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  • Writer's pictureCarolina MIlanesi

Microsoft’s DEI 2020 Report Renews Commitment & Redirects Focus Amidst The Pandemic

Updated: Feb 6, 2021

"Diversity and inclusion is a never-ending journey, rife with complexity, sure mistakes, and hard-earned lessons. We invest in and recommit to diversity and inclusion because it is fundamental to our mission. When we're focused on serving the seven billion people on the planet, the question is never why, but rather how: How are we more diverse and inclusive today than yesterday, and what more can we do to improve?" wrote Microsoft's Chief Diversity Officer, Lindsay-Ray McIntyre in her introduction to the report.

Microsoft's diversity and inclusion report was released just a couple of weeks after the news that the United States Department of Labor Office of Federal Contract Compliance said to be taking a closer look into the company's hiring practices. Such an interest was fueled by an announcement in June of a social justice plan that included spending $150 million on diversity and inclusion programs.

2020 increased the urgency to address inequalities of any kind. It is clear that when it comes to either the virus or social injustice, some groups are impacted more than others due to the access they have to jobs, healthcare, good quality education, technology, affordable housing and the list goes on. Microsoft's focus on allyship increased even more in 2020, when the company made it clear that driving effective systematic change requires every employee's effort no matter what level or job function they hold in the organization.

Addressing The Needs Of Our Current Reality

In the new reality of Covid-19, 95% of all Microsoft employees worked from home full time. This meant that employees were juggling caregiving duties of any nature with their day to day work calendar. Microsoft rolled out a set of programs giving flexible time off to manage distance learning, providing tools and resources to support mental health and budget to improve home office environments.

Supporting caregiving is strongly intertwined with diversity. Providing employees with the option to take time regardless of their gender helps decrease the pressure on women to feel like the responsibility primarily falls on them. In the US, the number of women who took advantage of the program was almost the same as men: 51.6% to 48.4%. Outside of the US, men represented 61.1%.

Fostering an inclusive culture and allyship during this challenging time of sheltering in place meant checking in with team members, having manager support vacation and meeting-free days. Management set the tone by avoiding emails after hours, not to increase pressure on employees.

2020 Diversity in Numbers

For the fifth year in a row, data trends continue in the right direction in both the broader Microsoft business and the core Microsoft business. But the data also highlight areas where more work is needed.

On the positive side, in 2020, Women represented 28.6% of Microsoft's global workforce, an increase of 1.0 percentage point over 2019. Asian employees, a group that includes more than a dozen different ethnic groups, represented 34.7% of Microsoft's US workforce, an increase of 1.6 percentage points over the previous year.

The African American and Latinx communities saw limited progress within Microsoft's US workforce, representing 4.9% and 6.6%, respectively both recording a 0.3 percentage point increase over 2019. Native American, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander employees represented only 0.7% of Microsoft's US workforce, unchanged over 2019.

Improving presentation across the board, while important, is not enough. It has been proven that improving representation at the management level has several positive ramifications, from diversifying hiring practices to supporting diverse teams all ultimately growing diversity at a faster pace. Black and African American employees comprised 5.2% of individual contributors in the core Microsoft US business, but they represented only 2.9% of managers, 2.6% of directors, and 2.9% of partners + executives. Hispanic and Latinx employees in the core Microsoft US workforce were 6.8% of individual contributors, but only 5.4% of managers, 4.8% of directors, and 4.4% of partners + executives. To address these shortcomings, Microsoft doubled down on its intentional career planning and talent development efforts on the path to senior leadership for the next five years.

Equal Pay

As of September 2020, in the US, Black and African American employees earn $1.003; Hispanic and Latinx employees earn $1.002; and Asian employees earn $1.008 for every $1.000 earned by white employees with same job title and level, respectively.

For the first time in 2020, Microsoft shared how women’s pay compares to their men counterparts in the ten largest markets outside the US. As of September 2020, women in the US, Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Israel, Japan, and United Kingdom combined earn $1.000 for every $1.000 by men in these combined geographies. The employee population of these 11 markets represents 85.7% of the total Microsoft workforce.

Inclusion Calls For a Safe Environment

There is more to an employee than traditional demographic data. Microsoft has been working on creating a voluntary and confidential survey through which employees can share personal attributes like sexual orientation, disability status, military status, more robust options for gender identity, or identifying as transgender in countries where it is safe to do so.

Microsoft prides itself on its commitment to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. Employees with disabilities have been the catalyst of some of the technology innovations that deliver on that promise, such as the Xbox Adaptive Controller or Live Captioning in Teams. Of the 46.1% of US employees in the core Microsoft business who took the survey by September 1, 2020, 13.2% self-identified as having a disability. This represents 6.1% of all US employees in the core Microsoft business.

I have always believed tech companies must be held accountable for the technology they bring to market, their effort in having a positive impact on society and the ethical pillars they build their business on. As the stakes get higher, so is the level of accountability we seek from these organizations to drive change not just within themselves but across the ecosystem they belong to. Microsoft seems to agree with me and is very well aware of the responsibility it holds. One of the initiatives the company announced for 2021 is a global digital event, "Microsoft Include," open to current and future employees, customers, partners, and developers to share their learnings with the intent to accelerate change at a broader scale.

If you take the time to read through the full report, I am confident you will agree with me that, despite the complexities of the current political climate, Microsoft remains totally committed to creating a culture that fosters diversity and nurtures inclusion. It is doing it with very little self-congratulation and a good dose of honesty.

This article first appeared on Forbes

Disclosure: The Heart of Tech is a research and consultancy firm that engages or has engaged in research, analysis, and advisory services with many technology companies, including those mentioned in this column. The author does not hold any equity positions with any company mentioned in this column



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