In the wake of George Floyd’s protests and Black Lives Matter’s call to action, the tech giant Microsoft offered in 2020 a set of initiatives to boost its support for racially diverse workers. That included a commitment to double its number of black and African-American senior managers and employees by 2025 in the US.
More than a year later, the Redmond, Washington-based company said Wednesday that it has made significant moves toward those goals, while acknowledging that its work is not done.
In its third annual Diversity and inclusion report, Microsoft said that among its core U.S. workforce, the number of Black and African American employees understand 5.7% of workers, an increase of 0.9 percentage points compared to last year. The change was observed in all roles, and the largest jump occurred at the executive level, which went from 3.7% of the workforce to 5.6%.
Hispanic and Latino employees also made gains, increasing to 7.0% of the company’s primary employee base in the U.S., an increase of 0.5 percentage points.
With those improvements, the company says it is nearly 40% on the way to its goal of doubling the number of Black and African American directors, partners and executives in five years. Among Hispanic and Latino employees, it’s 23% of the way there.
“During a year marked by striking societal challenges, we have made significant strides in increasing diversity and strengthening our culture of inclusion,” wrote Lindsay-Rae McIntyre, chief diversity officer, in the introduction to the report.
However, the numbers are far from reflecting the racial and ethnic makeup of the nation.
Nationally, Blacks and African Americans make up more than 12% of the population, while Hispanics and Latinos make up nearly 19% of the population.
Microsoft’s core business employs approximately 158,000 workers, although the company does not include internationally-based employees in its racial and ethnic data points. Microsoft’s broadest workforce in the US includes LinkedIn and Github, which also made gains in diversity. In total, Microsoft employs 180,000 workers in more than 100 countries.
The company also showed improvements in gender diversity over the past year. Worldwide, Microsoft’s workforce is 30.9% female, an increase of 0.7 percentage points from 2020.
Microsoft is not alone in its disproportionate employment demographic. None the big five of technology – Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Apple and Facebook – It has a workforce that is close to mirroring the national population, although Apple is notably ahead of the rest in employing racial and ethnic minorities. Amazon’s workforce is much more diverse when it includes lower-paid warehouse workers and delivery drivers, but not when it comes to just corporate jobs. (See Axios report and graph here last week detailing the diversity numbers across the five tech giants).
While there are numerous reasons for inequalities in tech employment, one area that is receiving more attention is the burnout of underrepresented workers in the ranks of tech companies. Over the years, there have been reports from numerous tech companies of hostile or hostile work environments for some groups of employees.
Amazon was recently in the spotlight for alleged racial and gender discrimination. In July, the company announced that it would investigate allegations made within its cloud computing division of Amazon Web Services after hundreds of workers signed an employee petition criticizing the culture and seeking an investigation.
In 2019, dozens of Microsoft workers joined an internal email thread to share stories of alleged bias and sexual harassment.
As a result, the company’s leadership offered their apologies, as well as new opportunities for employees to report their concerns. In 2015, two current and former Microsoft employees filed a lawsuit against Microsoft for alleged gender discrimination. A judge denied the women’s efforts to turn the case into a class action lawsuit that could have included thousands of women.
At the same time, women working in technology jobs at Microsoft have made considerable strides in their numbers. According to the new report, women hold 24.4% of technical positions among the company’s main workforce. That is an increase of 18.4% in 2017.
Microsoft also reported that women, as well as racial and ethnic minorities, earned only slightly more than their male or white counterparts in comparable roles, closing a narrow pay gap that used to exist. CriticsHowever, they have responded that workers from underrepresented groups are sometimes placed in jobs with lower wages below their qualifications or are less likely to be promoted, which could mask wage inequality.
“We will remain accountable for our commitments and transparent with our progress and our learnings, “wrote McIntyre. “Because real progress doesn’t happen without real work. “