When Google disclosed the its workforce diversity numbers late last month, it got plenty of attention. The decision to go public with the data was surprising: according to Calvert Investment’s report, Examining the Cracks in the Ceiling, only 7% of the S&P 100 provide full disclosure.However, the numbers themselves, while disappointing, were about what one might expect.
Google reported that only 30% of its workers were female. While most companies don’t provide full workforce numbers, 56% of the S&P 100 have no women or minorities in their highest-paid senior executive positions. Women make up only 19% of board of director positions, and only 37 companies have minority women on their board.
Last week, LinkedIn also released its diversity data, revealing that 39% of its workforce is made up of women, and 91% of its US employees are white or Asian.
In the wake of these reports, I considered writing a piece offering a few tips on how some S&P 100 companies are improving their corporate diversity. But after speaking with diversity executives at Bank of Americaand Intel, which won the Anita Borg Institute’s (ABI) Top Company for Women in Computing Award in 2013 and 2014, respectively, it’s clear that “tips” aren’t a sufficient solution. Building a diverse workforce requires a strategic formula – and a clear awareness that diversity is a key part of a company’s value proposition.
The education pipeline
Historically, a big part of the tech hiring dilemma has been a matter of resources: simply put, there weren’t enough women and minorities in the job market. But, while the number of women and minorities pursuingcomputer and information sciences degrees remains lower than that of white males, there has been significant improvement in recent years.
Council of Graduate Schools reports from 2007 to 2012 show impressive strides toward diversity. Among US citizens, there was an 1.4% average annual increase in total enrollment of Asian/Pacific Islanders in computer and information sciences, a 12.3% increase in Latino enrollment, and an average annual increase of 18.8% in enrollment for African Americans.
In the fields of computer, electrical and electronic engineering, the news was more mixed. During the same period, those fields saw a 3.2% average annual decrease in total enrollment of Asian/Pacific Islanders and a 0.5% drop in total enrollment for African American students. Among Latino students, however, the news was brighter: their numbers saw a 5.7% increase.
“While the data around enrollments in graduate programs can’t speak to whether or not women and minorities are being hired, over the last five years we do see a substantial increase in the number of women and some underrepresented minorities in graduate fields traditionally dominated by white males,” said Jeff Allum, director of research and policy analysis for the Council of Graduate Studies.
Denise Menelly, shared service operations executive at Bank of America, suggests that lower computer science graduation rates indicate that companies may need to broaden the scope of their efforts. “The fact that the pool of women and minorities graduating with computer science degrees is relatively low does not keep us from pushing to meet higher goals,” she says. “It simply means that specific additional effort is required to recruit.”
BoA’s efforts includes partnering with the National Center for Women in Technology (NCWIT) on the Aspirations in Computing Talent Development Initiative, and hosting the annual National Award for Aspirations in Computing. Interest in the award has grown exponentially, both in terms of applicants and participants, since it was first launched in 2008. In its first year, fewer than 200 women applied for the award; this year, more than 2,300 did. At the same time, its reach has vastly expanded: the program now has more than 60 local affiliate award competitions.
The NCWIT partnership provides BoA with a venue for attracting potential winners for its high school work assignment program, an eight-week opportunity to work with one of the company’s technology teams. This summer, of the 18 women participating in the program, four are national award winners and 14 are affiliate winners.
Keeping the women you’ve got
BofA and Intel are also working to retain women and minority employees once they walk through the front door. Where women in general are concerned, Elizabeth Ames, Anita Borg Institute VP of strategic marketing and alliances, notes: “Addressing retention would dramatically improve their representation.” This becomes particularly important for building C-suite and board diversity levels. According to ABI profiles on Bank of America and Intel, both companies retain the vast majority of their female technologists. BoA has only 3% voluntary annual turnover; at Intel, it’s 2%.
According to ABI’s report, Women Technologists Count, 52% of women entering science and technology careers left private companies over time – and attrition increased markedly at the mid-career point. In the technology sector, 56% of women in these occupations left over time with cumulative quit rates for women more than double the rate for men. The costs associated with turnover range from 90% to 200% of annual salary.
Intel has seen good results from its Women Principal Engineer and Fellows Forum. Entirely technology-focused, the forum encourages senior technical women to try out ideas in front of a highly technical audience. Each is asked to bring an up-and-coming technical female to network and gain visibility from leadership. Since the launch of the forum in 2006, the number of female principal engineers in the company has more than doubled from 22 to 56.
Intel’s diversity efforts have extended far beyond gender. Its Blueprint for Extraordinary Performance leadership development program, launched in 2009, targets mid-level African American and Latino employees. In the program, which is conducted by an external consultant and Intel’s senior leaders, participants meet monthly to receive leadership development training and guidance, and to share what they put into practice. According to Ernie Felix, Intel’s diversity education manager for global diversity, education and external relations, the program now has 900 alumni.
Changing internal culture
A big part of the complexity of diversity initiatives lies in the fact that, to be successful, they require significant shifts in a company’s internal culture. A big step toward this lies in building an appreciation of the unique value proposition that diversity offers. Intel’s Global Women’s Initiative Director, Lori Wilson, explains that “We are in the business of creating products that solve problems. In order to understand those problems, you have to understand the issues behind them. We can only do that with diverse perspectives.”
Both Intel and Bank of America start their push for diversity at the top of the house, working to ensure that leadership is aware of the demographics of the company and of the market. At the same time, the companies have extended employee training throughout the company, working to address unconscious bias, as well as the ways in which employees are rewarded, recognized and promoted. Not all of these programs seem groundbreaking, but, as Menelly notes, they are critical to “sustaining momentum and taking action”.
So is it working? The numbers suggest that BoA and Intel are beginning to change diversity ratios within their own workforces. In addition to higher-than-industry-average retention rates, 30% of BoA’s technology workforce is female.
Between 2012 and 2013, Intel increased its female workforce by 6.2%; its male and female Latino employees by 6.7% and 13%, respectively; and its African American male and female employees by 6.2% and 7%, respectively.
BoA and Intel’s efforts suggest that, where diversity is concerned, transparency involves more than just citing numbers. Sharing what works – the success stories – is equally important in changing the ratios. While most companies don’t have access to BoA and Intel’s extensive resources, their formula and the initiatives they’ve undertaken offer a promising blueprint for companies of all sizes.