Microsoft on the Issues http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues News and perspectives on legal, public policy and citizenship topics Mon, 05 Dec 2016 05:10:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.6.1 Computer Science Education Week: An opportunity to bring 21st century skills to everyone http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/2016/12/04/computer-science-education-week-opportunity-bring-21st-century-skills-everyone/ Mon, 05 Dec 2016 05:00:03 +0000 http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/?p=40619 Today marks the beginning of Computer Science Education Week (CSEdWeek). This annual initiative mobilizes educators, parents, nonprofits and the industry to inspire all young people to learn computer science and open the door to a promising future. Why does computer science education matter? Right now, fewer than 3 percent of all bachelor’s degrees awarded in the United States are in the field of computer science. Yet, computer programming jobs are Read more »

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Today marks the beginning of Computer Science Education Week (CSEdWeek). This annual initiative mobilizes educators, parents, nonprofits and the industry to inspire all young people to learn computer science and open the door to a promising future.

Why does computer science education matter? Right now, fewer than 3 percent of all bachelor’s degrees awarded in the United States are in the field of computer science. Yet, computer programming jobs are growing at twice the national average and are among the top paying fields. Our tech fueled world is expected to generate 1.4 million computing jobs in the U.S. alone by 2020. Today, there are already more than 604,000 open computing jobs nationwide. However, only 40 percent of schools in the U.S. teach any form of computer science.

With our rising digital economy and the nonstop pace of technological change, we have an imperative to prepare young people to pursue careers that are in demand. Beyond computing jobs, computer science education also provides the computational thinking and problem solving skills that are now required in any field – from music and fashion, to manufacturing, health care and transportation.

So why, then, aren’t more young people jumping at the chance to learn skills that will qualify them for rewarding work? The answer is nuanced, but one of the biggest barriers is straightforward – the lack of equitable access to computer science education and related skills essential for 21st century careers.

Our own efforts during CSEdWeek and throughout the year center on making computer science more accessible and inclusive. In partnership with nonprofit Code.org and other leading tech companies, Microsoft is encouraging millions of young people globally to spend an hour this week – and beyond – getting started on their journey of learning computer science. To that end, the Minecraft Hour of Code Designer is a tutorial for students and educators created by Microsoft and Mojang for Hour of Code.

The tutorial allows players to create their own custom game experience, plugging together blocks of code to control the behaviors of sheep, zombies and other creatures. It includes a set of 12 challenges, followed by free play time so users can create a game using the coding concepts they’ve just learned. Throughout the week, Microsoft will lead hundreds of free hands-on coding workshops in Microsoft Stores around the world. Our YouthSpark Hub offers even more resources for finding in-person coding camps, as well as coding tutorials.

Additionally, this week, in partnership with the California Academy of Sciences and KQED, Microsoft will host Hacking STEM activities where students will apply coding to a relatable challenge in their own world. In an accessible format, they will learn more about earthquakes by building and coding a functional sensor-enabled seismograph – engineering, equipping and testing prototypes with the potential to help mitigate earthquake damage.

Over many years, Microsoft has developed such partnerships and programs that help reach young people who are most likely to be among those without access to computer science education —particularly girls, minorities and those living in rural areas with limited connectivity. We collaborate closely with nonprofits around the world, including Boys & Girls Clubs of America, to deliver computer science learning in clubs throughout the U.S., and with Coder Dojo across Europe. Their efforts are critical to reach underrepresented groups and close the skills gap.

As part of Microsoft Philanthropies, we also run a program called TEALS (Technology Education and Literacy in Schools), which pairs computer engineers from Microsoft and other tech companies with full-time high school teachers to teach introductory and advanced placement (AP) computer science. In addition to TEALS, the company works with a broad spectrum of educators to help prepare students for the digital future. This week, that includes expanding resources in Microsoft Imagine Academy – a one-stop shop for digital curriculum, fundamental technology skills certification and teacher training tools.

In my role, I’ve had the opportunity to meet with educators and nonprofits eager to collaborate on creative ideas, get kids excited about coding and make positive shifts in public policy to improve accessibility to computer science. From visiting dozens of schools, Boys & Girls Clubs and other programs, I’ve seen firsthand that from the minute kids sit down and start coding, the world around them disappears. When coding is fun, they respond intuitively and love diving in.

Expanding access to computer science – for all – is why initiatives like CSEdWeek are so important. Together, we can work to ensure any young person who wants to learn critical computational skills or go on to study computer science in community college or university has these options. And, in just an hour, we can start them on a journey where they gain the skills and knowledge needed to pursue their passions in our increasingly digital world.

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Highlights from Microsoft’s annual shareholders meeting http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/2016/12/02/highlights-microsofts-annual-shareholders-meeting/ Fri, 02 Dec 2016 17:07:56 +0000 http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/?p=40673 I want to thank Microsoft’s shareholders who attended or voted at this year’s Annual Shareholders Meeting. Microsoft shareholders: Re-elected all 11 directors to serve until the next annual meeting of shareholders. All director nominees received a vote of 99 percent of votes cast. Approved, on a nonbinding advisory basis, the fiscal year 2016 compensation of the company’s named executive officers. The advisory measure received 96 percent of votes cast. Ratified Read more »

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I want to thank Microsoft’s shareholders who attended or voted at this year’s Annual Shareholders Meeting. Microsoft shareholders:

  • Re-elected all 11 directors to serve until the next annual meeting of shareholders. All director nominees received a vote of 99 percent of votes cast.
  • Approved, on a nonbinding advisory basis, the fiscal year 2016 compensation of the company’s named executive officers. The advisory measure received 96 percent of votes cast.
  • Ratified the selection of Deloitte & Touche LLP as the company’s independent auditor for fiscal year 2017, with a vote of almost 99 percent of votes cast.
  • Approved an amendment to Microsoft’s Amended and Restated Articles of Incorporation lowering the threshold for shareholders calling a special meeting from 25 to 15 percent of shares, with a vote of 99 percent of votes cast.
  • Approved a French Sub Plan under the 2001 Stock Plan, with a vote of 97 percent of votes cast.
  • Rejected a shareholder proposal to make amendments to the current Proxy Access for Director Nominations bylaw; the proposal received approximately 26 percent of votes cast.

As Satya Nadella has shared, Microsoft’s mission to empower every person and organization connects in fundamental ways with how we as a company operate, from how we design and develop technology to how we work to serve people with disabilities. A highlight of this year’s meeting was the demonstration by Anne Taylor, Senior Supportability Program Manager, of how our assistive technologies like Windows Narrator (a screen reader built into Windows 10) make it possible for someone who is blind or visually impaired to access our shareholder materials. Anne showed on stage how, by using Narrator, she was able to have a Word document read back to her at various speeds, call out when comments were made, and provide her own responses through the use of keyboard shortcuts instead of a mouse.

In conjunction with providing an online vote via a virtual shareholders meeting, we delivered an interactive version of our proxy statement for the second year in a row. A webcast of our annual meeting is available on our Investor Relations site, along with a detailed breakdown of the vote results.

We continually strive to improve. Let us know what you think by sending questions or thoughts you may have to AskBoard@microsoft.com.

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An opportunity for small businesses expanding affordable internet access: Grant applications open now http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/2016/12/02/opportunity-small-businesses-expanding-affordable-internet-access-grant-applications-open-now/ Fri, 02 Dec 2016 14:00:13 +0000 http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/?p=40592 This post originally appeared on NextBillion.net. New Sun Road is literally lighting up Uganda’s economy. The small business, supported with a grant from Microsoft’s Affordable Access Initiative, provides a critical service, creates jobs and is the kind of enterprise we aim to support with a second round of grants for innovators around the world. Initially conceived at UC Berkeley, New Sun Road designed, built and operated the first 24/7 metered Read more »

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Phot of man outdoors installing micro-grid technology on one of Uganda’s Ssese Islands.

New Sun Road’s micro-grid technology being installed on one of Uganda’s Ssese Islands. Image courtesy of New Sun Road.

This post originally appeared on NextBillion.net.

New Sun Road is literally lighting up Uganda’s economy. The small business, supported with a grant from Microsoft’s Affordable Access Initiative, provides a critical service, creates jobs and is the kind of enterprise we aim to support with a second round of grants for innovators around the world.

Initially conceived at UC Berkeley, New Sun Road designed, built and operated the first 24/7 metered electricity service on an off-grid island chain in the southern part of Uganda. Now they are sharing their technology solutions with other entrepreneurs to accelerate development and scale clean, renewable power systems in developing markets such as East Africa and Southeast Asia.

A challenge, and an opportunity, in Uganda

The 50,000 inhabitants of the Ssese Islands in Uganda depend on an economy largely driven by the fishing industry. Before New Sun Road’s system went online, local businesses had only an intermittent power supply, provided by costly diesel generators, which made it difficult to provide predictable hours of operation. Since the introduction of a solar grid, fishing-adjacent businesses including taverns, restaurants and food processors enjoy improved physical security, due to around-the-clock lighting, and much lower utility fees.

Electricity costs – which had previously accounted for up to a third of clients’ daily incomes – have fallen by 50 percent. Extended hours enabled by the new system are allowing businesses to stay open later, increasing earning potential and job creation. Most importantly, New Sun Road’s prototype demonstrated strong local demand for solar micro-grid power, giving new utility companies confidence to build larger systems and expand service throughout the remote Ssese Islands.

“While building our micro-grid in the Ssese Islands, we encountered a lot of obstacles stemming from lack of power, water, sanitation and transport infrastructure – and this helped us better understand the daily struggles residents of the islands face,” said Jalel Sager, director at New Sun Road. “We are proud to have provided our early customers with 24-hour reliable clean energy and tablet-based connectivity on the island as a first step toward securing the rest of the services they need for a better future.”

New Sun Road’s micro-grid management systems also use various Microsoft Azure cloud-connected tools, such as real-time analytics, automated event notifications and machine learning, to maximize efficiency. The company gathers data on electricity usage and identifies patterns that can predict when there will be outages or potential failures. Once a possible lapse is identified, the system alerts local technicians and keeps customers updated. And New Sun Road systems provide the foundation for broadband internet capabilities in the community.

Affordable Access Initiative grants: Year Two

Unfortunately, 3.9 billion people worldwide, often in economically disadvantaged, rural and other underserved communities, lack internet connectivity. That’s why Microsoft created the Affordable Access Initiative, a holistic, partnership-based program that invests in new last-mile access technologies, cloud-based services and business models to reduce the cost of internet access and help more people affordably get online. The initiative is a call to innovate. By using seed grants, mentoring networks and sparking community engagement, we cultivate partner companies that demonstrate promising market-based solutions through hardware, software or infrastructure improvements that deliver connectivity.

One important aspect of Microsoft’s Affordable Access Initiative is a grant fund which has, since November 2015, awarded funds to 12 companies in 11 countries and five continents, offering affordable internet access or cloud-based services in fields such as power generation, health, education, finance and agriculture. The social enterprises we support have inspired us with practical, high-impact and scalable approaches to help close the digital divide. It’s a privilege to see these solutions take shape, and to play a role in helping local entrepreneurs spur job creation and economic growth.

This initiative is also connected to the work of Microsoft Philanthropies, which is helping to bring technology’s benefits to those who need them most. Microsoft Philanthropies is making its digital literacy, online safety and computer science education programs available to grant recipients and the communities they serve.

“Too many people around the world lack internet connectivity and the educational, commercial and economic benefits of cloud-based services,” Mary Snapp, corporate vice president and head of Microsoft Philanthropies, told me. “Affordable Access Initiative grants, and the technology ecosystems they help support, empower entrepreneurs to provide connectivity which then enables the creation of critical services for those who need it most.”

Businesses wishing to apply for this year’s grants may find a list of criteria, and the application, here. Applications will be accepted until midnight PT on Jan. 31, 2017.

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ABA Resolution 113: Creating a legal profession that reflects the public it serves http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/2016/11/22/aba-resolution-113-creating-legal-profession-reflects-public-serves/ Tue, 22 Nov 2016 16:45:38 +0000 http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/?p=40574 Since the United States was founded, the diversity of our nation has continuously grown, a trend that will accelerate in coming years. Unfortunately, the diversity of the legal profession has failed to match this growth. This is why Microsoft has joined legal departments and law firms from across the country to support the American Bar Association (ABA) Resolution 113 and its mission to create a legal profession that better reflects Read more »

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Since the United States was founded, the diversity of our nation has continuously grown, a trend that will accelerate in coming years. Unfortunately, the diversity of the legal profession has failed to match this growth.

This is why Microsoft has joined legal departments and law firms from across the country to support the American Bar Association (ABA) Resolution 113 and its mission to create a legal profession that better reflects the diversity of the nation we serve.

At Microsoft, our customer base is as varied as the world itself, representing every background in this country and virtually every country on the planet. As a legal department, we understand that diversity is a business necessity. To be successful as lawyers, we must understand how to connect, communicate with, and persuade people of all races, genders, abilities and cultures. And we can’t do that unless our diversity mirrors that of our customers.

Diversity starts with law firms

Based on our experience, we believe that as diversity increases, improvements in decision-making, creativity, innovation and customer engagement follow. Like many corporate legal departments, Microsoft’s Corporate, External and Legal Affairs team views our outside counsel as a partner with and an extension of our own legal team.  As a result, the business rationale that drives us to diversify our overall workforce applies to our law firms.

Yet the statistics show that the legal profession has important work to do. We have yet to see diversity gains at the leadership levels of most U.S. law firms. In 2015, only 7 percent of equity partners were minorities[1] and just 17 percent of the equity partners were women[2]. These numbers don’t reflect the increasing number of diverse graduates that have been coming out of our law schools for more than a decade.[3]

At Microsoft we work closely with our law firms to promote greater diversity and inclusion. Our Law Firm Diversity Program (LFDP) and our work with law firms owned by women or minorities – or WMBE firms – have helped grow the diversity of our own legal team and promote diversity within the firms that support our business. While these programs are a step in the right direction, we recognize that we need to do more.

The role of ABA Resolution 113

We must take new steps together – as a profession – to make significant progress towards increasing diversity. This starts with setting clear, measurable goals based on strong indicators of where we stand, where we want to go and how we will get there.

ABA Resolution 113 encourages legal departments to ask law firms to complete the ABA legal model diversity survey and consider the information as a factor in deciding whether to retain a law firm for significant matters. The survey enables legal departments to measure their progress and to review the diversity data of law firms.  By providing a standardized format, the survey also reduces the burden of reporting on law firms and makes it easier to compare progress between law firms and track improvements year-over-year.

We are enthusiastic in endorsing ABA Resolution 113 and hope that many other legal departments across the country will pledge their support for use the survey as a factor in managing their law firm relationships.  This new resolution will help encourage new and significant steps toward building greater transparency and accountability relating to diversity.  It should inspire all of us to aim higher and build a legal profession that reflects the populations we serve.

 

[1] Law360’s 2015 Minority Report

[2] Eighth Annual NAWL National Survey on Retention and Promotion of Women in Law Firms

[3] Law360’s 2015 Minority Report, Eighth Annual NAWL National Survey

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Teaching kids computer science: no computer required http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/2016/11/17/teaching-kids-computer-science-no-computer-required/ Thu, 17 Nov 2016 14:00:10 +0000 http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/?p=40502 Every young person should have the opportunity to learn computer science skills and, by extension, gain a better understanding of how the technology works, since it will impact so many aspects of their lives. A grant announced today will help more youth get that opportunity. Computational thinking is described by Jeannette M. Wing, corporate vice president at Microsoft Research, as the thought processes involved in formulating a problem and expressing Read more »

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Six girls outside a classroom learning computer science by using CS Unplugged

Using the CS Unplugged program, students can learn computer science through engaging games and puzzles that rely on cards, string, crayons and physical activity.

Every young person should have the opportunity to learn computer science skills and, by extension, gain a better understanding of how the technology works, since it will impact so many aspects of their lives. A grant announced today will help more youth get that opportunity.

Computational thinking is described by Jeannette M. Wing, corporate vice president at Microsoft Research, as the thought processes involved in formulating a problem and expressing solutions in a way that a computer – human or machine – can carry out. Wing, who also serves as the president’s professor of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University, wrote in Social Issues in Computing that computational thinking “will be a fundamental skill – just like reading, writing, and arithmetic – used by everyone by the middle of the 21st century.”

Yet not every young person has ready access to technology or the internet. In schools where technology is available, teachers don’t always have curriculum materials that make computational thinking easy and fun to teach. University of Canterbury Computer Science and Engineering Professor Tim Bell, in collaboration with colleagues at other universities, created an innovative solution for teaching computational thinking in these and other settings. CS Unplugged, available in about 20 languages and used by educators around the world, is a collection of free learning activities to teach core computer science concepts through engaging activities that use everyday items and interaction among youth to facilitate learning. The program’s games and puzzles use cards, string, crayons and physical activity – no technology required.

Professor Bell’s important work received a boost from Microsoft Philanthropies today: a Microsoft YouthSpark grant to continue to build and improve his CS Unplugged curriculum to have greater applicability and usability for nonprofit organizations and teachers all around the world.

“All youth should have a chance to learn problem-solving skills critical for today’s technology-driven world,” said Mary Snapp, corporate vice president and head of Microsoft Philanthropies. “CS Unplugged is especially useful in demonstrating core concepts in computer science and removes the barrier of technology access so that more young people can gain these important skills. We’re pleased to support Professor Bell and this work.”

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in a school classroom in New Zealand with children learning computer science without computers.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, who was in New Zealand this week, visited Freemans Bay School in Auckland to see how students at the school learn computer science with the CS Unplugged program.

New lesson plans will be developed, and new supplementary videos, made possible by this grant, will demonstrate how the material looks when used in a classroom. The material will include tips and explanations to help teachers understand computer science principles behind the activities and how to teach those to students. The material is suitable for people of all ages and backgrounds, from elementary school students to seniors, and will be available free of charge.

Today’s announcement coincided with the first visit to New Zealand by Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella, who visited Freemans Bay School as the guest of New Zealand Minister of Education Hon Hekia Parata to see how the school uses the CS Unplugged program. Reflecting a growing trend around the world, New Zealand will integrate a digital technologies focus into school curriculums in 2018. The grant will enable the modification of CS Unplugged to be fully integrated into school curricula, building on its initial function as extra content for classes.

CS Unplugged may be downloaded in a variety of languages at csunplugged.org. The new versions of the materials, made possible by today’s YouthSpark grant, will be published in the summer of 2017.

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With our latest energy deal, Microsoft’s Cheyenne datacenter will now be powered entirely by wind energy, keeping us on course to build a greener, more responsible cloud http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/2016/11/14/latest-energy-deal-microsofts-cheyenne-datacenter-will-now-powered-entirely-wind-energy-keeping-us-course-build-greener-responsible-cloud/ Mon, 14 Nov 2016 11:00:09 +0000 http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/?p=40343 Our lives, our cities and our world are rapidly transforming with the rise of cloud technology. And as the adoption of the cloud accelerates, so does the electrical consumption of the datacenters that fuel this new era. At Microsoft, we recognize that our responsibilities as a leading cloud services provider require that we transform the way we power the cloud. That’s why we are announcing our largest wind energy purchases Read more »

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Our lives, our cities and our world are rapidly transforming with the rise of cloud technology. And as the adoption of the cloud accelerates, so does the electrical consumption of the datacenters that fuel this new era. At Microsoft, we recognize that our responsibilities as a leading cloud services provider require that we transform the way we power the cloud.

That’s why we are announcing our largest wind energy purchases yet — 237 megawatts of wind energy — that will allow our datacenter in Cheyenne, Wyoming to be powered entirely by wind power. We’ve also structured the purchase and partnered with the local utility in novel ways to make it easier and more affordable for cities and states to move to a cleaner energy grid. And, we’re making our datacenters backup generators available to the local grid, boosting reliability while keeping prices low for all ratepayers.

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Meeting our energy goals

This investment in wind energy keeps us on pace to meet the energy goals we set last spring. We announced earlier this year that roughly 44 percent of the electricity consumed by Microsoft’s datacenters comes from wind, solar and hydropower, and we committed to raising this to 50 percent by 2018 and to 60 percent by early in the next decade.

Today’s purchases involve two important partnerships. We have procured 178 megawatts from the Bloom Wind Project in Kansas through Allianz Risk Transfer (ART) to help bring this new project online. We’ve also partnered with Black Hills Corp. to purchase wind power from the 59-megawatt Happy Jack and Silver Sage wind farms in Wyoming. The combined output of the Bloom and Happy Jack/Silver Sage projects will produce enough energy on an annual basis to cover the energy used at the datacenter.

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These latest purchases bring Microsoft’s total purchase of wind energy in the U.S. to more than 500 megawatts, which is in addition to the energy Microsoft purchases from the grid that comes from wind, solar and hydropower sources in the markets where we operate.

New solutions help make the grid greener

Benefits from these latest wind deals extend well beyond Microsoft’s own facilities. They are good for the utilities, the environment and local ratepayers.

Microsoft today becomes the first buyer to participate in ART’s efficient and cost-effective finance structuring of wind generation projects. This structure offers a new model to enable faster adoption of renewables. It does so by lowering costs, reducing risks and improving certainty. By partnering with ART to deliver this new financial deal structure, we hope to help serve as a model that spurs other markets to accelerate the rate at which wind and solar energy projects come online.

Today’s announcement also represents another form of innovation.

Traditionally, when presented with a constraint on the system relating to reliability, load growth or the introduction of intermittent generation, a utility had one option: build new infrastructure, such as new substations, power plants or transmission lines. This ordinarily means higher costs to ratepayers. However, Microsoft envisions a future where it and other customers bring their own assets to utilities, whether new renewables, energy storage or even cloud technologies that optimize customer usage patterns, to help create a lower-cost, more efficient and cleaner energy grid.

In this case, Black Hills Energy was faced with the potential need to build a new plant in Cheyenne. Instead, Microsoft approached Black Hills Energy with an innovative new solution to deliver reliability without additional costs for ratepayers. Microsoft and Black Hills Energy established a new tariff, available to all eligible customers, that lets the utility use our datacenter’s backup generators as a secondary resource for the entire grid. Unlike traditional backup generators that run on diesel fuel, these natural gas turbines offer a more efficient solution and, more importantly, ensure the utility avoids building a new power plant.

This is a small step toward a future where other customer-sited resources may help make the grid more efficient, reliable and capable of integrating intermittent energy sources like wind and solar. And as we recently demonstrated in our pilot with Agder Energi in Norway, this future will be enabled by the application of cloud technologies that  enable utilities to visualize and optimize resources, providing the foundation for a low carbon energy future.

Creating a cloud for global good

Innovation and sustainability go hand in hand. We’re thinking differently about our datacenters and how we can build and operate them in a more sustainable way. And the innovations we’re piloting in this deal are not only good for business, but also good for local communities and the environment as well.

We’re focused on building a cloud that serves the broader good, a cloud that is trusted, inclusive and responsible. That means thinking beyond our own operations and working with partners to accelerate the pace of clean energy and build a greener grid for all, while keeping costs low for customers and ratepayers. By thinking creatively about our energy needs and the assets at our datacenters, we’re able to deliver an innovative solution in Wyoming that does just that — and serves as a model from which we all can learn.

For more about our sustainability work, visit Microsoft Environment.

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Microsoft’s revamped Law Firm Diversity Program brings significant gains in diverse leadership http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/2016/11/10/microsofts-revamped-law-firm-diversity-program-brings-significant-gains-diverse-leadership/ Thu, 10 Nov 2016 17:02:10 +0000 http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/?p=40325 A year ago, Microsoft announced a significant change to our Law Firm Diversity Program (LFDP), which now focuses on increasing diversity among the partner and leadership ranks of the law firms in our premier provider network, and provides financial incentives to those firms who show improvement in these areas.  We are pleased to report significant progress by all our firms, and we especially want to recognize our top performers – Read more »

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A year ago, Microsoft announced a significant change to our Law Firm Diversity Program (LFDP), which now focuses on increasing diversity among the partner and leadership ranks of the law firms in our premier provider network, and provides financial incentives to those firms who show improvement in these areas.  We are pleased to report significant progress by all our firms, and we especially want to recognize our top performers – K&L Gates, LLP; Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, LP; and Perkins Coie LP.

There is a clear need to address and improve diversity in the legal profession. While there has been incremental progress in the last few years, these gains have yet to be seen in a meaningful way at the leadership levels of most firms. In 2015, Just 7 percent of equity partners at U.S. law firms were minorities, and women comprised less than 22 percent of law firm partners.  We believe that the legal profession should be as diverse as the nation it serves, and that should be true of the leaders in the profession as well.

To address the lack of diversity at the firm leadership level, we realized that we needed to work together with our law firms. So, this past year, we revamped the LFDP to focus on this challenge. While it is just the first year, we are encouraged by the results achieved by all our firms. There was, for example, significant improvement in the diverse representation in management committees, increasing from 31.2 percent to 34.4 percent, and a 1 percent improvement in partner composition from 33.2 percent to 34.5 percent diverse.

I want to particularly recognize the work of K&L Gates, Orrick and Perkins Coie. These firms increased diversity across all three of the areas in which we have focused on diverse leadership – the partnership overall, Microsoft relationship partners and on Microsoft matters.

Each of these firms already had strong commitments to diversity and a range of initiatives in place. But each firm shared with us that the newly refocused LFDP provided a real push to expand and refine their efforts. For example, Mark Parris, Orrick partner, shared that in “looking at Microsoft’s new targets, we paid a special focus to the composition of client teams. We reviewed our progress monthly and when opportunities arose to introduce diverse partners to our existing teams and matters, we did so.”

At Perkins Coie, the LFDP’s new focus on leadership is already yielding positive returns. “The new litigation focus on having the first or second chair be diverse is helping to develop and empower the next generation of first chair lawyers and relationship managers,” said Susan Foster, partner at Perkins Coie.  “It’s giving significant responsibility to a new group of junior partners who might not have the opportunity otherwise, and is highlighting their capabilities and skills to Microsoft for future work.”

It was clear to us that diversity initiatives have a higher chance of succeeding if they are visibly supported by lawyers at the highest levels of the firm. Annette Becker, Practice Leader – Corporate and Transactional at K&L Gates shared a great story with us that illustrates how this “tone at the top” makes an impact, and how diverse leaders especially can serve as role models. In the past two years, K&L Gates has more than doubled the number of women on the firm’s management committee. Recently, a diverse partner in one of their largest offices was named managing partner of that office and elected to the firm’s management committee – while she was on maternity leave. “This sends a powerful message to other firm lawyers who question whether their personal and professional goals conflict,” said Becker. “It helps lawyers at all levels to see that we invest in each other here, and we build careers here. That always makes for a stronger firm.”

We’ve seen that diversity has also made us stronger as a company. Since the start of the LFDP, the Corporate, External and Legal Affairs (CELA) team has grown more diverse, as have our law firms. And that has been instrumental in helping us advance key aspects of our work, from litigation to global product launches to patent licensing.

This year’s leading firms report they, too, see the business case for diversity. Mark Parris from Orrick remarked, “By all measures, our firm has grown stronger since we have enhanced the diversity of our board and our leadership more generally.  We have improved the rankings of our practices, attracted extraordinary new talent to our firm, innovated and generated positive financial returns so we can reinvest.”

It takes effort, awareness and commitment to focus and improve diverse leadership. K&L Gates shared that its biggest lesson learned this year was to really challenge itself to do better on this front every day.  Microsoft agrees, and we will continue working with our firms and as a department towards a more diverse legal profession.

Congratulations to our top-achieving firms for really leaning into this important work. We’re looking forward to continuing this year’s momentum and sharing the insights we gain along the way.

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Online risks have real-world consequences, new Microsoft research shows http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/2016/11/10/online-risks-real-world-consequences-new-microsoft-research-shows/ Thu, 10 Nov 2016 14:00:17 +0000 http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/?p=40352 Most people have had at least one negative online experience that resulted in real-world consequences, including a loss of trust in others, increased stress or sleep deprivation, preliminary results of a new Microsoft survey show. Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of those polled said they had fallen victim at some point to at least one of 17 different online risks. That figure grows to 78 percent when respondents also considered the Read more »

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Most people have had at least one negative online experience that resulted in real-world consequences, including a loss of trust in others, increased stress or sleep deprivation, preliminary results of a new Microsoft survey show.

Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of those polled said they had fallen victim at some point to at least one of 17 different online risks. That figure grows to 78 percent when respondents also considered the online experiences of their friends and families. Half reported being “extremely or very” worried about online risks generally, with the most common concerns being unwanted contact (43 percent) and various forms of harassment (39 percent).

The study, “Civility, Safety and Interaction Online – 2016,” polled youth ages 13-17 and adults ages 18-74 in 14 countries.[1] Both adults and teens said they became less trusting of others in the real world after a negative interaction online (adults: 31 percent, teens: 29 percent). Consequences to adults that outpaced those to teens included the older generation becoming less trusting of people online (42 percent of adults vs. 37 percent of youth), and a reluctance to participate in blogs and other online forums (23 percent of adults vs. 20 percent of teens). On a positive note, 29 percent of adults said they tried to be more constructive in their criticism of others after a negative online situation. That compares to one-quarter of teens.

Not surprisingly, young people said they were more likely to suffer social and academic losses following online strife. Twenty percent said they lost a friend or their scholastic performance was negatively impacted; 13 percent said they intentionally spent less time at school.

These preliminary results are the latest in a series of research studies, both in the U.S. and internationally, on the state of digital civility, personal online safety and digital interactions. Full results will be made available on international Safer Internet Day 2017 on Tuesday, Feb. 7.

We’ve chosen to make this preliminary release, featuring some adult data, following the conclusion of the U.S. presidential election and in conjunction with World Kindness Day on Sunday, Nov. 13. (Preliminary data featuring youth were released in early September.) The months leading up to the new year and Safer Internet Day 2017 represent an opportunity for a “digital reset” – a time to take stock of online habits and practices to ensure we’re putting our best digital foot forward. For instance, we can:

  • Take charge of online reputations by searching and discovering what’s on the internet about us, periodically reevaluating what’s there and aiming to cultivate a positive and accurate portrayal.
    Risks of not doing so? Missed professional and personal opportunities.
  • Embrace digital civility and model healthy behaviors for young people both online and off. These include treating others with respect, interacting in constructive ways and disagreeing without name-calling or personal attacks.
    Risks of not doing so? Inappropriate content and conduct that pollute online environments to the detriment of all digital citizens.
  • Take extra steps to keep kids safe online, such as making online safety a family affair. Show a genuine interest in what kids do online, and impart wisdom about risks and potential harms. Mix guidance and monitoring, and build their resilience to best equip them to tackle tricky situations when they arise.
    Risks of not doing so? Kids could fall victim to online bullying, harassment or worse.

Digital civility is everyone’s responsibility, and Microsoft can help put you and your family on a path to good digital citizenship. Our website and resources page are chock-full of advice and guidance for handling almost any online situation. For more regular news and information, “like” us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

[1] Countries surveyed: Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, China, France, Germany, India, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States.

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Moving forward together: Our thoughts on the US election http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/2016/11/09/moving-forward-together-thoughts-us-election/ Wed, 09 Nov 2016 23:49:56 +0000 http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/?p=40364 Like so many people across the country, we woke up in Redmond, Washington this morning thinking about yesterday’s election. And like so many Americans, regardless of who we supported through our vote, we strongly share the view that this is a time for the nation to come together. Every president-elect deserves our congratulations, best wishes and support for the country as a whole. The peaceful transition of power has been Read more »

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Like so many people across the country, we woke up in Redmond, Washington this morning thinking about yesterday’s election. And like so many Americans, regardless of who we supported through our vote, we strongly share the view that this is a time for the nation to come together. Every president-elect deserves our congratulations, best wishes and support for the country as a whole. The peaceful transition of power has been an enduring and vital part of our democracy for over two centuries, and it remains so today. As a company, Microsoft joins many others in congratulating President-elect Donald J. Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence.

As a company, we also look forward to working with the new administration and Congress on issues of common concern. As we think about the future, we know we don’t have all the answers, but four issues rise near the top as we think about the country and information technology.

First and foremost, the vote yesterday registered a strong concern about the plight of those who feel left out and left behind.

In important respects, this concern is understandable. In recent months we’ve been struck by a study from Georgetown University. It shows that a quarter-century of U.S. economic growth under Democrats and Republicans alike has added 35 million net new jobs. But the number of jobs held by Americans with only a high school diploma or less has fallen by 7.3 million. The disparity is striking. The country has experienced a doubling of jobs for Americans with a four-year college degree, while the number of jobs for those with a high school diploma or less has fallen by 13 percent.[1]

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We know we have a lot to learn, but we believe this makes one conclusion abundantly clear:  in a time of rapid change, we need to innovate to promote inclusive economic growth that helps everyone move forward.  This requires a shared responsibility among those in government, across the private sector, and by individuals themselves.

As we’ve had the opportunity to learn more, we’ve concluded that new technology tools can play an important role.  This was part of the conviction that led Microsoft to decide earlier this year to acquire LinkedIn, a deal that has already been cleared to close by regulators in the United States.  LinkedIn is a good example of what one increasingly sees among both tech companies and tech-based non-profit groups.  New technology services and tools help individuals develop new skills and connect with new jobs.

As we look to the future, these can better help more people develop so-called middle skills – the types of technical skills that can ensure that those with less than a college degree can not only learn valuable new skills, but obtain the certifications and credentials that will be valuable in the workplace.  And we believe that new data tools such as LinkedIn’s Economic Graph can serve even more cities and states to help those in government match their worker training and economic development resources with the strongest opportunities in the market.  These are but a few of the roles where new technology can help.

We also believe that these issues represent the next frontier for innovation in public policy.  We’re enthusiastic about new potential initiatives at the federal and state levels that can promote broader education and training, bring labor laws into the 21st century, and ensure portable benefits and a stronger safety net for the tens of millions of Americans that are working part-time, acting as an independent worker, or participating in the expanding tech-based gig economy with companies such as Uber and Lyft.  In short, while the problem is clear, potential solutions are manifold and more than anything, we need to come together to pursue them.

Second, as a company that does business around the world, we believe there’s a clear opportunity to invest in infrastructure.  As the American Society of Civil Engineers concluded in 2013, our water pipes too often are too old, our highways too often are congested, and our bridges too often are deficient.  We don’t claim to be experts in the field, but we know a traffic jam when we see one, in part because most days around Seattle we sit in one.  It was encouraging to see both presidential nominees endorse new infrastructure investments, and we believe that new data analytics and cloud technologies can contribute to these improvements.  We especially appreciate the role that broadband and computing infrastructure can play in creating broader economic opportunities, perhaps especially in areas of higher rural unemployment.

Third, as we think societally about these new opportunities to address those who have been left behind, it’s critically important that we appreciate the continuing national strengths that serve the country so well.  We’ve benefited from the opportunity to see so much of this firsthand.  We invest over $12 billion a year in research and development, as much as any other company on the planet, and over 85 percent of this work is done in the United States.  Over a third of our engineers have come from other countries – 157 countries, in fact.  We have employees from every race, ethnic background and religion.  If there’s a language spoken on the planet, there’s a good chance that it’s spoken by an employee at Microsoft.  And we’re committed to promoting not just diversity among all the men and women who work here, but the type of inclusive culture that will enable people to do their best work and pursue rewarding careers.

We know that this is the only way we’ll fully succeed as a company.  And we believe it’s the only way we’ll fully succeed as a country.

So while we all need to do more to support those who haven’t moved forward in recent years, we share the conviction that this is a time to bring the entire nation together.  And that means everyone, with an appreciation for the spirit of generosity and mutual respect that has often represented the best of the American spirit.

Finally, it will remain important for those in government and the tech sector to continue to work together to strike a balance that protects privacy and public safety in what remains a dangerous time.  As this election demonstrated, technology now plays a ubiquitous role in our daily lives.  But people will not use technology they do not trust.

We’re committed to developing technology that is secure and trusted, both for Americans and for people around the world.  We literally have thousands of employees who make this their focus and priority.  And we know that we’ll benefit from stronger government policies as well.  That’s why we’ve not only advocated for clearer and more modern U.S. laws, but have filed lawsuits four times in the past three years against the current administration, standing up for what we believe are the vital rights of people both here and abroad.  As we’ve won the cases we’ve brought, we’ve been reminded of one of this country’s greatest strengths, its strong Constitution, independent judiciary, and the overarching rule of law.

Between now and Jan. 20, we’ll all participate in what is perhaps the most defining aspect of our democracy, the peaceful transition of power from one political party to another. Today is a day that finds some Americans celebrating and others commiserating about the electoral result.  But it’s also a day that reminds us of what makes the country special.  It’s a day that provides an opportunity to look beyond disagreements and divides, identify bold solutions to common problems, and find new ways to work together. It’s a good time for all of us to listen and to learn from each other.

[1] Georgetown Center on Education and The Workforce, America’s Divided Recovery: College Haves and Have Nots, 2016, https://cew.georgetown.edu/wp-content/uploads/Americas-Divided-Recovery-web.pdf.

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Microsoft women- and minority-owned law firm legal spending this decade tops $100 million: Additional progress towards a more diverse and inclusive legal profession http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/2016/11/01/microsoft-legal-spending-on-women-and-minority-owned-law-firms-tops-100-million-this-decade-toward-aim-of-more-diverse-and-inclusive-legal-profession/ Tue, 01 Nov 2016 14:00:04 +0000 http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/?p=40265 Throughout this decade, an important element of Microsoft’s legal diversity efforts has involved work with law firms that are owned by women or minorities – or WMBE firms as they are often called. I’m pleased to share that we’ve reached an important milestone in this area. Since 2010, we’ve spent more than $100 million with women- and minority-owned law firms (WMBE). This spend not only represents the valuable contributions made Read more »

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Throughout this decade, an important element of Microsoft’s legal diversity efforts has involved work with law firms that are owned by women or minorities – or WMBE firms as they are often called. I’m pleased to share that we’ve reached an important milestone in this area. Since 2010, we’ve spent more than $100 million with women- and minority-owned law firms (WMBE). This spend not only represents the valuable contributions made by these firms to our business, but signifies Microsoft’s deep engagement with law firms owned and operated by underrepresented groups in the legal profession.

This is an important time to support WMBE law firms. Despite an uptick in law school enrollment among women and minorities, the legal profession in the United States has not kept pace with the growing diversity of our nation, particularly at the most senior levels of law firms.

According to Law360’s 2015 Minority Report, more than 20 percent of U.S. law school enrollees have been minorities over the past decade, yet only 7 percent of equity partners at U.S. law firms are minorities. And less than 1 percent of those partners are African-American. The picture is not much brighter for women. While 33.5 percent of U.S. law firm attorneys are female, women comprise only 21.7 percent of law firm partners, according to Law 360’s 2015 Glass Ceiling Report.

This stubborn progress is one reason Microsoft helped establish the Inclusion Initiative, a collaborative effort of 30 U.S. companies spearheaded by the National Association of Minority and Women Owned Law Firms (NAMWOLF) to increase the retention of women and minority owned law firms. Our hope is that building strong ties with WMBE firms will enrich our business, but help these small firms grow and offer broader leadership opportunities for diverse talent.

Kari Annand is one of those lawyers. As a principal of Snodgrass Annand PLLC, Kari credits her firm’s work with global brands like Microsoft for the robust growth of her small practice. She found it difficult to compete for corporate business against bigger, more established firms, but Microsoft’s commitment to WMBE firms opened a door that has helped her business flourish.

Our work with firms like Snodgrass Annand has made us better lawyers. These diverse teams bring experience, perspectives and creativity into our business that help us better understand and connect with legislators, regulators and customers around the world.

Spending $100 million on WMBE firms is an important milestone, and we’re proud of the work we’ve done to promote stronger diversity within the legal profession, but there is more to do. That’s why we will continue to invest in Microsoft’s Law Firm Diversity Program to encourage greater diversity among the leadership and partner levels at law firms and participate in pipeline initiatives such as the Gregoire Fellows Program.

Our hope is our work to promote diversity in the legal profession will ensure that talented, diverse lawyers are not only in the courtroom and at the deal table, but sitting in the first chair.

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