Global Diversity & Inclusion update at Microsoft: Deepening our commitment

Earlier today, we shared our latest workforce demographic numbers on our Global Diversity & Inclusion website. This update provides a snapshot of the gender and racial composition of Microsoft’s employee population as of September 30, 2016. I encourage anyone with an interest in diversity and inclusion — both at Microsoft as well as within the tech industry as a whole — to visit our website and familiarize themselves with our ongoing strategic commitments, initiatives and comprehensive demographics.

Our current diversity demographics demonstrate that there is no easy path to achieving successful outcomes or systemic change. In summary, ours is a story of modest progress, as we deepen our commitment to advancing the diversity and inclusion agenda within the company.

Photo of Gwen Houston

Gwen Houston, Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer at Microsoft

Measuring progress through a “point in time” number sometimes only tells part of the story. Driving transformative culture change is about so much more than a set of numbers. On the upside, we are encouraged by some of the hiring trend lines we are seeing, but of course know there is much more we still need to do. We are enthused by the heightened commitment our leaders are demonstrating in embracing diversity in its many dimensions and, more importantly, modeling inclusive behaviors. This is crucial to the change we hope to see, because the more inclusive we are as a company, the more progress we will see in our diversity data.

Women at Microsoft

Beginning first with women at Microsoft, let me share my takeaways in terms of our results. Company-wide, the representation of women employed at Microsoft declined by 1 percent this past year, from 26.8 percent to 25.8 percent. When we look at this number in isolation, it certainly falls short of where we want to be. For some context, this decline was largely due to the business decision we shared last year to restructure our phone hardware business (Sharpening Our Focus), which resulted in the closure of some factories (which we refer to as “direct production”) outside the U.S. The workforce at these factories had a higher representation of women, so their closure impacted our total representation of women.

If you dig beneath the surface, however, there is another story unfolding — one that we find more encouraging. Outside of direct production work, the percentage of women at Microsoft actually increased by 0.4 percentage points. What’s more, our representation of women in technical roles increased 0.6 percentage points, and our representation of women in leadership roles also increased by 0.6 percentage points.

It is also important to look at our hiring trends, which provide a leading indicator of where we’re headed. This past year, women represented 27.7 percent of all new employees (almost 2 percent over our current representation), and 21.7 percent of all new employees in technical jobs, (more than 4 percent over our current representation).

The takeaway: While we are disappointed in the overall decline in the representation of women at the company, we know why it happened. We are encouraged by the modest gains we’re seeing in female representation in technical and leadership roles, and even more significantly, by the hiring trends of the past year that resulted from our efforts to recruit top-notch female talent.

Racial and ethnic minorities at Microsoft

We saw very modest gains in the representation of African Americans/Black and Hispanic/Latino(a) employees at Microsoft. Total African American/Black representation increased by 0.2 percentage points (to 3.7 percent), and total Hispanic/Latino(a) representation by 0.1 percentage point (to 5.5 percent). Representation in technical roles increased for our African American/Black and Hispanic/Latino(a) populations by 0.1 percentage point for each group.

Although these numbers suggest only slight gains, our hiring trends again give us some reason for optimism. Over the past year, for example, 6.6 percent of our new employees were African American/Black and 7 percent were Hispanic/Latino(a). For our technical jobs, 4 percent of our new employees were African American/Black and 4.5 percent were Hispanic/Latino(a). Hiring is only part of the equation when it comes to increasing representation, but again, it is an important leading indicator of the direction we are headed.

University hiring

Another metric we look at closely is the breakdown of new hires coming to Microsoft directly out of colleges and universities — the new “pipeline talent” coming into the company. This past year, 33.6 percent of employees who joined the company directly from college were women, 3.9 percent were African American/Black, and 5.9 percent were Hispanic/Latino(a). For technical roles, women comprised 30 percent of all university hires.

We are also seeing a positive trajectory with our intern hires. Women comprised over 36 percent of all our interns, and in the U.S., racial and ethnic minorities constituted more than 56 percent of all interns we hired last year.

We believe the gains we are making in this area are, in part, attributable to investments we have made over the years in programs like DigiGirlz, TEALS and Explore, as well as through partnerships with organizations like the National Center for Women in Information Technology on their Technolochicas and Aspirations in Computing programs. Equally important, we are expanding our talent sourcing opportunities for racial and ethnic minorities beyond engineering, to optimize for great talent company-wide.

Board representation

Our Board of Directors continues to be among the most diverse of any company in technology today, with three female members, and with women and ethnic minorities combined holding five of our 11 board positions.

The road ahead

Building a more diverse company the size of Microsoft is a journey that will have many milestones along the way, today being one of them. We are heartened by clear signs of progress we’re seeing with respect to women and minorities coming into the company, and will leverage these results to fuel our ongoing efforts. If anything, our data show that we are generally on the right path, but it will take committed, intentional, focused efforts in the future to stay on that path and increase our velocity.

To that end, we are dedicating resources against a number of priorities and initiatives focused on retention, culture and pipeline expansion pivots. These targeted actions include:

  • Creating and delivering compelling career development offerings for women and racial/ethnic minorities.
  • Continuing mandatory internal trainings on inclusive hiring and awareness of unconscious and unintended bias.
  • Tying senior leaders’ compensation to diversity gains in their respective organizations.
  • Expanding the reach of our internal Dialogue Across Differences course (which many have called a “game changer”) to over 7,000 employees and to nearly 900 managers worldwide.
  • Continuing to evolve the workplace culture to be more inclusive of all employees.
  • Conducting recruiting campaigns designed to attract and retain more diverse talent.
  • Increasing our investment in our Microsoft Software and Systems Academy program to attract more veterans into tech careers.
  • Launching an Inclusive Hiring website to expand our hiring pipeline and attract diverse talent.
  • Continuing investments in STEM programs to help fill the pipeline with the amazing potential and talents of diverse people.
  • Launching an Inclusive Design initiative to create products and technology for diverse audiences: Xbox Gaming for Everyone, which focuses on designing for people with diverse needs and abilities.

Engaging the entire organization in our diversity and inclusion efforts takes constant communication of the business case rationale, our strategy, initiatives and progress.  But, it also takes visible leadership accountability for culture change and progress.  We will always strive to do more and be better tomorrow than we are today. We have the opportunity to create enduring, long-lasting change that can impact more than just our own interests, but those of society as a whole. The challenge is real — so is the opportunity.