diversity tech percent workers companies women people
The Alarming Downsides to Tech Industry Diversity ReportsVisualization: Gizmodo/Angelica AlzonaThe tech industry doesn’t just have a diversity problem. It has a resultsproblem. Major tech companies pour millions of dollars into recruiting, butthere remain significant, quantifiable discrepancies—in workforce diversity,in gender equity among people of color, and in representation among topleadership. Even the industry’s annual diversity reports, a crucial steptowards transparency, can hide vital information and nuance.Tech companies have been disclosing their diversity numbers semi-annuallysince 2014. In November, Microsoft announced that it would tie executivebonuses to diversity goals after the number of women at the company decreasedfrom 26.8 percent to 25.8 percent. Last year, Google donated $150 million todiversity efforts, and Apple similarly pledged $50 million. But after talkinga big game about improving gender and ethnic diversity in their ranks,demonstrated progress has been very slow and, at times, misleading.To illustrate, we analyzed the 2015 diversity data for six companies: Google,Facebook, Yahoo, Microsoft, Airbnb, and Apple.We used self-reported statistics from 2015, both in the form of percentagesfrom the companies’ diversity landing pages (Airbnb, Facebook, Microsoft,Google, Apple, Yahoo) and official EEO-1 numerical data of employeedemographics on file with the government and available on company websites(Airbnb, Facebook, Microsoft, Google, Apple, Yahoo). We couldn’t includeTwitter, which refused to provide its own government diversity filing from2015.G/O Media may get a commissionAs you look at these charts, keep the US demographics in mind: 72 percentwhite, 16 percent Hispanic, 12.6 percent black, 4.8 percent Asian.It’s certainly not new that any company struggles with diversifying its techworkforce, though it’s crucial to understand the scope of the problem: A mere1 percent of the tech workers for Facebook, Yahoo, Airbnb, and Google areblack, a figure that’s been unchanged since the companies started releasingdiversity reports. Even the most diverse companies of the six still don’treflect the ethnic make-up of the country.### Beyond “Too Many White People”In tech positions, Airbnb has the lowest percentage of white workers (48percent), but its workforce is not “diverse.” 91 percent of the tech team iswhite or Asian. Underrepresented people of color (from black, Hispanic, andindigenous communities) are a tiny portion of its workforce.Apple has more white workers than most tech companies, but many times moreblack and Hispanic workers. At 7 percent, Apple has more black tech workersthan the other five companies combined. Curiously, Apple also has the smallestpercentage of Asian workers.Looking at these companies’ numbers side by side, a strange patternemerges—the less white a company’s workforce, the more Asian workers itemploys (and vice versa). Underrepresented groups generally hover at under 10percent. “Diversity” doesn’t mean shifting the balance between two ethnicgroups, it means destabilizing that pernicious 10 percent status quo.### The Limitations of Self-Reported DataDiversity reports are an excellent first step, but they can conceal importantdetails, and companies are making reports public later and later. The EEO-1filings—raw numbers categorized by race, gender, and employeeclassification—are crucial for scrutinizing general demographic data. Butspecific employee classification—tech workers vs custodial workers vsexecutive workers—comes from the companies themselves. Companies internallydefine employees differently from how the government lists EEO-1 categories.An Asian male designated as “professional” on the EEO-1, for example, could bea software developer (meaning they’re “tech”) or a marketing manager (not“tech”).Instead of releasing the raw numbers that align with how employees areorganized internally, most diversity splash pages (which are usually cited indiversity write-ups instead of the EEO-1) offer only percentages. With rawnumerical data, we’d have a much clearer picture of the myriad diversityissues beyond general demographics. We’d be able to see the race/genderbreakdown of new hires, the promotion frequency of women in specific fields,and so on. One group, women of color, are particularly disadvantaged by the way companiesrelease data. Race and gender are recorded separately. Only the raw data ofthe EEO-1 allows for intersectional approaches to analysis. Ideally, companieswould release raw numbers and information on how it organizes candidatesinternally. For now, we’re limited to little more than what we’re given. Andobviously, it isn’t enough.### Race and Gender, at the Same Damn TimeWomen are far outnumbered by men at these companies. But when tech companiesfocus on recruiting more women, that usually results in more white women. Women overall make up roughly a third of these companies, with Microsoftlagging behind. Underrepresented women of color (defined in the EEO-1 data asblack, Latina, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, American Indian or AlaskanNative, or mixed-race) are a small fraction of that: usually about 3 percent.Underrepresented men fare better than women in all companies, though Airbnb isthe closest to achieving gender equity among underrepresented groups. Apple,again, has much higher percentages of underrepresented groups, but is also themost skewed in balancing gender.Too many diversity initiatives focus on either race or gender, ignoring thespecific issues women of color face, even after they’re hired. For example,being mistaken for custodial or administrative staff—which, horrifyingly,happened to almost half of the black and Latina women in STEM surveyed by theHarvard Business Review.Having so few workers of color can be isolating. For underrepresented workers,it can make the possibility of failing terrifying. When Pinterest’s CEO metwith the company’s black software developers, according to Candice Morgan,Pinterest’s diversity head who spoke about the issue at a tech event inNovember, the software developers told him they bore a “sense of the weight ofthe entire race on [their] performance.” Being the “only” —the only woman, theonly person of color, the only person not from an Ivy—is stifling and can makegrowth seem impossible.### Going Beyond RecruitmentThe other problem, say diversity advocates, is that once you do break into thetech ranks, it’s hard to climb them.“When they hire these people from colleges, they leave them at the bottom oftheir organization,” said Erica Joy Baker, a diversity advocate and Slackengineer, at a recent tech event in San Francisco. “And suddenly, you see allthe people of color, all the marginalized people at the bottom…you don’t seethem rising to the top level, the executives [or] board members.”This definition of “underrepresented” doesn’t include Asian workers becausethey make up such a large portion of both the tech and overall workforce atthese companies. But, this classification obscures a serious barrier tosuccess for Asian workers.Coined by Jane Hyun in 2005, the “bamboo ceiling” refers to the discriminatoryphenomenon in which Asian workers are well-represented as employees, butcluster in professional and middle management positions, unable to reach theupper rungs of the company. As the numbers show, that’s still in full effectmore than ten years later. Yahoo stands out as being particularly guilty of this: Asian workers are 44percent of overall staff but only 19 percent of senior positions. Meanwhile,white workers are 48 percent of staff and 73 percent of senior execs.Apple and Airbnb both have nearly equal representation for Asian workers inleadership, but again, diversity is not simply shifting the balance betweenwhite and Asian, it’s destabilizing that < 10 percent barrier for everyoneelse.### Talking Loud and Saying NothingThere’s no doubt that important progress has been made. We’re seeing thebeginnings of ongoing, industry-wide conversations. Those few percentagepoints are meager, but they represent hundreds of jobs and hundreds of newconnections, networks, and opportunities for people to build, innovate, anddiscover new approaches to technology. Women and people of color are not theonly ones who benefit from diversity—everyone does. Every step in this direction is monumental, but we can’t allow for stagnancy.We can’t uncritically accept or applaud minor progress as the norm. For once,I agree with this obnoxious, overused company maxim: diversity is important,but we shouldn’t lower the bar. We should push for more.