By Ellen McGirt
Updated: October 19, 2017 1:31 PM ET

A new study from Reveal, the publishing platform of the Center for Investigative Reporting, offers an essential look at the ways that technology companies collect and report diversity data, and how what they leave out – which is pretty much everything – continues to mask the problems of inclusion.

Reveal asked 211 of the biggest Bay Area-based tech firms for copies of their government-mandated EEO-1 reports as part of an ongoing analysis of diversity data in the sector. Of the 211, only 23 complied, and one of those turned out to be inaccurate.

From their report:

Still, the 23 reports represent the largest public collection of EEO-1 figures that name Silicon Valley tech companies. A few private companies – Pinterest, 23andMe, View and Clover Health – released their raw numbers for the first time. So did public companies Square, a payment processing platform, and MobileIron, which specializes in mobile security. Chipmaker Nvidia also released its latest report exclusively to Reveal.

Most others – including name brands such as Dropbox, Instacart, Netflix, PayPal, Pandora Media, Reddit and Tesla – still resist or put out basic pie charts that can be misleading, difficult to verify and impossible to compare. Three companies the federal government has accused of discriminatory hiring – Oracle, Palantir Technologies and Splunk – also failed to disclose their demographics.

For tech firms that did disclose, the numbers were particularly stark for executives. Twitter, Square and 23andMe did not report a single black, Latino or multiracial executive in 2016. Female executives who were black, Latina or multiracial were nonexistent at eight of the 23 companies, including Adobe Systems, Google and Lyft.

Bottom line, fear of lawsuits and bad press means that diversity reports continue to be largely information-free exercises in pie charts and massaged figures. “A lawyer can make pretty much anything look pretty good,” said Pat Gillette, a lawyer and speaker on gender diversity.

And if you do get any numbers, then the canary in the coal mine are women of color. “Women of color experience the most bias and most marginalization,” says Erica Joy Baker, now of Patreon. “That’s a good metric for people to see and know, especially if you’re using those data points to see where you’re going to work.”

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