicon Valley and also generate revenue for our companies.”

The new 25×25 initiative challenges companies that are members of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group to increase management diversity by setting this goal: Fill 25% of executive positions with hires from under-represented groups by 2025.

Alternatively, companies could pledge that by 2025, they increase the number of people from under-represented groups in their executive ranks by 25%.

“This is a metric that we think will literally change the face of Corporate America and of Silicon Valley,” Thomas said.

What’s more, Thomas is convinced that this sort of change will enrich the corporate bottom line.

“Extensive studies have found that diverse leadership teams create tangible dividends in innovation, market share, and revenue,” Thomas said.

The organization, a public policy group with more than 350 member companies, recently appointed Angelica Cortez as vice president of racial justice and equity.

“We are in a moment of moral reckoning, but the window of opportunity is closing,” Cortez said. “25×25 is a chance to act now to create lasting change that reaches every part of our industries by starting at the top.”

The Leadership Group was the only prominent business organization to back legislation that required public companies with executive offices in California to appoint board members from under-represented communities, according to Jed York, chairman of the Leadership Group board and chief executive officer of the San Francisco 49ers.

“25×25 builds on the momentum of our policy advocacy with an opportunity for our members to take bold and meaningful action on diversity,” York said.

The Leadership Group’s initiative defines under-represented groups as women and persons of color, according to the organization.

“25×25 will help Silicon Valley more competitive in the global marketplace,” Thomas said.

The organization believes that this sort of initiative is more effective than getting numerous companies to sign a letter that advocates for a particular goal.

Companies that participate in 25×25 25×25 companies will keep the pledge by making public their diversity data and annual progress towards meeting the targets, according to Thomas.

Thomas believes that member companies in the group are eager to participate.

“It’s easy to write a letter that looks good and have a lot of people sign it,” Thomas said. “Our executives are telling us they are looking for much more.”

San Jose-based Silicon Valley Leadership Group intends to share its 25×25 ideas with other major business groups, such as San Francisco-based Bay Area Council.

“To be able to put all of this under one umbrella, that is going to be tremendously powerful, because we are that one node and that one commonality among the 350 major employers in Silicon Valley,” Thomas said.

Thomas added that the early embrace by at least some Silicon Valley corporations of the 25×25 initiative brings him great personal satisfaction.

“I cannot overstate, as a person of color, how important and impactful all of this is, for some of those leading companies to get behind a pledge and metrics like this,” Thomas said.

The Leadership Group is planning to unveil its 25×25 initiative at the organization’s Diversity Summit on Feb. 19.

“It’s important for Silicon Valley to be the model for the entire world,” Thomas said.

One high-profile Silicon Valley company, San Jose-based Zoom, has already publicly embraced the proposal.

“Our members understand the importance of maintaining a competitive edge, and that’s what 25×25 brings to Silicon Valley,” said Eric Yuan, chief executive officer of Zoom, and vice chair of the Leadership Group’s board. “Commitment to this program is planting the flag for progress and innovation that will ensure the Valley remains at the forefront of business.”




By Kelley Wheeler

Kelley Wheeler is a Metro reporter covering political issues and general assignments. A second-generation journalist, worked with all major news outlet, she holds a vast expeirience. Kelley is a graduate of USC with degrees in journalism and English literature. She is a recipient of Yale’s Poynter Fellowship in Journalism.

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