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May 9, 2022updated 31 Mar 2023 5:12pm

Here’s how the technology industry fares on ethnic diversity

Chipmakers Qualcomm and Intel rank among the technology industry's top performers for ethnic diversity, while BT Group lags behind.

By Afiq Fitri

Chipmakers Qualcomm and Intel are among the most ethnically diverse companies in the technology sector, according to analysis of company filings by Tech Monitor. Among the 30 large technology companies included in the analysis, UK telco and IT services provider BT Group and HR software and services provider ADP had the lowest proportion of employees from ethnic minority backgrounds.

The technology sector is a growing source of employment, so the extent to which it is inclusive of ethnic minority workers is likely to have an outsized impact on economic inclusion and social mobility. “Addressing the lack of diversity among high-tech workers” has become a central public policy concern, according to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Tech Monitor‘s analysis reveals that many leading technology companies have been successful in diversifying their workforce but others have work to do.

The tech industry’s efforts to improve diversity and inclusion after a wave of ambitious initiatives and targets have been mixed. (Photo by Petar Santini/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Tech Monitor‘s analysis draws on disclosures covering 30 of the world’s largest technology companies, which range from semiconductor producers to telecommunications providers. The analysis calculates the proportion of each company’s workforce that is black, Asian or minority ethnic. In most cases, this reflects the proportion of workers who are black or from Asian ethnic backgrounds, although for US companies this may also include hispanic, Native American, and Pacific Islander employees.

Ethnic diversity in the technology industry: top performers

At the top of the rankings sits American semiconductor giant Qualcomm, where 68% of employees come from ethnic minority backgrounds. This reflects a concerted effort by the chipmaker to increase diversity. In 2019, the company established a Diversity Task Force made up of senior vice presidents to conduct data-driven analyses on driving forward diversity and inclusion within the company through “innovative hiring and retention practices”. 

Beyond its operations in the US, Qualcomm also has regional diversity and inclusion teams in countries with a “significant employee presence”, including India for example, to better understand specific issues related to diversity and inclusion. And the company has also committed to “continuously building a pipeline of diverse talent” by recruiting students from historically black colleges, women’s universities, as well as Hispanic-serving institutions, according to its website. Qualcomm stated that the company has seen an increase in women and people from underrepresented groups in its “new hires population” since expanding its hiring practices within this specific area. 

Fellow chipmaker Intel also ranks highly on the list, with 54% of its employees hailing from ethnic minority backgrounds. The company has set itself targets to increase representation of black employees in senior, director, and executive roles by 30% by 2023, and has committed to publishing the data related to these efforts on its public-facing website, regardless of whether the targets have been met. 

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“To make substantial progress, we must be transparent with our data to hold ourselves accountable and encourage industry-wide action and that is why we continue to release our workforce and pay data every year while also collaborating with other companies as part of our Alliance for Global Inclusion,” says Dawn Jones, chief diversity and inclusion officer at Intel. “We are excited about the expanded opportunities to advance diversity, equity and inclusion, and will continue to raise the bar for ourselves and others.”

Intel has also invested in diversity and inclusion beyond the company’s internal operations to include its entire supply chain. According to its most recent corporate social responsibility report, the company achieved its 2020 goal of spending $1bn annually with diverse suppliers and spent $279m on women-owned businesses across the globe. As part of its 2030 RISE goal, Intel is currently aiming to double its global annual spending with diverse suppliers to $2bn. 

Nearly equalling Intel's figure is US-owned data centre giant Equinix, which has reported that minorities make up 53% of its entire workforce. The company has set ambitious targets over the next five years in order to increase the representation of black, hispanic and other historically underrepresented groups in leadership roles. According to a statement, representation of these groups in senior positions has improved by 1.7% since 2019. 

“Our future five-year targets are based on our aspiration to reflect the diversity in communities we serve, and we acknowledge that we still have some way to achieve this aspiration,” said Brandi Galvin Morandi, chief legal and human resources officer at Equinix. “We disclose our goals, continually measure our progress, and hold ourselves accountable, as this journey to become an inclusive organisation requires each of us to be vulnerable and embrace discomfort.”

Ethnic diversity at BT Group

At the other end of the table sits the British telecommunications giant BT Group, where just 13% of its UK employees come from a black, Asian, or ethnic minority background. This stark difference between BT’s diversity figures compared to other US technology companies might be explained by a lack of detailed reporting on minority groups in the company’s employee diversity data.

Despite these figures, the company has committed to continuing to improve its diversity and inclusivity by setting targets to have a 50% gender split among its employees by 2030, with 25% coming from an ethnic minority group, according to the company’s “new manifesto” launched last December.

Other factors might also include a lack of employees choosing not to declare their ethnicity. In June last year, the company announced the results of its “People Data Campaign” which saw an increase in ethnicity declaration rates to 79%. 

The company is expected to publish the latest iteration of its public diversity and inclusion report next month, according to a spokesperson. 

Read more: The tech industry’s progress on carbon emissions has been mixed

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