Microsoft Admits That ‘Much Work’ Remains to Address Its (Lack of) Diversity

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Sometimes, bad news becomes a big snowball. A small dust-up collects a little dirt and begins rolling downhill as people stand there, watching it gain velocity as it prepares to smash the little hamlet at the base of the mountain.

When you hear Microsoft, you would think that the company itself is the snowball. This time, however, it’s the village in peril.

Last week the company introduced Windows 10 (math skills be damned). And now, America finds out that Bill Gates’ baby has grown up to become one big boys’ club.

Microsoft is a global corporation — yet, according to an email obtained by ZDNet, only 29 percent of its entire workforce is women. Even worse, that total is up five percent from last year.

To be fair, you can’t expect all companies to be 50/50. But you’d think a name as big as Microsoft would least try, right?

The company released new diversity stats and launched a new diversity and inclusion Web site on October 3. Other bullet points from the email:

  • The number of Microsoft senior executive women and minorities rose from 24 to 27 percent in the past year.
  • The percentage of women and minorities on the Microsoft board of directors is up from 33 to 40 percent compared to last year.

So, that’s trying. However, what those stats are hiding is that Microsoft closely resembles its co-founder: more than 60 percent of its employees are (old) white guys. That fact inspired Lisa Brummel, Microsoft’s executive vice president of human resources, to send an email to all employees to mark the release of the latest information.

See if you can tell what point she was trying to get across. More importantly, there’s a PR message in here too. Do you think she’s right? Let us know.

I’ve recently received a number of questions from employees due to the increased industry focus on diversity. I want to take this opportunity to share a report on diversity and inclusion at Microsoft with you.

Microsoft has a long history of substantial investment and engagement in promoting diversity and inclusion in our workforce. As part of that commitment, we started sharing data regarding the diversity of our employee population in 1998, and have publicly posted diversity data on www.microsoft.com on a voluntary basis since 2006. We recently updated our data to include our newest employees from Nokia and added additional detail. You can also find our updated diversity data here. As you look at the data, you will see that we are in generally the same position as others in our industry. In our 20+ years of committed efforts toward managing diversity and inclusion effectively, what we’ve learned is that diversity is not a finite goal that can simply be achieved, then “checked off” a list; it is a journey that requires constant self-assessment and recommitment.

Diversity and inclusion are a business imperative. Diversity needs to be a source of strength and competitive advantage for us. Our customer base is increasingly diverse. As our business evolves to focus more on end-to-end customer experiences, having a diverse employee base will better position Microsoft to anticipate, respond to and serve the needs of the changing marketplace. And representation itself is not enough – we must also create an inclusive work environment that enables us to capitalize on the diverse perspectives, ideas and innovative solutions of our employees.

Over the past year, we made continued progress in increasing the diversity of our workforce and leadership, including:

  • Growing the percentage of women in our global workforce from 24 to 29 percent.
  • Increasing the number of Microsoft senior executive women and minorities from 24 to 27 percent.
  • Raising the percentage of women and minorities on the Microsoft board of directors from 33 to 40 percent.

Have we made progress? Yes, we certainly have, and I am proud of the progress we have made. But we can all agree that much work remains to be done to increase the diversity of our company and the tech industry.

We have a strong history to build upon. We are expanding the pipeline for the next generation of technology leaders through science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programs like DigiGirlz, Blacks at Microsoft Minority Student Day, and our new global Microsoft YouthSpark program. Through these programs, we reached more than 100 million youth with opportunities for education, employment, and entrepreneurship. And, for the first time ever, we are now hiring our DigiGirlz as full-time employees, from a talent pool we fostered years ago. This proves the lasting impact of these programs. The pipeline we invested in years ago is now coming back to us – a result every company strives for. It is a slow process, but we are seeing momentum from our efforts.

This is just the beginning of the conversation. In the coming weeks, we will share more information about both new and ongoing strategic investments and partnerships to advance diversity and inclusion at Microsoft and in the tech industry. We will also detail new core priorities for leaders and people managers at Microsoft to make our company the absolute best place to work.

Lisa