When Apple released its diversity report last year, CEO Tim Cook made it known that the numbers were not acceptable. In an open letter to the public, he said: "[These numbers are] not new to us and we've been working hard for quite some time to improve them. We are making progress, and we're committed to being as innovative in advancing diversity as we are in developing our products." He also said: "Inclusion and diversity have been a focus for me throughout my time at Apple, and they're among my top priorities as CEO."
It seems like that commitment is paying off. Over the past year, Apple's gender diversity improved by one percent overall; one percent in tech positions and two percent in non-tech positions. Ethnic diversity has also generally increased by one to two percent across the board. That doesn't sound like much, but when you consider that we're talking about thousands of people, it's an important step. In Cook's follow-up letter this year, he said:
"In the past year we hired over 11,000 women globally, which is 65 percent more than in the previous year. In the United States, we hired more than 2,200 Black employees -- a 50 percent increase over last year -- and 2,700 Hispanic employees, a 66 percent increase. In total, this represents the largest group of employees we've ever hired from underrepresented groups in a single year. Additionally, in the first 6 months of this year, nearly 50 percent of the people we've hired in the United States are women, Black, Hispanic, or Native American."
Aside from improved hiring practices, Apple has been involved in several STEM initiatives designed to increase the number of women and minorities in technology. They've also offered scholarships to developers from over 41 different countries. Through the government's ConnectED program, Apple has pledged to donate $100 million in iPads, MacBooks and other products to disadvantaged US schools.
Additionally, in its report, Apple said it's developed programs to train its employees in unconscious bias -- the idea that we can sometimes discriminate without realizing it. Though it's not reflected in these diversity reports, Apple also has long been an outspoken voice on LGBT rights; Cook himself has publicly called for legislation protecting gay and transgender workers and is the first openly gay CEO of a Fortune 500 company.
In 2015, Apple reported a 69 percent male workforce globally. Hispanics and blacks are underrepresented; about four to five percentage points below their national numbers overall and their representation in leadership positions is even poorer. Interestingly, as far as women and minority employment in tech positions go, Apple's numbers are actually better than its Valley counterparts.
Final grade: B
On the whole, even though Apple could stand to hire more women and have a more diverse leadership, it's actually doing a pretty good job at hiring in traditionally underrepresented groups. Its efforts at increasing diversity within the company and in the industry at-large are also commendable.
Facebook's Global Head of Diversity, Maxine Williams, said in a post last year: "We build products to connect the world, and this means we need a team that understands and reflects many different communities, backgrounds and cultures." CEO Mark Zuckerberg also acknowledged in a Q&A: "There's just so much research that shows that diverse teams perform better at anything you're trying to do." He added:
"We have the same talent bar for everyone. But we want to find a disproportionate number of candidates who are women and minorities."
Unfortunately, Facebook's 2014 diversity report didn't indicate such a diverse crew. Last year, the company reported that 69 percent of its global workforce was male and only four and two percent were Hispanic and black respectively. What's more, Facebook's EEO-1 report for 2013 showed that the company only hired seven black people during the entire year. In 2014, the company increased that number to 36, but that's still only less than 1.5 percent of the 1,216 employees it hired that year. Facebook's employment numbers for 2015 have yet to be released.
Williams admitted that the company had a lot of work to do to make sure the numbers were more balanced, saying that "diversity is something that we're treating as everyone's responsibility at Facebook." She pledged to improve those numbers going forward, stating "we're absolutely committed to achieving greater diversity at Facebook and across the industry."
Still, at least the company appears to be trying. Williams outlined a number of efforts to increase the number of diverse candidates, like expanding its "Facebook University" internship program for underrepresented groups, partnering with programs like Girls Who Code and the National Society of Black Engineers and adding unconscious bias training for its employees. Recently, Facebook has started on a "diverse slate approach" that presents hiring managers with "at least one candidate who is a member of an underrepresented group to fill an open role," which is similar to the Rooney Rule in the NFL.
It also launched TechPrep, an initiative designed to promote computer science in schools, plus Computer Science & Engineering Lean In Circles that offer support systems for women (and some men) who want to pursue careers in computer science and engineering. Facebook says there are 200-plus such Lean In circles around the world.
In 2015, Facebook reported a 68 percent male workforce globally, about a percent improvement over the previous year. Ethnic diversity, however, hardly changed at all -- there was barely any uptick in Hispanic and black representation in the organization and representation in tech
Final grade: C
Not only are Facebook's diversity numbers imbalanced when it comes to women and minority representation, it doesn't seem to have reported much change from year to year. It also has some of the lowest black and Hispanic representation in the Valley. However, some of that is mitigated by the fact that Facebook does have aggressive diversity efforts inside the company and out to increase the pool of qualified candidates.
Google was the first of the tech companies to come forward with its diversity report, fully admitting that it's been reluctant in the past to acknowledge just how poor its numbers were. And, as you might expect, they were pretty dire. In 2014, the search giant reported that 70 percent of its global workforce was male, while only three percent of its US staff was Hispanic and just two percent was Black. Despite the odds, however, Google is determined to rectify the situation, investing close to 115 million dollars in diversity efforts in 2014.
"The tech industry really understands that the future of our industry means we have to be more inclusive," said Nancy Lee, Google's director of diversity and inclusion to USA Today. "We are literally building products for the world. It can't be this homogenous."
As a result, Google promised to fork out even more money -- about 150 million dollars worth -- in 2015 towards its diversity goals. Those funds are to go towards efforts like recruiting in non-Ivy League universities, which include Historical Black Colleges or state schools with diverse student bodies. Google is also training employees in unconscious bias and encourages its staff to devote that famous Google 20 percent downtime to diversity projects. It's also generally investing more in computer science education for girls and diverse populations. Though 72 percent of Google's leadership is white, it bears mentioning that Google's CEO, Sundar Pichai, is Indian-born.
Despite all of that effort, Google's numbers continue to be relatively lackluster as overall gender diversity remained the same in 2015. There was a percentage point increase in the number of women in tech positions as well as a slight increase in women in leadership positions. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for Hispanic and Black representation -- they remain three and two percent respectively overall, with just two and one percent in technology-related jobs.
Final grade: B
It's no question that Google's diversity numbers aren't great. There is a large imbalance when it comes to both gender and minority representation. At the same time, however, we have to give Google a huge round of applause for bringing up the issue in the first place, thus prompting the rest of the industry to follow suit. The investment of hundreds of millions of dollars towards diversity is also a big plus, as is the company's commitment to making sure more women and underrepresented minorities get into computer science and engineering.
Microsoft has a relatively diverse upper management -- Microsoft's chairman John Thompson is African-American while CEO Satya Nadella is Indian-born. However, the Redmond, WA-based company still struggles with diversity when it comes to the number of women as well as the percentage of Hispanics and Blacks in its organization.
In 2014, Microsoft reported a 71 percent male staff globally and that just 5.1 and 3.4 percent of Hispanics and Blacks make up its US workforce. At a Microsoft shareholder meeting that year, Nadella said: "We are focused on ensuring that Microsoft will be the best place to work for smart, curious people across cultures, genders, ethnicities and lifestyles." This was a refreshing change in light of a controversial remark he made earlier that year where he said that women shouldn't ask for a pay raise and should rely on "karma" instead (He would later apologize for those remarks).
So when Microsoft updated its diversity report for 2015, it seemed rather surprising that gender diversity had dipped from 29 percent female to just 26.8 percent. According to Gwen Houston, Microsoft's General Manager for Global Diversity and Inclusion, that drop was due entirely to layoffs that were a result of the Nokia acquisition. Still, she did acknowledge that this wasn't a good enough excuse. "I want to emphasize that we are not satisfied with where we are today regarding the percentage of women in our workforce," she said.
What was promising, however, was Microsoft's strides in improving its leadership diversity. Houston said that its Senior Leadership Team is now made up of 27.2 percent women (the highest it's been) and that women and ethnic minorities now hold 5 out of 11 board positions. She also said that black corporate VPs increased from 1.3 percent to 2.9 percent. This is absolutely in line with Microsoft's general goal in recruiting more diverse executive talent.
In order to increase diversity in the industry as a whole, Microsoft also pledged to promote computer science in more universities, encourage girls to study programming with a Microsoft signature program called DigiGirlz, fund summer internship programs and generally widening their recruiting pool to include diversity-centric conferences and events. Houston said in her post: "We need to continue working together to land thoughtful, enduring and practical diversity and inclusion initiatives that transform our workforce for the benefit of the industry, our employees and our customers."
While Microsoft has improved its leadership numbers as stated above, those changes have yet to be reflected in the overall company makeup. Its global workforce is still mostly male, with the unfortunate drop in gender diversity thanks to the Nokia layoffs this year as mentioned. Ethnic diversity is also relatively flat, with a change of less than a percentage point overall.
Final grade: C
Like the other tech companies here, Microsoft has a predominance of men in its global workforce as well as in technology-related jobs. Also, its gender diversity numbers did dip several percentage points. We understand that the layoffs could be a cause of that, but we're dinging them for it despite the excuse. At the same time, it has made an effort at increasing its leadership diversity numbers and it's heartening to hear CEO Nadella pledge for more diversity going forward.
One of the biggest diversity stories this year comes from Twitter, and not in a flattering way. A few months ago, Leslie Miley, its only black engineer in a leadership position left the company, citing the diversity barrier as a concern. His tale is emblematic of the tech industry struggle with increasing diversity as a whole, as sometimes internal biases and preconceived notions can cloud otherwise good intentions.
Unfortunately, Twitter didn't have a particularly great diversity report in 2014 either. 70 percent of its global workforce was male and Hispanics and Blacks only make up three and two percent of the company respectively. The difference was even starker in tech and leadership positions: 90 percent of tech jobs were by men and only two percent of leadership was Black (zero percent were Hispanic). When Miley left the firm, it effectively removed the only senior black engineer from the leadership team.
At the same time, however, Twitter has not been shy about its diversity goals. New CEO Jack Dorsey have been especially mindful about increasing the number of women and minorities at the company, especially after an embarrassing frat party theme incident with beer pong and kegs (It was a social event organized by a team within Twitter).
In a statement, a company spokesperson said: "This social event organized by one team was in poor taste at best, and not reflective of the culture we are building here at Twitter. We've had discussions internally with the organizing team, and they recognize that this theme was ill-chosen."
Twitter has also been bullish in supporting programs like Girls Who Code, recruiting from colleges with underrepresented student bodies and there are even talks of diversifying its entire leadership board.
What really sets Twitter apart from the pack, is that it's so far one of the only companies to set out very specific diversity targets for 2016. Janet Van Huysse, Twitter's former VP for diversity and inclusion, said in a blog post:
"We considered simply setting company-wide hiring goals, but we don't want to stop at that. If our aim is to build a company we can really be proud of — one that's more inclusive and diverse — we need to make sure it's a great place for both new and current employees to work and to grow. That's why these new goals focus on increasing the overall representation of women and underrepresented minorities throughout the whole company."
They are as follows: It wants to increase women overall to 35 percent, women in tech roles to 16 percent and women in leadership to 25 percent. That might not sound like much, but a one to three percent change in these categories could be very significant. The same goes to its diversity goals: It wants to increase underrepresented minorities overall to 11 percent, the same groups in tech roles to nine percent and underrepresented minorities to six percent in leadership. Twitter hopes to reach these goals by the end of 2016.
Recently, Twitter hired a new VP of Diversity and Inclusion to help further this effort. His name is Jeffrey Siminoff and he hails from Apple's own diversity team. However, Siminoff's hire has come under fire as well, because it's seen as perpetuating the tradition of hiring from the same old boy's club.
As far as gender diversity is concerned, it looks like Twitter might have made some headway in 2015. The company now has a 66 percent male and 34 percent female workforce globally, which is a jump of around four percent. 2015 also saw a three percent increase in women in tech positions and a one percent increase in leadership roles. Ethnic diversity remained a little flat, with hardly any changes to Hispanic and Black numbers in overall and tech roles. There was also a dip in black representation in leadership, partly due to Miley's departure.
Final grade: B
Twitter gets a few points docked because its diversity numbers are so poor. But while Twitter might have faced some harsh criticism about diversity this year, its goals are ambitious and reflect a strong desire for change beyond just the usual platitudes. It's also putting its money where its mouth is, and has made a strong push in hiring more women in 2015. Further, it's the only one of the tech companies so far that have made very specific diversity goals.
[Image credits: Bloomberg via Getty Images; Getty Images]