Microsoft's latest diversity report counts fewer women due to layoffs related to the restructuring of its phone business earlier this year.

Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading

November 24, 2015

4 Min Read
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This year Microsoft has tried to prove it's at the forefront of technology, but the company is moving backwards in terms of workplace diversity. Redmond is more male, and slightly more ethnically diverse, than it was in 2014.

At the end of September 2015, women made up 26.8% of the company's global workforce. This marks a 2% drop from September 2014, when 29% of Microsoft's employees were female.

Gwen Houston, Microsoft's general manager of diversity and inclusion, pointed to massive corporate layoffs as the main cause behind the decline in female employee numbers.

[Gartner: Windows 10 adoption to skyrocket by 2017.]

In July 2015, CEO Satya Nadella decided to restructure the phone business so smartphones would play a smaller part in the larger Microsoft ecosystem. The reorganization resulted in 7,800 layoffs, most of which were related to Microsoft's acquisition of Nokia one year prior.

"The workforce reductions resulting from the restructure of our phone hardware business impacted factory and production facilities outside the U.S. that produce handsets and hardware, and a higher percentage of those jobs were held by women," wrote Houston in a blog post.

There may have been more women working in factory and production in the hardware business, but the data shows a decrease in the amount of women in technical, non-technical, retail, and factory roles at Microsoft. In 2014, for example, women held 17.1% of tech positions; in 2015 they held 16.9%.

While the layoffs were part of a "strategic business decision made in the longer-term interests of the company," Houston emphasized Microsoft is "not satisfied" with the current representation of women in its workforce.

Aside from the overall decline, there is some positive news to report. The percentage of women on Microsoft's senior leadership team is at an all-time high of 27%. Pending shareholder approval in December, five of the eleven positions on Microsoft's board of directors will be held by women or ethnic minorities.

Speaking of ethnic diversity, those numbers are slightly better. In the US, Microsoft reports "modest year-over-year increases" in almost all racial and ethnic categories (including employees identified as African-American, Asian, Hispanic, and multi-racial).

On the leadership front, the number of African-American corporate vice presidents (CVPs) jumped from 1.3% to 2.9%. The combined number of African-American and Hispanic executives who were appointed as CVPs increased from 4.5% to 6.4% year-over-year.

Houston explained that current hiring efforts are poised to make a positive difference for Microsoft's diversity in the years to come.

Around the globe, 30.6% of all incoming college graduates are women, an increase from 27.7% in 2014. The number of women being hired in technical and engineering roles from universities is at 26.1%, up from 23.7% the previous year.

Microsoft is also hiring more African-American and Hispanic college graduates into technical roles. The number of African-American hires has increased to 3.3% compared to 2.5% the previous year; the number of Hispanic hires has grown from 4.9% to 5.1%.

It should be noted Microsoft is not the only tech company ramping up its efforts to become more diverse.

Earlier this year, both Apple and Intel shared their diversity data and plans for the future. At the time of the August report, Apple boasted hiring more than 11,000 women in a 12-month time period. Intel is reported surpassing its 2015 diversity goals and diversifying its leadership team.

Despite progress, Apple CEO Tim Cook noted, "There is a lot more work to be done." Intel described more specific plans: The company has implemented a five-year program to shape its employee demographics so that they reflect the US workforce representation by 2020.

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About the Author(s)

Kelly Sheridan

Staff Editor, Dark Reading

Kelly Sheridan is the Staff Editor at Dark Reading, where she focuses on cybersecurity news and analysis. She is a business technology journalist who previously reported for InformationWeek, where she covered Microsoft, and Insurance & Technology, where she covered financial services. Sheridan earned her BA in English at Villanova University. You can follow her on Twitter @kellymsheridan.

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