Microsoft Takes Steps Toward More Diverse Staff in Tech & Legal

At Raines International, we welcome corporate initiatives to hire and retain a diverse staff.

In November, Microsoft said it would begin linking executive bonuses to diversity goals, Bloomberg reported. While Bloomberg didn’t reveal any details of the bonus incentive, the move is a promising effort to encourage management to be active in encouraging diversity.

The initiative is needed given the decrease in diverse representation at the tech company. “Our current diversity demographics demonstrate that there is no easy path to achieving successful outcomes or systemic change,” Gwen Houston, Microsoft’s General Manager for Global Diversity and Inclusion, said. “In summary, ours is a story of modest progress, as we deepen our commitment to advancing the diversity and inclusion agenda within the company.”

By the numbers:

  • 3.7% African American/black
  • 5.5% is Hispanic/Latino
  • 27.7% new hires were women
  • 6.6% new hires were African American/Black
  • 7% new hires were Hispanic/Latino
  • 1% decrease in representation of women across the company (but percentage of women slightly increased at 0.4%)

Houston told Bloomberg she is focused on improving Microsoft’s employment of people of color. “The modest gains for people of color — those are so slight I really want to see them improve,” she said.

“Diversity and inclusion is something you’ve got to ingrain, you’ve got to keep talking about the business value, you’ve got to keep talking about the impact,” she acknowledged.

There’s hope for Microsoft’s diversity program, given that Microsoft’s David Howard, Corporate Vice President & Deputy General Counsel, revealed last month that the company’s initiatives in obtaining a diverse outside counsel has seen “significant gains.”

“Microsoft’s commitment to diversity is promising,” Raines International Vice President Alison Hunter says. “The tech industry has a well-known reputation for having a poor score with diversity, and having larger players like Microsoft make increasing efforts in the area is a positive step forward. Bonus incentives are not the magic bullet, but with a CDO focused on impact and improvements in the company’s legal program, we’ll hope to see sustained progress.”

In a November blogpost of his own, Howard reported on the results of Microsoft’s Law Firm Diversity Program’s efforts to increase diversity with its partner firms.

While it is just the first year, we are encouraged by the results achieved by all our firms,” Howard blogged. “ There was, for example, significant improvement in the diverse representation in management committees, increasing from 31.2 percent to 34.4 percent, and a 1 percent improvement in partner composition from 33.2 percent to 34.5 percent diverse.”

Howard noted that “it was clear to us that diversity initiatives have a higher chance of succeeding if they are visible supported by lawyers at the highest levels of the firm.”

It Worked for Intel

Last year, Intel announced it would give bonuses of up to $4,000 to employees who refer a woman, minority or veteran who is ultimately are hired, Cnet reported.

“We are currently offering our employees an additional incentive to help us attract diverse qualified candidates in a competitive environment for talent.” Intel said.

That project worked, Christian Science Monitor reported. A year after a January 2015 initiative giving bonuses for diverse referrals, “43 percent of all new hires in 2015 were women or minority applicants, marking a massive success for the strategy.” However, Raines International’s Rodney noted in an article last month about diversity in the advertising industry that Facebook’s attempt to reward recruiters in a points system for diversity candidates failed.  

Intel and Microsoft aren’t alone in struggling with diversity.  This summer, Apple “revealed it had made only small gains in hiring female and minority leadership talent over the past year,” according to the Business Journals. “Female managers at Apple remained stagnant at 28 percent globally; black managers based in the U.S. remained at 3 percent; and the number of Hispanic managers in the U.S. rose slightly to 7 percent, up from 6 percent last year.”

We at Raines are hopeful about the efforts being made and welcome genuine efforts to increase diversity and representation in the corporate world, especially in industries that have traditionally struggled.