Apple released it latest diversity report yesterday, indicating that the company has made some progress hiring more women and minorities, and has closed the pay gap between those employees and their white male colleagues, as the Verge‘s Nick Statt outlines:
[T]he company increased the percentage of female new hires from 31 percent in 2014 to 37 percent so far this year [across its 125,000 person global workforce], while the figure for underrepresented minorities [for its 80,000 person US workforce] has increased from 21 percent of new hires to 27 percent in 2016. Apple classifies underrepresented minorities as “Black, Hispanic, Native American, Native Hawaiian, and Other Pacific Islander” in its report.
While Apple’s progress has been slow with regard to hiring, it is making more substantial changes to how it compensates individuals. According to the report, the company has remedied pay gaps between white and nonwhite employees and men and women in the US. It did so by analyzing salaries, bonuses, and annual stock grants, to ensure its workers in similar roles with equitable performance earn the same amount of money.
Rainbow Push Coalition president Jesse Jackson, who confronted Apple CEO Tim Cool about the company’s diversity problems a few years ago, said in a statement that he is pleased with the progress thus far, applauding that “they are clearly setting the pace, making measurable progress for three consecutive years. They’ve acted with intention, not just aspiration.” In an effort to increase transparency, Apple also got rid of its “undeclared” ethnic category in this year’s report, since that population of employees was less than 1 percent as a “result of stronger internal processes and employees properly identifying themselves.”
However, to Hannah Riley Bowles, a senior lecturer at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government who spoke with the Washington Post‘s Elizabeth Dwoskin, while Apple’s diversity gains are encouraging, “it would be great if [the company] could show more dramatic differences over time”:
Bowles [adds that] one challenge in assessing the tech industry’s progress is that companies are selectively transparent — showing certain numbers while not revealing other relevant information. For example, she said, it’s tough to assess overall progress without knowing about turnover and retention. Gains in new hires may be cancelled out by turnover because women and minorities also leave tech companies in higher numbers than white men. Research has suggested this is more an effect of feeling pushed out or not being supported than it is related to family reasons, she said.
Having a more diverse pool of leaders can significantly impact people’s perceptions of diversity, Bowles said. Among its senior levels, Apple did not grow the ranks of women or blacks, while Hispanics made a 1 percent gain. Last year the company added an African American, former Boeing executive James Bell, to its board of directors.
Others are pointing out the lack of progress at Apple’s leadership level as well, though that is definitely an industry-wide issue. Indeed, as Dwoskin goes on to recap, the tech sector’s larger diversity problem persists:
Overall, the numbers are too small to change the perception among minority employees that few people look like them in the halls of this largely white and Asian campus, said Bowles. But that’s more than can be said for Apple’s rivals, Google and Facebook. Black and Hispanic employees make up just 2 and 3 percent of Google’s 57,100-person workforce, as of January this year.
At Facebook, black and Hispanic employees make up 2 and 4 percent of the employee base. Despite commitments to diversity, neither Google nor Facebook have made a dent in those numbers since they first announced them in 2014.
Critics have pointed out that Apple is more diverse because a significant percentage of the company’s employee base are lower-paid workers in its retail stores, which Google and Facebook do not have. But Apple’s gains this year did not come exclusively from retail. There was a 1 percent increase for women and blacks in technical jobs.
Amazon has a diversity imbalance across its workforce as well, as Reuters’ Deborah M. Todd points out:
[The e-retail giant], which employs a large number of workers at distribution centers, reported late last year that its ethnic diversity exceeded the U.S. average, with a global workforce that was 21 percent black, 13 percent Hispanic, 11 percent Asian and 5 percent other ethnicities.
In management positions at Amazon, however, representation dropped to 4 percent for blacks and Hispanics, 3 percent for other races, and climbed to 20 percent for Asians.
Apple has also officially expanded its unconscious bias training to more of its workforce, which is another step in the right direction, and Apple’s head of HR, Denise Young Smith, tells Buzzfeed’s Hamza Shaban that the company has adopted the mindset “that there are talent pools out there, and we have to create access to them,” as opposed to citing a “pipeline problem,” as Facebook was criticized for saying when it released its own diversity report last month. Nonetheless, Apple is also working on its own pipeline, as Shaban highlights:
One way Apple is trying to attract more diverse employees is with its Thurgood Marshall College Fund partnership that it announced last year, pledging over $40 million to a new multi-year diversity initiative. The first program of the initiative offered a $25,000 scholarship to 33 students from historically black colleges and universities, as well as a summer internship and mentorship program with the company. The inaugural class of students are currently halfway through their internships. So far, eight of them have been offered full-time jobs at Apple, Young Smith said.
“We are absolutely accountable to making sure that we are as richly represented as we can be,” she said. “That’s not just for the future. That’s for now.”
Catch up on all our tech diversity coverage here.