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Microsoft reveals the diversity of its workforce

Like its closest competitors, Microsoft is 70 per cent male and 60 per cent white

Microsoft is the latest tech company to reassert its commitment to diversity in the workplace, releasing figures that describe the makeup of its workforce.

Out of more than 120,000 employees worldwide, 29 per cent were women as of September 30 this year - an increase of 4 per cent over the prior year. The highest proportion of female employees were in "Non-Tech" disciplines, with 44.5 per cent overall. In "Tech" and "Leadership" positions the proportion was lower, with just over 17 per cent in each.

In terms of ethnic background, Caucasians are by far the dominant presence, comprising just over 60 per cent of the US workforce, and 72 per cent of Leadership roles. (Note: ethnicity figures only apply to Microsoft's American presence, which is consistent with the approach taken by other tech companies.) People of Asian ethnicity are the next best represented in every job category, with 28.9 per cent of its total US staff and 20 per cent of Leadership positions.

Perhaps the most surprising revelation, though, is the lack of representation for "African Americans/Black" and "Hispanic/Latino" - 3.5 per cent and 5.1 per cent of Microsoft's US workforce respectively. According to a census taken in July 2013, Latino Americans were more than 17 per cent of the total population of the US, and African Americans were more than 13 per cent. By contrast, a census taken the previous year found that just over 5 per cent of Americans were Asian.

The data was released in response to questions from Microsoft's employees, who wanted to better understand where the company stood on diversity in the workplace.

"As you look at the data, you will see that we are in generally the same position as others in our industry," said Lisa Brummel, executive vice president of human resources, in an email published by ZDNet.

"In our 20-plus 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."

Both Google and Apple have released similar reports on diversity, and both showed similar distributions to Microsoft: around 70 per cent male and 60 per cent Caucasian.

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Latest comments (16)

Keldon Alleyne Strategic keyboard basher, Avasopht Ltd4 years ago
Patrick Flynn
Caucasians are 72% of the population; why do corporate rosters have to be equally divided amongst all groups or else?
From the article: Perhaps the most surprising revelation, though, is the lack of representation for "African Americans/Black" and "Hispanic/Latino" - 3.5 per cent and 5.1 per cent of Microsoft's US workforce respectively. According to a census taken in July 2013, Latino Americans were more than 17 per cent of the total population of the US, and African Americans were more than 13 per cent. By contrast, a census taken the previous year found that just over 5 per cent of Americans were Asian.

So 13% of the population are Black, making up 3.5% of the organisation, while 17% of the population are Latino, making up just 5.1% of the workforce. I think that's what they mean by under representation.

Problem is, the only way to change this is to change the social bonds people make throughout their lives as studies show that the greatest factor in gaining jobs comes from personal contacts. So unless there is mass social change, there will always be under representation. So it's more about us making the change, not the corporations.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Keldon Alleyne on 7th October 2014 6:22pm

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When it comes to improving diversity in a workforce, corporations can make active efforts to train and recruit people from under-represented groups. I mention them more or less every time the subject crops up, but Etsy is a pretty great success story(that piece is long but a fantastic read on challenges and success stories of improving the gender ratio in tech organisations) and more companies who give lip-service to 'improving diversity' should be paying attention to Etsy's example of how it can be done.
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Tom Keresztes Programmer 4 years ago
Another factor to consider that Caucasian does not necessarily mean local. According to the report in tech section only 56% of the population is white, 35% is Asian.
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Show all comments (16)
Alfonso Sexto Lead Tester, Ubisoft Germany4 years ago
The CEO of the company I work for is a man. At the same time, the big boss from the studio within said company in which I am currently working is a woman. Both are great professionals that are doing a great job.
That's all I care in a work environment; that the persons above, at my side, and those following me are the most qualified candidates for their respective position. Genre means nothing and should never be a factor when hiring somebody. I really don't see what is so hard to understand.
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Andrew Watson Tools Programmer 4 years ago
How is this news?

It shouldn't matter what race someone is. What's important are the skills they have. Hire the best people for the job, not those who are only there to fill some quota.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Andrew Watson on 7th October 2014 9:59am

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The problem with 'hire the best people for the job' is that 'best' is a hugely subjective concept and there is tons of research out there pointing to unconscious biases that lead people making hiring decisions to favour white male candidates over others, even when their qualifications are exactly the same. Homogeneous workforces are less good at creative problem-solving, which is an incredibly important part of working in technology.

So no, it's just just a case of 'just hire the best people!!' - it's a case of identifying and eliminating biases that prevent people who don't fit the image of the white, middle-class, young man from enriching the industry.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Jessica Hyland on 7th October 2014 10:30am

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Nick McCrea Gentleman, Pocket Starship4 years ago
I do think technology companies, particular west coast US ones, are deeply steeped in the mythology of the 'brilliant hacker' in a way that may lead to some bias during the hiring process, particularly in a culture which regards itself as highly empirical (and as such, beyond such petty biases!).

For example, Google has in the last couple of years taken a proper look at the performance of new hires, to see if it correlates strongly with particular hiring approaches. What they found was that a load of the received wisdom on 'hiring brilliant hackers' was totally bunk.See here.. There was basically zero relationship between candidate's measured performance at interview, and ability to do the job. Google has since dropped the whole whiteboard brainteaser gauntlet as a way to hire, opting instead for a behavioural interview which questions candidates on stuff they've actually done in the past.

I can't speak for other disciplines, but I do think that technical companies, and games companies, are probably still labouring under many of the false assumptions about how a 'brilliant coder' will look and behave at interview, and this will naturally lead to a hiring bias towards younger, male candidates from particular backgrounds.
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Jakub Mikyska CEO, Grip Digital4 years ago
The current Microsoft CEO is of an Indian descent. The first CEO was a white male and the second CEO was a dancing monkey. That seems diverse enough for me.

If there was a lesbian latino female programmer with a disability for every white male, then yeah, 50/50 representation would be fair. But the structure of the market is different. Women are attracted to different areas than tech. Why is nobody complaining about the lack of men among hospital nurses or waitresses?

If somebody wants to seriously do something about fair representation of the population, they must not point a finger or put quota in place. They have to make sure that hispanic, latino, asian, white and black have the same kind of access to education and opportunities in general, to lower the social barriers. To make sure that women have opportunities to have children AND still be able to work and build their careers. This problem is deep and is rooted within the whole western civilization. Trying to fix it from this "side", by saying that companies should hire more women or minorities, is like saying that if you have weight problems, you can fix that by wearing tight clothes and keep saying how good you look in it.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Jakub Mikyska on 7th October 2014 1:13pm

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Keldon Alleyne Strategic keyboard basher, Avasopht Ltd4 years ago
Andrew Watson
Hire the best people for the job, not those who are only there to fill some quota.
Notice my post makes no mention of meeting a quota. What are your thoughts on what I said?

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Keldon Alleyne on 7th October 2014 6:21pm

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Keldon Alleyne Strategic keyboard basher, Avasopht Ltd4 years ago
Jakub Mikyska
If somebody wants to seriously do something about fair representation of the population, they must not point a finger or put quota in place. They have to make sure that hispanic, latino, asian, white and black have the same kind of access to education and opportunities in general, to lower the social barriers
This is incorrect. In both Britain and America, an increase in Blacks going into higher education and achieving higher grades had zero positive effect on job prospects. As mentioned in my post, social change amongst the people is the only way to reduce career barriers since it has been demonstrated that personal networks are the true defining factor of employment.

I find it intriguing when people ignore these details.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Keldon Alleyne on 7th October 2014 6:21pm

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Brook Davidson Artist / 3D design 4 years ago
The way I see it, if there isn't any noticeable bias, it isn't a problem. If the percentages sway a little in one direction .. I don't really consider that conclusive.

Not saying this isn't a problem, just saying that some people want ridiculous percentages to match perfectly, which really makes no sense since they can be that way for any number of reasons.

If I have a handful of rice with 30% of them are green, 20% of them are blue, and 50% being red. If I throw them at a bucket .. it doesn't mean I will get anything remotely close to those percentages. They will certainly differ.
Then we have to consider if those percentages are even the same in my other hand. Locations makes a difference too.
Then we also have to work in education. Personality. Accountability. Work ethic.

So many factors. So unless there is some obvious huge dip in the percentages .. it's impossible to claim it has to do with biases of any sort.

Well that is my thoughts on it at least. Could be wrong I suppose.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Brook Davidson on 7th October 2014 8:16pm

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Keldon Alleyne Strategic keyboard basher, Avasopht Ltd4 years ago
But there is a notable bias. In fact when I was a board representative for a local youth development organisation we were informed by a government funded initiative of a clear bias that they were trying to tackle, citing the increase in academic performance if black students showing absolutely no change in job prospects.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Keldon Alleyne on 9th October 2014 12:31pm

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Brook Davidson Artist / 3D design 4 years ago
@Keldon Alleyne
That is why I said "if".

Obviously there is a problem if there is a noticeable bias. Just saying that isn't always the case.
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Tom Keresztes Programmer 4 years ago
Homogeneous workforces are less good at creative problem-solving, which is an incredibly important part of working in technology.
Is there a scientific research proving this ?
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Keldon Alleyne Strategic keyboard basher, Avasopht Ltd4 years ago
Is there a scientific research proving this ?
A quick Google for "creativity and diversity" came up with plenty of results. My favourite: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-diversity-makes-us-smarter/

If you refine the search you may find a paper.
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 4 years ago
The latest Microsoft shitstorm has Nadella giving women good tips on how to get a raise. It boils down to shut up, trust in the system, collect good karma.
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