Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Tech Companies Are Resistant to Attempts to Scrutinize Employee Diversity

Will Evans and Sinduja Rangarajan, writing for Reveal, a publication by the Center for Investigative Reporting:

Diversity numbers rarely generate positive headlines, but they can make companies confront reality.

“Internally, it’s that, ‘Oh man, our numbers are coming out again, how do we look?’ ” said Judith Williams, who was head of diversity at Dropbox and a diversity manager at Google. “It forces a conversation both externally and internally.”

[…]

If they disclose any numbers at all, most companies offer limited pie charts on diversity webpages or in corporate diversity reports. They say the government reports don’t reflect how they view their own workforce. The firms invariably use percentages instead of raw numbers.

“I think they don’t want people checking their math,” Williams said.

EEO-1 reports, which reveal raw numbers instead of percentages, are kept private by the U.S. government; companies can choose to publicize their reports themselves, but few do. Percentages are, of course, not a terrible way to compare companies. But there is something powerful about recognizing that the 0.5% of Facebook’s new employees in 2015 that were black is equivalent to just seven people. Seven.

If you’re wondering why I didn’t publish a roundup of tech company diversity reports yet this year, by the way, this article largely explains the reason: companies are no longer motivated or encouraged to update their public diversity stats in a timely manner. Microsoft, Apple, and Amazon haven’t updated their reports since summer of last year; Google and Twitter updated theirs in January of this year, while Facebook updated theirs in August. Unfortunately, there’s seemingly little pressure to reveal these figures, despite the importance of a highly-diverse staff.