How top tech companies are addressing diversity and inclusion

Black Lives Matter protests have spurred many organizations to reassess equity and diversity in their respective industries. Here’s how five tech giants — and one small standout — have responded to calls for improved inclusion in tech.

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Diverse employees gave Apple a score of 73, which puts it in the top 20% of companies in the U.S. with 10,000 or more employees. Of those polled, 62% of woman felt they were paid fairly, while 64% of men and 64% of diverse employees said the same. Diverse employees gave Apple an overall grade of B+, ranking highest for CEO rating, perks and benefits, and team culture. Women at Apple gave the company a B grade, ranking highest for perks and benefits, CEO rating, and team culture.

Update: Apple hired former Intel VP Barbara Whye as the new head of inclusion and diversity — she was also included on Fortune’s list of Most Powerful Women this year. Other than that, the company has not made any newsworthy moves in terms of diversity, equity and inclusion. The company still hasn’t released any D&I reports for 2020 — the last diversity report from Apple was released in 2018.

Update #2: As of January 2021, Apple has announced a $100 million pledge that includes support for the creation of the Propel Center, which will be an “education hub for HBCUs,” as well as an Apple Developer Academy in Detroit, Mich., and pledge to provide venture capital funding for BIPOC entrepreneurs. These Racial Equity and Justice Initiatives (REJI) are part of a greater strategy announced in June 2020 to make conscious efforts to empower underrepresented communities in tech that have “borne the brunt of racism and discrimination for far too long,” according to a press release from the company.

The Propel Center was designed by Ed Farm, an organization that promotes innovation and educational equity that will work closely with three dozen HBCUs to bring “coding, creativity and career opportunities to campuses and communities across the US.” Apple also established two new grants to support HBCU engineering programs as well as the Faculty Fellow Program, which will support HBCU educators pursuing R&D by providing mentorship programs, curriculum development assistance and funds for lab spaces. Apple will also offer 100 new scholarships, along with mentorship and career development experience, to underrepresented communities through its Thurgood Marshall College Fund.

The US Developer Academy will open in downtown Detroit in collaboration with Michigan State University to “empower young Black entrepreneurs, creators and coders” and to help them develop the skills to be competitive in the iOS app development market. Programs will include a 30-day introductory program for aspiring app developers and a 10- to 12-month program to teach developers the skills to build apps and start their own business. Apple also announced contributions and funding for Harlem Capital to support diverse founders for the next 20 years, to the Siebert Willian Shank’s Clear Vision Impact fun to provide capital for small and medium-sized minority-owned companies and to The King Center.

Amazon

On its diversity webpage, Amazon emphasizes that it ranks on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index and has received recognition from the NAACP Equity, Inclusion and Empowerment Index, but the company offers only vague examples of how it empowers diverse voices in the organization. According to the company’s limited workforce data, nearly 50% of managers in the U.S. Amazon offices are white, while 20% are Asian, 8% are Black or African American, and 8% are Hispanic or Latinx. CEO Jeff Bezos has voiced his support for BLM, but activists suggest that his support is suspect when the company has “deep ties to policing,” according to The Guardian.

However, for employees at Amazon, the company offers 12 “affinity groups,” which are employee resource groups to bring Amazon employees together across business units and locations around the world. Groups include the Black Employee Network (BEN), Amazon Women in Engineering (AWE), Asians@Amazon, Latinos@Amazon, Indigenous@Amazon, and more. Amazon also highlights its collaboration with programs that “support underrepresented communities in tech by providing access to AWS credits and learning modules.” Amazon takes credit for the fact that its e-commerce platform has enabled small and midsize businesses to sell online, and notes that sometimes those companies are owned by BIPOC people. The company also claims that its Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) has enabled diverse voices to self-publish, but it’s hard to see how either of those platforms have been designed specifically to empower diverse entrepreneurs or voices.  

Diverse employees at Amazon gave the company a score of 73 across culture categories, which puts Amazon in the top 20% of companies in the U.S. with 10,000 or more employees for diversity scores. At Amazon, 74% of women feel they are paid fairly, while 76% of diverse employees say the same. Women at Amazon gave the company an overall grade of A-, rating perks and benefits, team culture and future outlook highest. Diverse employees at Amazon gave the company an overall score of B+, rating team culture, future outlook and CEO rating as the top ranking categories.

Update: Amazon announced plans to double representation of Black VPs and directors in 2020 and 2021 with plans to tap into the organization’s internal skills development programs such as the Black Employee Network Executive Leadership Development Program, according to USA Today. Amazon has introduced required diversity and inclusion training globally for its employees. They’ve also removed non-inclusive language found on any documentation or software such as “blacklist,” “whitelist,” “master,” or “slave.” Amazon also appointed Alicia Boler Davis to its senior leadership team as vice president of global customer fulfillment. She’s the first Black executive and the fourth woman to join the company’s senior leadership team — prior to December 2019, Amazon only had one woman on its senior leadership team, according to CNN.

Slack

Slack is the smallest company on this list — falling into the category of companies with 500 to 1,000 employees. Slack isn’t as big as Google or Microsoft, but the company stands out for how it has publicly addressed D&I. Transparency is at the forefront of Slack’s D&I strategy, and the company doesn’t hold back in the workplace data it releases, using that data to reflect on how it needs to improve. For example, the company hired 624 new employees in 2019 but says it saw only “incremental increases for women in leadership roles (director level or above) and underrepresented minorities in U.S. technical and leadership roles” along with a decrease of women managers, women in technical roles and a decrease of underrepresented minorities and LGBTQ managers in the U.S. Slack sees this as a trend that it is “taking very seriously and actively addressing.”

BIPOC employees at Slack represent 14.5% of the U.S. technical organization; 12% of managers and 9.2% of the leadership team are BIPOC employees. Unlike other tech companies that have a tendency to lump statistics together, often including BIPOC, women, and LGBTQ+ workers in the same category, Slack breaks down diversity at every level and makes the statistics easy to understand. Slack says its annual report is an “opportunity to step back and critically evaluate” how they approach diversity and inclusion.

The company says it prefers to take a “holistic approach to building an inclusive and diverse company and culture” by expanding recruitment efforts, training managers to build trust and “manage inclusively,” and providing career development and mentorship opportunities to employees. Slack also partners with Year Up, which connects underserved young adults with career opportunities. To date, Slack has hired over 87% of its Year Up interns to full-time roles. It also launched a Slack for Good, which is an initiative directly aimed at increasing the number of underrepresented individuals in the tech industry and committed to creating “concrete initiatives advancing our belief that the benefits gained from technology can and should be more widely and democratically distributed.”

Update: Since the original publication date of this article, Slack has been acquired by Salesforce.com in a deal valued at $27.7 billion. How this acquisition will affect Slack’s commitment to diversity and inclusion is unclear at this juncture.

The article was originally published on Aug. 7, 2020, and was updated on Dec. 24, 2020, and most recently on Feb. 2, 2021.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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