Tech companies have traditionally responded to calls for diversity in the industry by releasing annual workplace statistics and restating commitments to improving equality. These efforts, however, have had little impact, as data continues to show that BIPOC workers, women, and LGBTQ+ employees still face discrimination, underrepresentation, and inequality in the tech industry.
Compared to overall private industry employment, the high-tech sector employs a larger share of whites (63.5% to 68.5%), Asian Americans (5.8% to 14%) and men (52% to 64%), and a smaller share of African Americans (14.4% to 7.4%), Hispanics (13.9% to 8%) and women (48% to 36%), according to data from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
At the executive level, more than 83% of executives are white, and 80% are men, compared to the overall private sector where 71% of executives are men and 83% are white. USA Today analyzed the most recent proxy statements regarding racial injustice in America from the 50 largest companies in the Standards & Poor’s 100 and of all the executives listed in the proxy statements, only 5 (1.8%) were Black, and two of them had recently retired.
But after 2020, the culture for change may be shifting. BLM protests, the MeToo movement and growing awareness around LGBTQ+ rights have provided renewed focus on disparities in pay, opportunity and success that underrepresented groups face in the workplace. Now, it’s more important than ever for tech companies to prove their commitment to closing the gender and diversity gap in tech — and companies appear to be responding with more substantial policies than before.
To get a sense at the various ways in which the tech industry is responding, here’s a look at how five major tech giants and one small tech transparency standout are demonstrating renewed commitments to D&I.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has openly supported the Black Lives Matter movement, stating the company is “committed to take action to help address racial injustice and inequality, and unequivocally believes that Black lives matter.” The company released a five-year plan that details how the company plans to combat racial injustice and inequality for the Black and African American community and how it will address the needs of other underrepresented groups, including the Hispanic and Latinx communities. Microsoft stands out in its response to racial inequality in that its announcement doesn’t skirt the issue but instead faces it head on with a direct plan and an open mind.
The plan consists of three main goals, the first of which is to increase representation and to create a culture of inclusion in the organization. Microsoft plans to invest an additional $150 million into D&I and to double the number of Black managers, senior individual contributors and senior leaders by 2025. The second goal is to engage the company’s ecosystem to “extend the vision for societal change throughout our ecosystem” by creating new opportunities for suppliers and partners and their communities. The third goal is to “use the power of data, technology and partnership” to help improve the lives of Black citizens across the country and to address the safety and well-being of employees and their communities.
In his message, Nadella breaks down each goal and how the company plans to achieve it through specific steps and measurable actions — too many to include in this article. He also acknowledges that it will be a continuous effort on Microsoft’s part, stating this isn’t a “one-time event,” and that it will require constant reflection, listening, learning and adjustment as the company works to drive change and “act with intention.”
Diverse employees gave Microsoft a score of 75 across various culture categories on Comparably, a website that aggregates employee rankings for various companies. Microsoft ranks in the top 15% of U.S. companies with 10,000-plus employees for its gender and diversity scores. Diverse employees and women at Microsoft both rated the company at A- for perks and benefits, CEO rating, and happiness. When asked whether they believe they’re paid fairly, 74% of women said yes, and 69% of diverse employees said the same.
Update: On Dec. 10, Microsoft observed Human Rights Day 2020 and updated the company’s Global Human Rights Statement, which was originally released in 2012 and last updated in 2016. The statement addresses the impacts of the global pandemic on human rights, including a lack of access to medical care, work, and education. It also highlights racial injustice and the global need for “everyone, including leaders, businesses and individuals, to uphold behaviors and principles that protect and preserve the rights and freedoms of everyone in all societies,” according to a press release from Microsoft.
Microsoft also held its AI for Accessibility Hackathon virtually for the first time across 14 Asia Pacific countries. It’s an event that serves as a “springboard” for Microsoft to “identify and advance technologies that make the world more accessible and inclusive.” The company also launched the Microsoft Enabler Program in September 2020 with employer partners and nonprofit organizations to improve “the employability of people with disabilities through digital skills and corporate training, internships and job shadowing.” And Microsoft recently partnered with the Milwaukee Bucks, Green Bay Packers, and Milwaukee Brewers to form a “venture capital partnership that will invest in minority-owned firms,” according to the Milwaukee Business Journal.
Google faced backlash in May when NBC published a story alleging that the company scaled back and ended popular diversity programs, including one called Sojourn that focused on educating employees about implicit bias, privilege, and discrimination, according to ex and current employees. According to Google, the program was heavily focused on racism in the U.S. and couldn’t scale up to the global level, but the former employees felt it was done to “avoid being perceived as anti-conservative,” according to NBC.
But in the wake of the BLM movement, Google CEO Sundar Pichai released a statement supporting the Black community and acknowledged the structural and systemic racism that Black people face in America. Pichai announced steps Google plans to take to “build sustainable equity for Google’s Black+ community” by creating “meaningful change” within the company. He reinforced the company’s commitment to funding education initiatives that support minority communities, racial justice organizations, and for Black business owners and entrepreneurs. He also announced specific steps that Google plans to take to combat inequality.
First, Google pledges to improve Black representation at senior levels and has committed to increasing the representation of underrepresented groups by 30% by 2025. Pichai has also created a task force to identify challenges with hiring, retention, and promotion at all levels for underrepresented groups and how to improve the process for diverse candidates and employees. The company also plans to identify corporate policies that have implicit bias by listening to Black Googler’s experiences and finding ways to ensure they feel safe in the workplace. And it is establishing a range of anti-racism educational programs that will scale globally, as well as mandated management training for diversity, equity, and inclusion. Finally, Pichai announced more mental and physical health support benefits for BIPOC workers.
Diverse employees gave Google an overall score of 78 across culture categories on Comparably, which places the company in the top 10% of large organizations. Diverse employees at Google gave the company an A grade, ranking perks and benefits, happiness, and compensation as the highest categories. Women at Google gave the company a grade of A+, citing perks and benefits, happiness, and compensation as the highest scoring categories. Around 82% of women at Google feel they’re paid fairly, while 80% of diverse employees say the same.
Update: Google has faced recent backlash for firing its top black female executive, according to NBC News. Around 800 Google employees have voiced their support for Timnit Gebru, technical co-lead of Google’s Ethical Artificial Intelligence Team, who announced on Twitter that she was let go because the company’s leadership had “forced her to retract a paper focusing on ethical problems involving the kind of artificial intelligence systems used to understand human language, including one that powers Google’s search engine,” according to the article.
Employees have called for transparency around Timnit’s firing and have asked for more details about Gebru’s firing. Gebru was vocal about her concerns with Google’s diversity issues, especially regarding AI — she is also the co-founder of Black in AI, an organization focused on representation of Black researchers in AI and has conducted extensive research on racial bias in facial recognition technology.
Facebook has long been criticized for a lack of diversity — between 2013 and 2018, Facebook largely failed to increase diversity from underrepresented groups in its U.S. workforce, despite expanding the employee base sixfold, according to analysis by USA Today.
Only 4% of the company’s current workforce is Black, and only 6.3% is Hispanic. Among senior leadership, 3.4% are Black, while 4.3% are Hispanic. Black and Hispanic women account for less than 1% of executives at Facebook. These numbers have increased from last year, but they are moving slowly compared to other tech companies. Facebook is also facing backlash from civil rights auditors that suggest Facebook’s platform harms civil rights more than it helps.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been known for having a more “hands-off” approach to addressing issues of diversity and equality on the social media platform, among other issues. But he did voice support for the BLM movement, stating his commitment to reviewing policies on the site to see whether Facebook should amend any policies regarding posts that involve hate speech, threats of violence and voter suppression. Compared to other companies on this list, Zuckerberg’s commitments feel more like vague promises to ensure there are more “voices at the table,” to reevaluate policies, analyze internal structures, and create more products and services to promote racial justice, but doesn’t give any steps as to how or when the company plans to achieve those goals.
Despite a questionable commitment to diversity and battling injustice on the social media platform, internally at the organization employees rank the company relatively high for diversity. Diverse employees gave the company a score of 78 across various culture categories on Comparably, putting Facebook in the top 10% of large companies for its diversity score. Women at Facebook gave the company an A+, rating happiness, compensation, and perks and benefits as the top categories. Diverse employees at Facebook gave the company an A, ranking happiness, perks and benefits and compensation highest.
Update: Facebook committed to spending $1 billion with companies that are certified as “minority, women, veteran, LGBTQ, or disabled-owned,” also known as “diverse suppliers,” in 2021 along with another $100 million going toward black-owned businesses. According to Facebook’s Annual Diversity Report, the company has already spent more than $1.1 billion with diverse suppliers in the US. Facebook gave $1 million to the Hampton Roads Community Foundation, an organization in Norfolk, Va., that focuses on providing aid to local organizations owned by or serving the Black community. It’s one of 20 organizations to receive the funding through Facebook.
Apple says for the past five years it has “continued to hire more women and underrepresented minorities every year,” citing 53% of new hires are from “historically underrepresented groups in tech,” including women and people who identify as Black, Hispanic, Native American, or Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander. Representation of underrepresented minorities has increased from 21% in 2014 to 31% as of 2018. Apple also offers Diversity Network Associations, which are employee-led groups designed to “foster a culture of belonging through education, leadership programs and networking.” More than 25,000 employees participate in groups such as Black@Apple, Accessbility@Apple, Women@Apple, and more, including faith-based groups.
The diversity-focused page of Apple’s website focuses more on the company’s progress in the past five years, leaving plans for the future of D&I at Apple somewhat vague. Apple says it is “committed to doing more” and extends that to “hiring more diverse talent for jobs at all levels, attracting candidates from more diverse pipelines, leveraging technology to prevent bias and driving development efforts to increase representation in leadership across the company.” In a memo, CEO Tim Cook voiced support for BLM and announced a renewed commitment to do more to support BIPOC communities and employees.
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