Spotlight on the Push to Increase Diversity on Tech Teams

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Recognizing that more needed to be done to increase diversity, tech giants such as Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Twitter, and Google’s parent company Alphabet released diversity reports in 2014. The reports showed just how underrepresented ethnic minorities and women are within an industry that has mostly been dominated by white males.

Although blacks comprise 13.4% of the United States population, they represent only 3% of the workforce at Facebook, 2% at Google, 3.5% at Microsoft, and 2% at Twitter.

Amazon reported that 15% of its workforce was black, and only 4% of them serve in managerial and executive positions. Meanwhile, Apple was the most well-represented, although, at 7%, it was still short of full representation.

In regards to the number of women in technical or leadership roles in 2014, the figures were 15% at Facebook, 25% at Amazon, 20% (tech) and 28% (leadership) at Apple, 17% (tech) and 12% (leadership) at Microsoft, 10% (tech) and 21% (leadership) at Twitter, and 16% (tech) and 20.8% (leadership) at Google.

Tech giants release diversity numbers

Amazon demonstrated the largest increase based on its December 2019 report, with blacks comprising 26.5% of the workforce, a figure that includes warehouse and delivery workers. For management roles, that figure drops to 8.3%, while there has been a marginal increase in the number of women in management roles to 27.5%.

Facebook’s 2020 report showed the smallest increase in the number of black employees, rising to 3.9% over the overall company, with 3.4% in leadership roles and 1.7% in tech positions.

The number of female employees at Facebook rose to 37% across the board, with 34.2% in leadership positions and 24.1% in tech roles.

At Apple, the overall number of blacks rose to 9%, although there has been no increase in the number of blacks in tech (6%) or leadership (3%) roles since 2014. There has also been very little change in female representation at Apple, with the number of women in tech (23%) and leadership roles (29%) remaining similar to the 2014 figures. These statistics are from 2018, the last time that Apple released its diversity report.

Microsoft has also experienced minimal change in the number of blacks in its workforce which, as of 2019, comprises 4.5% of its overall employees, of which less than 3% serve in leadership roles and 3.3% in tech positions. The number of women at the leadership level has increased (an average of 21.7% across executive, director, and managerial roles), and there has been a slight improvement in regards to tech positions (21.4%).

Twitter’s 2019 diversity numbers reveal an improvement from 2014, with an overall black workforce of 5% (5.3% in leadership, 4.1% in tech roles). The social media company has made much better gains in female representation, with women making up 43% of its total employees: 34.9% in leadership positions and 23.5% in tech jobs.

Google has shown a similar lack of progress in terms of the representation of blacks in its workforce. According to its 2020 diversity report, blacks comprise only 3.7% of the company’s total employees, with 2.4% in tech roles and only 2.6% at the leadership level. There has been a small degree of improvement for women, with 23.7% in tech jobs and 26.7% in leadership positions, but few would argue that it represents sufficient progress after six years.

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Fostering a more diverse and inclusive culture

Back in 2014, leaders at major tech companies stated their commitment to making their workplace—and the overall industry—more diverse and inclusive. The minimal progress shown by six of tech’s biggest players has led many critics to claim that such statements of intent were insufficient.

“We’re at a crucial crossroads—I don’t think what tech companies have done to date is anywhere near enough,” said Freada Kapor Klein, the founding partner at Kapor Capital and a founding team member of Project Include.

That “crucial crossroads” arrived this year as the United States experiences a social protest movement—triggered by the killing of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, by a white police officer—not seen since the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s.

In addition to large protests across the country, this movement has brought to the forefront of the public consciousness the lack of diversity and inclusion across workplace sectors in the US. As one of the largest and most powerful of American industries, the spotlight has fallen on Silicon Valley and the wider tech industry.

Companies pledge million to support groups fighting for equality

In response to the civil unrest, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Twitter, and Alphabet have all pledged millions of dollars to various causes and civil rights groups fighting for equality.

There appear to be signs that these tech giants are taking direct action to tackle the lack of diversity in their companies. In June, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg published a blog post outlining specific targets and goals and committing the social media giant to have 30% of its leadership positions filled by people of color over the next five years and pledging a $200 million investment in black-owned businesses and organizations.

Alphabet followed suit when chief executive officer Sundar Pichai published his own blog post stating that the company was donating $175 million to help create more economic and job opportunities for minorities. He also stated the goal of 30% minority representation in senior level roles over the next five years.

Similar bold ambitions were made back in 2014, although the action that followed were not enough. More specific goals and a focused financial commitment this time around will hold tech giants to greater accountability and suggest that they are finally taking diversity and inclusivity more seriously.

The social movement of 2020 feels like a long overdue tipping point for American society and its fight for equality and social justice. The tech industry has the chance to prove that it too is heading toward a more diverse and inclusive future.

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