Microsoft’s Diversity: Fewer Women, Slightly More Racial Minorities


Gwen HOustonMicrosoft is getting more male, and slightly more racially diverse, according to a batch of new workforce data the company released Monday.

Women made up 26.8 percent of Microsoft’s global workforce at the end of September, the company said, down from 29 percent a year earlier.

That’s largely because of the big layoffs that hit phone manufacturing units Microsoft acquired from Nokia, said Gwen Houston, the Seattle-area company’s general manager of global diversity and inclusion. Those factory floors and other units Microsoft shuttered were staffed by a larger proportion of female workers than the rest of the business, she said.

“This is a decline we are not satisfied with,” Houston said in an interview. “We know we can do better.”

Technology companies have drawn scrutiny in recent years for workforces that tend to be more male and white than the U.S. population as a whole. Some have started releasing an increasing amount of data on the composition of their workforce.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, on a campaign to broaden the employee base of technology companies, asked Microsoft Chief Executive Satya Nadella last year to release more data on the company. Nadella agreed, and the company publicly posted in December the workforce diversity data the company is required to report to the federal government.

Jackson is scheduled to be in the Seattle area again next week for Microsoft’s shareholder’s meeting.

Microsoft will have some progress to show the civil rights leader.

In the U.S., Houston said, the share of employees identifying as Asian or Hispanic each rose modestly from a year earlier. The company doesn’t detail the racial breakdown of its non-U.S. workforce.

Houston said the composition of the company’s leadership ranks also broadened a bit during the year. She also cited an increase in the portion of women, African-Americans, and Hispanics among Microsoft’s hires straight out of college.

“These are trends that are a work in progress and we’ve got to hold onto and build over time,” Houston said. “We still have a ways to go in terms of increasing the presence of women and minorities across Microsoft.”

About 29.3 percent of Microsoft’s U.S. employees identified as Asian, up from 28.9 percent a year earlier. Hispanic employees totaled 5.4 percent, up slightly from 5.1 percent.

African-American/black employees and those identifying as multi-racial both ticked up a tenth of a percentage point, to 3.5 percent and 1.3 percent, respectively.

The percentage of American Indian/Alaskan Native and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander was unchanged at 0.5 percent and 0.3 percent, respectively.

Houston said Nadella’s group of senior advisers is briefed monthly on the company’s initiatives to build a more diverse workplace. Those efforts include internship programs targeting underrepresented groups, employee training in unconscious biases, and funding for education programs designed to stimulate interest in science and math education.

Microsoft employed 115,905 people worldwide at the end of September, including 60,515 in the U.S. Of those, 42,991 worked in Washington state.

(Source: TNS)