Tech companies’ diversity
Photo by WOCinTech Chat (Flickr / CC BY / cropped from original)All of the above is interesting. That said, I hope these tech giants’ futureplans including hiring more Black workers. Per the most recent comprehensivefigures I could find: * Apple’s employee base is 9% Black. Only 3% are in leadership roles, however. * Amazon’s employee base is 26.5% Black as of 2019. However, the majority of these workers are in their distribution centers, versus technical or leadership roles. * Facebook’s employee base is 3.8% Black. * As of 2018, 2.6% of Google’s US employees are Black. * As of 2020, 4.9% of Microsoft’s US employees are Black.The numbers for Latinx employees at tech companies aren’t much better.Overall, the tech industry’s US employment base is estimated at 7% Black and8% Latinx; the US population meanwhile is 13% Black and 18% Latinx. While I’mglad to see tech companies observe Juneteenth, it’d mean more if they hired amore diverse staff.As for the future of Juneteenth as a federal holiday, I expect it’ll besimilar to Martin Luther King Day: some companies will give the day off, aswell as some local governments and schools, but otherwise it’ll still be awork day for most people. Not helping is that it’s sandwiched between MemorialDay several weeks earlier and Independence Day two weeks later; also, the USis pretty stingy compared to other countries regarding paid time off.Photo by WOCinTech Chat (Flickr / CC BY / cropped from original)
Technology companies can help fight Covid-19It’s only natural that the biggest tech companies, including Amazon, Apple,Google, Facebook and Microsoft, are stepping up as well, not only bydonating to Covid-19 relief efforts, but also by harnessing their unique ability to rapidly solve problems andscale solutions. In the pandemic, the commitment to apply technology solutionsto societal problems can help save lives and restore the economy, if it ischanneled into the right solutions. That means these tech titans should focuson their expertise and share what they know. They should provide solutionsthat support our existing public health infrastructure. And mostfundamentally, they should know when not to step up, sometimes resisting thetemptation to help in order to follow that age-old promise in the Hippocraticoath, do no harm — especially to the public trust that is crucial foreffective response to the pandemic.Crises can provide fertile soil for a bias toward action, even when an actionisn’t needed. In a global pandemic, that bias often takes the form of anoverreaction of surveillance. Ideas such as using apps for proximity-basedautomated contact tracing, as attempted inChina and South Korea, and asGoogle and Applehave begun to explore, make assumptions about uptake and accuracy that areimplausible. Worse, to make them more feasible could mean making participationhidden or coercive, threatening the very trust that an effective anddemocratic public health system needs. We’ve learned that lesson ofsurveillance too many timesin the post-9/11 world. Proximity-based tracing applications may have some role supportingcomprehensive contact tracing programs in the future, but only if they avoidover-promising, address privacy and feasibility barriers, and demonstrateaccuracy and value.What tech companies can do is navigate the waters they know and focus on whatthey do best. Facebook, Twitter and Google, for example, have become not justways to stay connected to people — especially important in the midst ofphysical isolation — but also places people turn to for information. That’swhy we werepleased to see these companiesquickly elevate information from trusted sources to the top of news feeds andsearch pages, and for YouTube to aggressively take down harmfulmisinformation.Pinterest,Appleand others have released apps that facilitate health education and selfassessment. There is stillroom for improvement, but these have been promising steps.For the next steps, tech companies can help by telling us what they’velearned. The expertise tech companies bring to the fight against Covid-19 ispowered by data insights that could be transformational if opened to thepublic. Google and Facebook, for example, recently announced their work tomakeCommunity Mobility Reportsand aMobility Dashboardavailable to the public, providing de-identified, aggregate data on howcommunities are responding to shelter-at-home orders and physical distancing.Big tech is learning more and benefits us all by sharing what it knows freelyand publicly.These companies can also help by empowering us to do our jobs better. Not bycreating something new, but by empowering the people who have been doing thiswork for decades. Carnegie Mellon University’s Delphi epidemiological researchcenter worked to develop a way to forecast where Covid-19 may hit next. Theysearched for a survey tool broad enough to launch their new symptom mappingproject andfound a partner in Facebook, which opened the survey to users of its platform. With this massivecommunity of users, these epidemiologists were able to connect with awealth of informationthat can inform our responses on the front lines and help us prepare for andpossibly prevent future outbreaks. As epidemiologists, we are enthusiasticabout this new data feed. It has the potential to serve as a crucial earlywarning system that can help save lives and preserve economic activity.One of our most important public health activities moving forward will becontact tracing. Apple, Google and Microsoft can contribute by helping publichealth workers do their job more effectively. Partnerships between our publichealth experts and our nation’s leading technologists can be transformationalin ways that will continue improving our health long after Covid-19 is nolonger the emergency it is today.We are at a unique moment in human history, but not just because of thispandemic. Outbreaks of disease have left their scars throughout history. Whatmakes this time unique is that we have, at our fingertips, a wealth ofinformation, data and insights that would have been unimaginable in pandemicsof the past. If we and the companies that hold this data use it well bybuilding on expertise, sharing de-identified data widely, supporting publichealth and focusing on doing no harm, we can turn a new chapter in howhumanity fights these invisible viral enemies with more interconnected humanintelligence.Racial Diversity In Tech By The NumbersI collected and analyzed employment data by race for 57 of the biggest techemployers in the US (1). Here are the top level conclusions: * Black and Hispanic/Latinx employees are significantly under-represented in tech relative to their overall percentage of the US population. * 67% of tech companies are made up of less than 5% of Black employees. * Controlling for overall racial disparities in tech hiring, white employees are significantly over-represented in leadership positions while all other racial groups are under-represented. * Despite the fact that all US companies with at least 100 employees have to file an EEO-1 (which shows the racial composition of their employee base) only 16 out of 57 companies have recently made this data public. * Here’s how you can help to encourage your company to be more open about their diversity practices.Table of contents 1. White employees are heavily over-represented in tech leadership 2. Employees of color are under-represented in tech 3. What you can do to help 4. Open diversity data project
White Employees Are Over-Represented In Tech Leadership
It seems to be well known that racial minorities are under-represented in techrelative to their makeup of the US population. This is true (see the nextsection). What might be lesser known is that racial minorities are heavilyunder-represented in tech leadership roles even when you control for the factthat they are under-represented at these companies as a whole.What does representative leadership in a company mean? It simply means thatyou’d expect the racial makeup of leadership in a company to resemble theoverall racial makeup of that company. Simply put, if 10% of a company is madeup of Black employees then equal representation means that 10% of leadershipis also Black.That is largely not the case in our data. The diagonal line in the scatter-plots below demarcates representative leadership within a company. If acompany is above the line for a given race, that means a larger percentage ofleadership is that race relative to the overall makeup of the company (over-representation in leadership). Conversely, if a company is below the line thenleadership is under-representative of the racial makeup of the company (under-representation in leadership).
Comparison between the racial composition of employees at tech companies
relative to the racial composition of leadership at those companies
Data from 33 US based tech companies for US employees (2). The diagonal
line represents a 1:1 relationship between the % of leaders in a company thatare a given race relative to the overall % of employees of that race at acompany.You can see that nearly 100% of companies in this dataset have an over-representation of white employees in leadership positions relative to thepercentage of those companies overall that are white. All other racial groupsare largely under-representated in leadership. 94% of companies under-represent Hispanic/ Latinx employees in leadership positions, 82% under-represent Black employees in leadership, and 91% under-represent Asianemployees in leadership.How does this representation change when we aggregate this data acrosscompanies? For this comparison, I had to limit my analysis to the 16 companiesthat recently released an EEO-1 (3). We created a single metric to conveywhether a given racial group has equal representation in leadership relativeto their overall representation in these companies.To do this I divided the % of leadership across all companies that are a givenrace by the % of employees at these companies that are a given race. So if, inaggregate, these companies have equal racial representation between theiremployees and their leadership this metric will have a value of 1. Over-representation in leadership will have a value greater than 1 and under-representation will have a value less than 1.
Comparison between the total racial composition of leadership at tech
companies divided by the total racial composition of employees at thosecompanies
Data from 16 US based tech companies for US employees with recently
released EEO-1 data. *Aggregate of Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander,American Indian or Alaskan Native, and Two Or More Races.This demonstrates that white tech employees are the only racial group that areover-represented in leadership in aggregate (as we’d expect from the scatter-plots). All other racial groups are under-represented. More than that, itshows that a white employee at a tech company is twice as likely as a Blacktech employee to be represented in a leadership role. Another way of puttingthis is if 10% of a tech company is made up of white employees, you’d expect12% of the leadership of that company to be white. If 10% of that company wereBlack, you’d expect only 6% of leadership to be Black.
Employees of color are under-represented in tech
Not only are employees of color under-represented in leadership positions intech, they are also under-represented in tech in non-leadership positions. Forthis analysis we looked at the employee counts by race for 35 US based techcompanies (4) and compared them to the overall racial makeup of the USpopulation (5).
Data from 35 US based tech companies for US employees. *Aggregate of
Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, American Indian or Alaskan Native, andTwo Or More Races.Hispanic/Latinx and Black people are the most under-represented in techrelative to their representation in the US. While Hispanic/Latinx make up 18%of the US population, they only account for 8% of employees in tech in ourdata. Black people make up 13% of the US population but only 5% of employeesin tech. Conversely, while Asian people make up 6% of the US population theycomprise 29% of tech employees.The bar chart above looked at aggregated data across 35 of the largest USbased tech companies. To avoid smaller companies in our data being drowned outby larger companies I also wanted to look at representation of Black employeesin tech while controlling for company size. To do that I bucketed companiesbased on the percentage of their employees that were Black.
Data from 35 US based tech companies for US employees.
Not a single company in our data has more than 12% Black employees. 67% ofcompanies have fewer than 5% Black employees while 89% of companies have fewerthan 8% Black employees. Compound this with the under-representation in techleadership and a startling picture emerges of how people of color truly don’thave a seat at the table in tech. In fact, they’re not even at the restaurant.
What you can do to help
In tech, we’re not even at stage 1 of ensuring diversity and inclusion. We’restill at step 0. Step 1 can only begin when there is data readily available sowe can learn what works, and what doesn’t, in promoting diversity andinclusion.All companies with 100 or more US employees have to file an EEO-1 with thegovernment every year. The EEO-1 breaks out employee counts by race, jobcategory (manager, professional, laborer, etc…), and pay. Of the 57 companiesI looked at, 16 publicly shared their EEO-1 but withheld payment informationby race and gender. Only 1 company, Intel, also shared pay data.There is no good reason that a company should withhold their demographic EEO-1data (the most common reason they give is to protect trade secrets, but that’sa bunch of nonsense). Every company in this dataset talks about diversity andreadily uses pictures of people of color on their employment pages. Most evenhave a diversity and inclusion officer.They sure know how to make it look like they care about diversity in theircompanies. Frankly, it’s time to put up or shut up. Unless there is externalaccountability and knowledge sharing between tech companies, we’ll be stuck inthe starting gates when it comes to racial inclusion for years to come.
As a tech employee, demand accountability
If you work at a tech company and you have more than 100 US employees at yourcompany, you should demand accountability from those in charge. Write an emailto your executive leadership requesting they release their 2018 EEO-1demographic data (2019 was postponed to 2021 due to Covid). Ask yourcolleagues to do the same. Here’s an email you can use:> “Hello (name),>> I know as a company we’re committed to having a diverse and inclusive> workplace. To further that commitment I strongly believe that we should be> transparent about our progress towards that mission. To that end I think we> should publicly share our EEO-1 demographic data.>> This will enable us to keep ourselves publicly accountable to our goal. It> will signal to prospective employees that we are truly committed to becoming> more diverse.>> Thanks,>> (your name)”If you succeed please send the EEO-1 my way so I can add it to this post.
As a business leader, share your EEO-1
If your company has 100 or more employees, send me your EEO-1. If you haveless than 100 employees, just send me the breakout of your company andleadership by race. If you have any questions please reach out.Send it to me. Send it as an image, a PDF. Send it via carrier pigeon or maila hand-written note in hieroglyphics. I don’t care. The more data we have thequicker we can act on that data.Better yet, please send your diversity data to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’llupdate this page to include your information.