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April 9, 2015updated 22 Sep 2016 11:47am

The Silicon Valley Diversity Myth & the 10 Companies Trying To Change Their Ways

Diversity data is appalling - diversity is simply not a reality yet in technology.

By Ellie Burns

Diversity is a buzzword championed by many in this industry. Everywhere you look new initiatives are being touted, almost always with a non-male, non-white corporate stooge fronting the campaign. While I applaud the proactive approach to diversity and understand that it needs a bold, loud approach in order to succeed in the long run, I cannot help feeling that the buzzword ‘diversity’ has become just that – a buzzword.

What we need is real-life diversity, a true mix of different genders, races, and sexualities.

The numbers out of Silicon Valley paint a depressing, concerning picture. Whilst I believe that diversity must start at a grass roots level at home and at school, workplaces are deploying innovative new ideas in order to shake their workforce up.

In the forthcoming article the numbers I present, all retrieved from their respective corporate websites, are worrying – but my job is to also give coverage and promote ideas which may make a difference.

The below companies have shameful stats, but the initiatives and programmes which they are introducing may result in future, truly diverse workforce. Hopefully, this article may spurn other businesses into similar initiatives – to change the ‘diversity’ buzzword into a reality.

1. Amazon

154,100 employees
63% Male – 37% Female
71% Caucasian (U.S)

Amazon is one of the best when it comes to the gender split, though the white dominated ethnic demographic of their workforce is one of the worst. One of the company’s key programmes is Amazon Women in Engineering, which is dedicated to making Amazon a great place to work for technical women. It provides mentors for technical employees and interns, leads a delegation of employees to participate in the annual Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, and hosts the local Seattle STEMOut! Event.

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Tackling ethnicity, Asians@Amazon is an initiative which provides a network across Asian communities, while there is also a similar network for black employees, Amazon’s Black Employee Network (BEN). BEN connects employees and interns with mentors and provides career and personal development workshops throughout the year. BEN also hosts the annual SULYP Leadership Summit, supports the UNCF Portfolio Project and Walk for Education, and participates in Code.org’s Hour of Code.

GLAmazon flies the flag for LGBT issues and opportunities. The group mentors fellow employees (both LGBT and non-LGBT) by promoting diversity and visibility in recruiting and throughout Amazon. Locally, GLAmazon sponsors the Seattle PRIDE Parade and organizes participation in the Seattle AIDS Walk.

Microsoft

128,076 employees
70.8% Male – 29.1% Female
60.2% Caucasian (U.S)

Microsoft has a plethora of employee networks, from Fillpinos at Microsoft to ExYugoslavians at Microsoft. Microsoft seems to have a network for every kind of group – which is a real positive. Groups for dads, the deaf/hard of hearing, single parents, Persians, U.S Military Veterans – everything seems covered.

The LGBT Employee Resource Group is called GLEAM with its members interacting through programs such as movie nights and lunches, meetings with other LGBT groups, sports and cultural activities, discussions with community leaders about gender and sexuality, volunteering and fundraising for local LGBT support organizations.

The Women at Microsoft Employee Resource Group currently reaches over 55K people worldwide through locally led women’s employee networks. Microsoft proudly states that over 3000 women participated locally in The Global Women’s Conference with 800 participating via global hubs in 32 worldwide locations.

Microsoft’s disAbility Employee Resource Group (ERG) was formed in 2009 from constituents of 10 different employee networks. The ERG represents employees with conditions such as hearing loss, blindness, visual impairments, ADD, mobility disabilities, and dyslexia.

With so many networks and taking all the programs and groups into account, the question has to be raised to as why the diversity data is not better at Microsoft. They are however, leading the way in the variety and breadth of employee groups and networks available.

Apple

98,000 employees
70% Male – 30% Female
55% Caucasian (U.S)

Apple prides itself on, as they say, putting ‘inclusion and diversity at our very centre.’ Apple has pledged $50m this year to diversity efforts, yet Tim Cook has been vocal in the poor diversity numbers. On Apple’s Diversity website page, Cook stated: "As CEO, I’m not satisfied with the numbers on this page. They’re 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."

Although specific diversity initiatives are not very visible, Apple can proudly state its status as a sponsor to the Human Rights Campaign, the country’s largest LGBT rights organization, as well as the National Center for Women & Information Technology, which is encouraging young women to get involved in technology and the sciences.

Google

53,600 employees
70% Male – 30% Female
61% Caucasian (U.S)

Like Apple, Google honestly states that they are ‘not where we want to be when it comes to diversity.’ Steps to remedy their poor diversity numbers include the Black Googler Network, Google Women in Engineering and Special Needs Network.

The Greygler network seeks to create a community for Googlers of a ‘certain age’, promoting age diversity awareness. There is also the well named Gayglers resource group which celebrates Pride around the world and informs programs and policies.

The Women@Google network is an employee resource group comprised of 4,000+ female Googlers committed to providing networking and mentoring opportunities, professional development, and a sense of community to Googler women across 27 countries.

Like Microsoft, the range and variety of these employee support groups should be celebrated – what is a concern is the gender divide in the technical arena. With only 17% of women in this group, there needs to be a push for technically minded women to achieve and succeed at Google.

HP

317,500 employees
67.5% Male – 32.5% Female

71.50% white (US)

HP boast a Diversity & Inclusion board, yet this was one company where a fair amount of digging had to be done to get the diversity data and initiatives on offer.

HP boasts over 150 Employee resource Groups in over 30 countries across the globe. Open to all employees, there are nine categories of officially recognized ERGS at HP; Black/African American, DisAbility, Generations, Hispanic/Latino, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender & Allies, Multicultural, Veterans, and Women.

HP also fronts the Global Women in Technology Series which is committed to sustaining women in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) field. With this series, HP employees have access to accomplished technical women through a series of discussions and other engagement activities such as mentoring and participation in HP’s Tech Con Conference.

Intel

106,700 employees
76% Male – 24% Female
56% Caucasian (U.S)

Despite the stats, Intel does in fact have a Women’s Initiative. The Women at Intel Network (WIN), an employee resource group with 22 chapters located all over the world, is the employee resource group which plays a key role in development of the company’s female employee population.

Intel’s Network of Executive Women (INEW) serves as a passionate voice for women and champion initiative efforts focused on mentoring and development of women. Successful programs include Command Presence Workshop, Women’s Principal Engineer & Fellows Forum and Act Now, Create Possibilities for Women and Girls/10 X 10.

Intel also have initiatives focusing on African Americans and Hispanics, as well as Employee Groups such as IGLOBE which caters for Intel’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual or Transgender Employees.

Salesforce

12,000 employees
71% Male – 29% Female
67% Caucasian (U.S)

Salesforce, despite the numbers, has its own Women’s network which aims to make salesforce.com a leader in attracting, developing, and retaining talented women.

Over 1,600 members participate in activities like job shadowing, Lean In circles, tech networking events, global non-profit work that promotes women’s initiatives and youth services. There is also a FemmeForce subcommittee dedicated to supporting non-profits, while OutForce is the company’s LGBT group which achieved 100% on HRC’s 2015 Corporate Equality Index to be recognized as a "Best Place to Work for LGBT Equality."

BoldForce (are you seeing the theme here with the names) promotes discussions around culture, diversity, and perspectives relating to people of African and African-American descent in the workplace. Members come together to support programs like Black Girls Code and Year Up, volunteer, network, and celebrate at events like the annual holiday happy hour.

Oracle

122,458 employees
71% Male – 29% Female
54% Caucasian (U.S)

Oracle employees, the company states, ‘represent a variety of cultures, span four generations, practice many religions, and live in large cities and small towns. This diversity allows us to examine our business from a range of perspectives.’ The company does try to support those who they are referring to in that statement – there is the African-American Business Leaders for Excellence (ABLE) group, Hispanic Oracle Leadership Association (HOLA) group and the Lambda (LGBT) group. Although there are Veterans programmes and Diversity internships, I did not see any specific group or network for women, though Oracle do have a number of partnerships such as Women in Technology, Society of Women Engineers and Women for Hire.

Cisco

74,043 employees
77% Male – 23% Female
54% Caucasian (U.S)

Like the other companies on this list, Cisco have a great many groups, networks and organisations but poor diversity figures.

Employee Resource Organisations include CW: Connected Women, WISE: Women in Science and Engineering, CBP: Connected Black Professionals and CDAN: Connected Disabilities Awareness Network amongst others.

Cisco states that ‘the conversation around EROs has evolved from joining the group "to which you associate yourself" to actively engaging in the community that supports your passion and interests.’ This means that, for example, a man can join the Connected Women ERO maybe because he has daughters or women are his work peers – Cisco has effectively removed stereotypes and labels to cater for a wide range of interest. With that approach – their diversity numbers should rise.

 

 

After completing this article, I have more questions than answers. All 10 of these companies are engaging with their workforce with innovative networks and support groups – so why are the diversity numbers so low? Why are women still lagging behind and why are Caucasians still the dominant ethnicity? Questions surrounding legacy beliefs and stereotypes combined with poor grass roots support may lie at the core of this issue – but what we can take away from this article is that companies, and the people running them, are making an effort to diversify their workforce. They are not succeeding yet, but with more initiatives, exposure and publicity we must be surely on the right road.

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