As protests over race and police brutality sweep the nation, companies everywhere are trying to figure out the right response. Some are leaning hard into public messaging that supports the protests; others have decided to remain silent. The current moment has also renewed discussion over company diversity, especially within management’s upper ranks.
Blind, which anonymously surveys technologists on a range of issues, recently asked its audience about race relations within their companies, and the results were pretty stark. For example, out of 2,800 respondents, some 76 percent of white technologists said their ethnicity was represented within their companies’ upper management and the c-level. Meanwhile, only 10 percent of black or African-American respondents could say the same thing, along with 21 percent of Hispanic or Latino respondents.
Here’s the breakdown on a company-by-company basis. With the exception of Microsoft, no company featured a majority of respondents saying “yes,” although Facebook gets relatively close:
Meanwhile, some 42 percent of all respondents said that upper management at their organization demonstrated an understanding of racial differences in the workplace. That’s a top-level figure, however; once you break it down, only 19 percent of black or African-American respondents agreed with that statement, along with 34 percent of Hispanic or Latino respondents, well behind 47 percent of white respondents.
When you analyze that “understanding of racial differences” question by company, only LinkedIn and Facebook featured a majority of overall respondents saying “yes”:
As this Blind data suggests, diversity remains a significant issue within many tech companies. In late 2019, Wired analyzed five years’ worth of diversity reports from the largest tech firms and found relatively little progress. “At Google and Microsoft, the share of U.S. technical employees who are black or Latinx rose by less than a percentage point since 2014,” the magazine reported. “The share of black technical workers at Apple is unchanged at 6 percent, less than half blacks’ 13 percent share of the U.S. population.”
Yet tech companies claim slow-but-steady movement towards more diversification in their workplaces. “We saw the largest increase in our hiring of Black+ technical employees that we have ever measured,” Google claimed in its most recent diversity report. “Job postings run through our bias removal tool resulted in an 11 percent increase in applications from women. We expanded a program for employees from underrepresented groups who were considering leaving, with 84 percent deciding to stay.” But in past diversity reports, Google has also admitted that its diversity efforts haven't paid off in the ways it expected.
Microsoft also likes to highlight its progress. “In terms of race and ethnicity, we saw modest year-over-year growth in total representation in all categories, including in tech and in leadership roles at both the director and executive level,” the company stated in its November 2019 diversity report. “Overall, racial and ethnic minorities represent 46.7 percent of the U.S. workforce, up 2.2 percentage points from 2018.”
But as Blind’s data makes clear, many technologists within some of tech’s largest companies feel there’s still much work to be done. For businesses, a more diverse workforce has concrete benefits, as well. For example, a study by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) found that organizations with diverse leadership are not only more innovative, but deliver roughly 19 percent higher revenues than companies that lack diverse workforces. And a Deloitte study found that 72 percent of working Americans say they would leave their organization for one with a more diversity-friendly culture. In other words, diversity can enable companies to retain their top talent.