Slow and steady progress in Microsoft's latest diversity report, though most execs still pale and male

US lawmakers can look away now. Actually, don't


Amid grumbling from lawmakers, Microsoft has pushed out a fresh diversity report, sprinkling the odd "must try harder" among the corporate back slappery.

The report arrives as the company snapped back against suggestions from the US government that its mission to double the number of black and African American senior employees was potentially problematic.

Today's report does not show any hysterical swing from the company since it announced its diversity program back in June and Microsoft itself admits "there is still much work to be done with specific communities", but claimed things are continuing to inch in the right direction.

Looking at the broader Microsoft business in the US (including GitHub and LinkedIn), black and African American staffers made up just 4.7 per cent of the workforce, up 0.3 per cent on 2019. Hispanic and Latino accounted for 6.4 per cent, also up 0.3 per cent. Asian employees were up 1.6 per cent and laid claim to 34.9 per cent of employees.

White employees continued to decline overall and dipped just below half for the first time since Microsoft began publishing data, now accounting for 49.2 per cent of the broader US business (down from 58.4 per cent in 2016.) Representation of Native American, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander employees decreased slightly; down 0.1 per cent to 0.6 per cent, and the caring, sharing Windows behemoth said it intends look at what it needed to do to connect better with the communities.

Things in the core business were less rosy, but at least inching in the right direction. The company's make-up was 71.3 per cent men to 28.6 per cent women in 2020, slightly improved from the 72.3 to 27.6 per cent of 2019. Nearly 80 per cent of partners and executives were, however, male. White employees also continued to account for the majority of managerial or director positions, and again, the direction of travel was a slow drift downwards.

Improving diversity is a multi-year process, and Microsoft has repeatedly insisted that "we hire and promote the most qualified person," adding that: "The challenge is ensuring that all get equal opportunity."

While still not balanced, the company has also seen a drift upwards of women employed globally to 30.2 per cent (up a single percentage point on 2019). It also noted that five of its 12 board members are women.

The company also added employees identifying as having a disability into this year's figures: currently 6.1 per cent of the US workforce.

Microsoft's figures compare well to other industry giants. Intel's 2019 report saw African American employees account for 4.9 per cent of the US workforce. Globally, the employee base was 27.4 per cent female to 72.6 per cent male. Google's 2020 report had the men / women balance at 68 per cent versus 32 per cent with 3.7 per cent black and 41.9 per cent Asian.

Good progress, but more years of solid work will be needed before "must try harder" can be stripped from report cards. ®

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