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Like much of the tech industry, Microsoft says it is focused on making its workplace more diverse and inclusive, and today the company gave a snapshot of how that effort is going.

In an update of its annual diversity numbers, the company is showing modest progress in getting better representation of women and minorities in technical and leadership roles, but executives say there is still a long way to go.

Lindsay-Rae McIntyre, Microsoft’s chief diversity officer. (Photo via Microsoft.)

Including LinkedIn, women represent 28 percent of the workforce at Microsoft as of June 30, up a percentage point from a year ago. Also on the rise is the share of women in technical roles — from 18.5 percent a year ago to 19.9 percent — and in leadership positions, from 18.8 percent a year ago to 19.7 percent today.

Minority representation grew slightly as well, with black employees rising from 3.8 percent of Microsoft’s workforce to 4 percent, and Hispanic/Latinx employees increased from 5.5 percent to 5.7 percent.

“We are encouraged by our progress but clear that we are closer to the beginning of this journey than the end,” said Lindsay-Rae McIntyre, Microsoft’s chief diversity officer.

Looking at Microsoft’s numbers compared to other tech giants makes it clear that no one has figured out how to build a truly diverse workforce, where people of color and women are represented well at all levels. Here are numbers from other tech giants:

  • Amazon had the greatest female representation of the major companies at 40 percent, according to its diversity page that was last updated in July 2017. Among managers, the gap widens to 74 percent men, 26 percent women. In the U.S., the company is 42 percent white, 22 percent black, 14 percent Asian, 14 percent  Hispanic and 8 percent “other.” However, in management positions the breakdown changes to 63 percent white, 21 percent Asian, 6 percent black, 5 percent Hispanic and 4 percent other.
  • Google is 69 percent male to 31 percent female company-wide, according to its 2018 Diversity Report. Women represented 25.5 percent of leadership roles, compared to 74.5 percent men. Google is 53.1 percent white, 36.3 percent Asian, 3.6 percent Latinx, 2.5 percent black, 4.2 “two or more races” and 0.4 percent Native American. Leadership is  67 percent white, 26 percent Asian, 2 percent black, 1.8 percent Latinx, 2.7 percent two or more races and 0.4 percent Native American.
  • As of June 30, Facebook was 64 percent men to 36 percent women. The split grew to 70/30 when looking at senior leadership roles. Facebook in the U.S. is about 47 percent white, 41 percent Asian, 5 percent Hispanic, 3.5 percent  black, 3 percent “2 or more” and 0.6 percent other. As with other companies, management is significantly whiter, with the breakdown changing to 69.7 percent white, 21.6 percent Asian, 3.3 percent Hispanic, 2.4 percent black, 2.4 percent “2 or more” and 0.5 percent other.
  • In 2017, Apple had a 68/32 percent gender split in favor of men, and the ratio for leadership is 71 percent men to 29 percent women. The company at that time was 52 percent white, 21 percent Asian, 13 percent Hispanic, 9 percent black, 3 percent multiracial and 1 percent other. Approximately 66 percent of leadership is white, versus 23 percent Asian, 7 percent Hispanic, 3 percent black and 1 percent multiracial.

In an interview with GeekWire, McIntyre said Microsoft isn’t competing with its peers on these numbers. She framed the importance of building diverse and inclusive workforces in the tech world as an issue that goes beyond battles for marketshare and new product innovations. McIntyre, who joined Microsoft from IBM four months ago, envisions working not just with partners and customers but competitors on new initiatives.

While policies and procedures can help with diversity and inclusion, McIntyre says it’s important to weave these efforts into the day-to-day operations at the company to really make a difference. Microsoft recently added to its performance evaluation system criteria on how each employee can personally foster diversity.

“I think it’s the perfect gesture of inclusion, that every single employee at Microsoft would have a role to play in making us more diverse and more inclusive,” McIntyre said.

McIntyre said fixing issues of women and minority representatives is not necessarily hard, but there’s no cure-all. It takes finding new pipelines to hire from, supporting educational programs that teach people technical skills, implementing the right programs and policies and just having the tough, candid conversations about the issues.

Microsoft is dealing with multiple gender discrimination lawsuits. One dates back to 2015 and concerns how women in technical roles are treated. The plaintiff in another lawsuit filed just last week claims she was discriminated against based on her gender and marital status and ultimately terminated because of what she called “unfair and even false employment reviews.”

McIntyre said Microsoft doesn’t tolerate harassment or discrimination of any kind and offers robust investigation systems in these situations. The company is doing more to listen to its employees, McIntyre said.

“There’s a tremendous amount of bravery in the system to have conversations that we maybe haven’t had at work, both what’s going on outside the workplace and what is going on inside the workplace. So we want to support our employees and create the conditions for them to be their best,” McIntyre said.

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