Foreign tech giants have made little progress in hiring more minority workers, according tomedia reports. Six years after the first diversity report was released, the proportion of black employees at Alphabet, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and Twitter grew by only a single-digit percentage, according to an analysis of annual disclosures bymedia. Amazon, by contrast, has seen a higher increase, but includes warehouse workers and couriers.
“They publish the same diversity reports every year, tick them and send the same reports the next year,” says Freda Kapor Klein, founder of Kapor Capital. At the moment, we’re at a critical crossroads, and I don’t think technology companies have done enough so far. “
In 2014, several technology companies recognized the racial disparity and made increasing employee diversity a public goal. In recent weeks, the chief executives of major technology companies have once again vowed to tackle inequality. The reason is that a white Minneapolis police officer knelt around George Floyd’s neck for nine minutes and the killing of an unarmed black man sparked public outrage. Protests have erupted in cities across the United States for weeks.
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, wrote in a post that facebook “needs to do more for the equality and safety of black communities through our platform” and pledged $10 million; Kaepernick’s Know Your Rights boot camp donates $3 million; Amazon pledges $10 million to support social justice and black communities; Google civil rights groups pledge $12 million; Apple CEO Tim Cook pledges to donate to Equal Justice Initiative and related employees Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s chief executive, announced a $1.5 million pledge to several social justice groups and will use its platform to “amplify” the voices of black workers.
Kapoorlein, a founding member of Project Include, said the technology company’s previous performance on diversity and inclusion, as well as executive statements, “sounds hollow” unless diversity data really changes.
“There are indicators, but no results”
Over the past six years, the tech giants have made some progress, but are far from the target level.
Women are increasingly represented in the labour force. For example, the percentage of women among Facebook’s technology employees rose from 15 percent at the start of the 2014 report to 23 percent at the beginning of 2019. Google has made similar progress.
But when it comes to black employees, Facebook has seen the smallest increase: from 3 percent to 3.8 percent in the past five years. Twitter’s black workforce rose from about 2 percent in 2014 to 6 percent at the beginning of 2019. Amazon reported an 11 percent increase in black employees at 26.5 percent at the start of 2019. However, most of its employees work at Amazon’s distribution centers, making it difficult to compare with other technology companies.
Bari Williams, legal director of human Interest, a start-up and former senior facebook lawyer, said the annual report was key to greater transparency for technology companies. But in terms of diversity, the data-centric approach and competitiveness of the tech giants have not worked.
“These companies are data-driven, but if employees fail to meet the standards of diversity, what are the negative effects?” says Mr Williams. There are indicators, but no results. “
Diversity performs worse in leadership, technical roles such as programmers and engineers. Apple’s 9 percent of its employees are black, but that’s down to 3 percent when leadership positions are taken into account. From the end of 2013 to the end of 2017, Apple’s share of black technology jobs remained at 6%. 2017 is the last year for Apple to release its diversity data report.
Richard Kerby, general partner at Equal Ventures, said: “One of the drawbacks of technology companies is that they don’t think about it from the very beginning of the company, which has a knock-on effect that usually doesn’t happen until a few years later. You don’t see a change because it’s not tracked or monitored, there’s no incentive to increase diversity numbers. “
Margaret Neale, a professor of organizational behavior at Stanford University, says that while recruitment remains an area of inclusiveness, it often involves retaining talent. It is difficult to find a mentor or guarantor within the company. Without such a person, it is almost impossible to get promoted to a leadership position. “
“We’ve seen the same diversity reports at a variety of technology companies, but you can see very clearly that the numbers have barely changed,” she said. Many companies continue to recruit, but they are no longer sticky with these employees. Given the total number of people available, a large number of people of color are losing out at a higher rate. “
Responding tomedia requests for comment, the technology companies noted that diversity is a gradual process. Last year, Google saw its biggest record increase in hiring black tech jobs in the U.S. Fifty-three percent of Apple’s black hires in the U.S. come from underrepresented groups in the technology industry.
Despite some single-digit advances, critics praised the tech giants’ efforts to release the reports. Industries like Wall Street, they point out, do not choose to publish annual diversity figures.
Kapoor Klein says “increasing diversity in big companies” is still an uphill battle. Thanks to the growth of the past 20 years, the tech giants are now facing what she calls the “denominator problem”, and alphabet, for example, is changing its workforce of 118,000.
“The 10 per cent change is also significant, which means that many employees have to be hired or a lot of people have to leave, but that still doesn’t change the culture of the business,” she said. Technology companies face an even tougher task, which requires an absolute and fundamental commitment to change. “