Actually... we have 9 on the list now
The topic of diversity in the workplace has gotten more attention and gathered more momentum in the last few years, but what does that really mean to companies in the tech industry? Diversity is not just a numbers game; it’s about making real changes to effect equal respect when it comes to recruiting, hiring, keeping and promoting skilled workers of all genders, ages, races and neurodiverse qualities.
A growing trend in the last bunch of years that illustrates how seriously a company takes inclusion and diversity has been to create a position – often called Head of Diversity or Chief Diversity Officer – that is devoted to strategizing real-life solutions. And although having a CDO at an organization is not new itself, the number of companies who are creating this position has been steadily increasing. A CDO generally reports to and works with the CEO and devotes his or her time to creating diversity programs which tackle the issues of recruitment, internal training and even diverse vendors.
Here are 8 (wait, 9) companies that have a head of diversity position:
1. Pinterest: Candice Morgan (@Candice_MMorgan), Head of Diversity and Inclusion, hired January 2016. Pinterest created this new position after Tracy Chou, a female programmer, spoke up about the lack of diversity in 2014: out of 89 engineers, just 11 of them were women. CEO Ben Silbermann wrote a blog post at the end of 2016 on Pinterest’s diversity efforts, saying that setting goals and sharing them publicly “improved our hiring process and resulted in the most diverse team Pinterest has had to date.”
2. Salesforce: Tony Prophet (@tony_prophet), Chief Equality Officer, hired September 2016. Six months after CEO Marc Benioff made good on his promise to close the gender pay gap to the tune of $3 million, Salesforce hired its first Chief Equality Officer. Prophet comes to the table with vast experience “as a champion for human rights and social justice, including protecting the rights of young workers, educating female workers on health issues in developing countries...and improving health care for children and HIV positive women in the San Francisco Bay area.”
3. Google: Nancy Lee, Head of Diversity, hired 2010. In 2014, Google made public its diversity statistics and was the first tech company to become transparent in this regard. Although Lee created programs like Africans@Google and the Black Googler Network, in the six years that she held this role, the diversity numbers didn’t budge much. Female employees increased from 30% to just 31%, black employees increased from 2% to just 4%, and Hispanic employees increased from 4% to just 5%.
NOTE: Lee stepped down in December of 2016 and Google has yet to hire someone new.
4. Facebook: Maxine Williams, Global Director of Diversity, hired September 2013. Williams came to Facebook after running a diversity program at law firm White & Case, which rose from “47th most diverse large firm in the US to No. 1.” Her job is to make Facebook's workplace “better reflect the demographics of its users” – the social media giant was 69% male and 53% white in 2015, despite that the 1.3 billion Facebook users are predominantly women. Facebook supports programs like YesWeCode and Code2040.
5. Microsoft: Gwen Houston, Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer, hired September 2008. Though the number of women and minorities at Microsoft increased by less than one percent from 2015 to 2016, under Houston’s leadership (and even prior), the company remains dedicated to tackling this issue. Their “family tree” graph on their diversity page shows many firsts along the way, such as introduction to same-sex domestic partner benefits in 1993, first Microsoft Women’s Conference in 2001, and Disability Answer Desk to serve customers with disabilities launched in 2013.
6. Airbnb: David King, Head of Diversity and Belonging, hired February 2016. King is a former director of the Peace Corps’ office of civil rights and diversity as well as former chief of diversity management and outreach at the U.S. Department of State. Airbnb’s general workforce is 46.3% female and 53.7% male as well as 63% white, 22% Asian, 7.1% Hispanic, and 2.9% black. Besides promoting diversity and belonging within the organization and in the community, Airbnb is working with such groups as the Level Playing Field Institute, the Digital Diversity Media Network, Lesbians Who Tech, and the Anita Borg Institute “to build the pipeline of talented individuals from all backgrounds who have the opportunity to pursue careers in technology.”
7. Dropbox: Judith Williams, Global Head of Diversity, hired November 2015. Dropbox's first diversity chief has been tackling the abysmal diversity numbers: from 2014 to 2015 the percentage of women in tech positions rose from 13% to 19%, and the number of African Americans increased from 1% to just 2%. Before creating this new diversity role, Dropbox was criticized for being a boy's club: job interviews included questions about zombie apocalypses and their conference rooms had such names as "Bromance Chamber." Williams came from Google where she was key in their unconscious bias training program and even expanded it to the entertainment industry. In her short time at Dropbox so far they have “celebrated heritage month,... had a number of events for Black history month, Women’s history month, Asian American Pacific Islander month, and … Pride (LGBT) month celebrations.”
8. Twitter: Jeffery Siminoff (@jmsSanFran), Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion, hired December 2015. The number of women and minorities at Twitter, like most others on this list, is quite out of balance – 70% men and 30% women overall in 2014. However, Twitter’s 2016 diversity report shows a slight increase in overall numbers: 37% women and a slightly less optimistic increase in non-white employees: 32% Asian, 3% black and 4% Hispanic.
NOTE: On February 7, 2017 Siminoff left Twitter and as yet no new hire for the role has been announced.
None of the numbers are worth jumping for joy and the progress has certainly been sluggish, but I think creating these new executive roles of diversity, inclusivity and belonging is a step in the right direction. As former VP Diversity and Inclusion Janet Van Huysse (@janetvh) wrote on Twitter’s blog in 2014:
“It makes good business sense that Twitter employees are representative of the vast and varied backgrounds of our users around the world. We also know that it makes good business sense to be more diverse as a workforce – research shows that more diverse teams make better decisions, and companies with women in leadership roles produce better financial results…. To that end, we are joining some peer companies by sharing our ethnic and gender diversity data. And like our peers, we have a lot of work to do.”
9. Apple: Denise Young Smith, VP of Diversity and Inclusion, hired May 22, 2017. Apple just got on board with the ever-increasing trend of creating a high-level position to deal with diversity and inclusion within one’s company. Denise Young Smith left the human resources department at Apple to step into this new role, VP Diversity and Inclusion, and because she will report directly to CEO Tim Cook, it’s expected that she will be able to have a greater impact to make positive changes.
Currently, Apple’s employees are 68% male and 32% female and, within the U.S. alone, Apple is 56% white, 19% Asian, 12% Hispanic and 9% black. Although the numbers have steadily increased in the last few years, there is still much work to do. As Smith says, “Diversity is more than any one gender, race, or ethnicity. It’s richly representative of all people, all backgrounds, and all perspectives. It is the entire human experience.”
About Selena Templeton
Selena Templeton is the Column Editor for the Equal Respect column on ITSPmagazine.