From Apple to Facebook, tech’s new diversity pledges follow years of failure
Spurred by nationwide protests and calls to end systemic racism after the police killing of George Floyd, Google and Facebook recently vowed to increase the diversity of their workforce. If this sounds depressingly familiar, that's because it is. The industry has been making similar pledges for years, with little progress.
The world’s most valuable tech companies are still predominantly white and male, according to a Bloomberg News analysis of diversity reports published by Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple and Amazon. Photos of Black workers feature prominently in these reports but remain mostly absent from management ranks and are underrepresented in technical roles. Photos of leadership ranks pictured here are based on named executive officers listed in the companies’ latest annual proxy statements.
If tech companies really want to increase representation, they must do more, Black employees and corporate diversity experts say. That means hiring diverse talent into higher levels of management and creating a workplace that is inclusive enough to retain people of color after they join, said Tina Shah Paikeday, an executive at consulting firm Russell Reynolds Associates who helps companies hire executives to run diversity and inclusion programs.
“Tech values the notion that innovation comes from a diverse perspective, but it’s been more of an academic thought,” she said.
Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook launched a $100 million Racial Equity and Justice Initiative earlier this month. “To create change, we have to reexamine our own views and actions in light of a pain that is deeply felt but too often ignored,” Cook wrote in a letter to employees.
The percentage of Black employees in technical roles at Apple in the U.S. remained unchanged in 2018 from 2014 at 6%, according to the company’s most recent diversity report. Apple is the only tech company among the big five not to release 2019 diversity figures yet. Half of Apple’s overall U.S. workforce was white, while Asian and Hispanic employees made up 23% and 14% of total employees, respectively. Black workers were 9% of the total. Last week, Apple’s chief of diversity and inclusion, Christie Smith, left the company.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai said last week that the company will improve Black representation at senior levels and increase leadership representation of all underrepresented groups by 30% by 2025. He committed to post all jobs externally and ramp up investment in cities outside the Bay Area, while creating a talent liaison within each product and functional area to retain workers from underrepresented groups.
Just 2.4% of tech employees at the company were Black in the U.S., according to Google's latest data, up from 1.5% six years earlier. Statistics on the company’s total workforce paint a similar picture. David Drummond, a veteran Black executive, retired from Google parent Alphabet earlier this year.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos took to Instagram this month to defend Amazon’s decision to place a Black Lives Matter banner on the company’s homepage. He also pledged $10 million for racial and social justice organizations. “We stand in solidarity with our Black employees, customers, and partners, and are committed to helping build a country and a world where everyone can live with dignity and free from fear,” the e-commerce company said in a blog post.
Just 8% of Amazon’s U.S. managers were Black last year, while 59% were white, according to the company. Unlike its big tech rivals, Amazon includes all managers in its leadership diversity data.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company would give $10 million to social justice organizations in a June 1 post. “The violence Black people in America live with today is part of a long history of racism and injustice,” he said. “I know that $10 million can't fix this. It needs sustained, long term effort.” Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg also said the company would pledge $200 million for Black-owned businesses and committed to have 30% more Black people in Facebook leadership positions by 2025.
Just 1.5% of Facebook employees in technical roles in the U.S. were Black in 2019, up from 1% in 2014, according to the social media company’s diversity report. Among senior leadership, 3.1% is Black.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella pledged to “do the work” in a blog post earlier this month. He said Microsoft would invest in talent pipelines broadly, expand connections with Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and donate $1.5 million to social justice organizations. “Seeing injustice in the world calls us all to take action, as individuals and as a company,” he said. “We cannot episodically wake up when a new tragedy occurs. A systemic problem requires a holistic response.”
According to Microsoft’s 2019 diversity report, 3.3% of its tech employees were Black in the U.S., up from 2.4% in 2016. More than 70% of its overall workforce was male, down slightly from 2016.