Diversity data holdouts and what some of the biggest silicon valley companies don’t want you to know

NPR reports on some of the largest tech companies in the silicon valley withholding their diversity numbers for what they claim to be competitive reasons. This might lead you to think that these companies have good diversity numbers (meaning an increase of under represented minority populations in their employee base). But I that really, companies with declining diversity numbers don’t want to release them because, as their diverse populations decrease, they are worried that competitor companies will start to pick off their folks that are considered under-represented. Because the declining numbers represent a more complex and serious problem: that many American companies, including technology companies where you would expect us to do better because of shifting international talent pools, don’t have corporate cultures that are truly inclusive.

Having a diversity program is one thing but being a truly diverse company is another. Sometimes the former can have a good amount of impact on the latter. Sometimes, not so much. In the NPR story, the reporter leads off with the concept of the “talent pipeline.” This is totally the space I live in; creating programs, doing talent landscape research and teaching recruiters how to use technologies and practices to do a better job of pipelining (in case you ever wondered what the heck it is that I do anyway). I’m not surprised that pipelining is the focus of the story; it’s what most people think of when you talk about diversity numbers. And I’m not targeting any companies in specific. What I am talking about is industry-wide (though I do find the withholding of the numbers very curious).

I would really like to see more companies focus on adjusting their company environments to be comfortable to a broader range of backgrounds and cultures. And I’d like this to go beyond training programs. Where’s the accountability?

PS: probably a good time to mention that this is my opinion and my opinion doesn’t necessarily represent that of Microsoft. Because there are other people here that have jobs focused totally on diversity, and I am sure that they have never called to ask me to speak on their behalf.

Comments (4)

  1. Perhaps a conspiracy theory/weird angle, but I thought of one reason the companies might have been hiding their data and I think this line might be a hint:

    "… Asians were the exception. They now make up the majority of workers in computer-related occupations who live in Silicon Valley …"

    I wonder if there may be a disproportionate amount of "Asians" (Chinese/Indian) at these companies? Since many people aren’t thrilled about companies with a lot of outsourcing/offshore resources (now onshore, possibly?), maybe they’re afraid it could hurt their brands?

    I realize this is a sensitive topic, but just a thought!

  2. HeatherLeigh says:

    Well, when the diversity numbers are low, there is disproportion but it doesn’t matter if it’s whites or Asians. So yes, but it’s assumed. So not so much a conspiracy but a good catch, Ian.

  3. Duncan says:

    I know you moderate postings.. but to censor my comments and not publish them is pretty lame considering there was nothing bad.. just might not be for the PC crowd.  

    I will not be back..

  4. HeatherLeigh says:

    I didn’t moderate anything. I just went back and looked through comments and I don’t see anything unapproved. And I didn’t delete any comments on this post. Paranoid much?

    Having said that, posting something that you know is "not for the PC crowd" (PC…yeah, the word people use when they say something inapproproiate but want to deflect attention from themselves by implying that anyone that is offended is the problem) but "nothing bad"…uhm, OK.

    Whatever. I never saw your comment.