Microsoft Reveals Its Gender Diversity Gap Between Workers and Management

November 12, 2019, 5:12 PM UTC

It’s been more than five years since some of the biggest companies in technology started issuing annual diversity reports that break down the composition of their workforces by gender and ethnicity. But despite the effort to be more transparent, much of the disclosed data is so broad and high level that it’s impossible to get a clear picture what’s really happening inside these companies.

This year, Microsoft took an important step toward bringing that picture into sharper focus. For the first time, the company has separated out its racial and gender diversity data by levels of management and what it calls “individual contributors”—or workers who don’t manage other employees. “People management is a skill necessary to rise up to the highest levels of the organization at Microsoft,” says chief diversity officer Lindsay-Rae McIntyre. “We wanted people to know we understand we have the opportunity to do better there.”

Across all of Microsoft, women make up 27.6% of the company’s workforce. Among executives, women hold 19.3% of jobs; when expanded to all positions with management responsibilities, women hold 25.4%. Among Microsoft workers who don’t have oversight over anyone else, women represent 28% of the workforce.

Most of Microsoft’s peers in the tech industry, including Apple, reveal diversity in leadership and across the company, but few separate out the granular levels of management roles. Tech companies are more likely to break out the data for their technical and non-technical workforces (at Microsoft, women this year make up 21.4% of the technical workforce, compared to 19.9% a year ago, and 39.4% of the non-technical workforce.)

Microsoft’s decision to share this data is timely. A study by Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg’s organization Lean In last month identified the problem of the “broken rung” for women: that first promotion into a position with management responsibilities. Fixing the gap between promotions from worker to manager would add 1 million women to management across corporate America over the next five years, Lean In found.

That “broken rung” is exactly what Microsoft’s “individual contributor” and “management” categories measure. The separation of levels of management revealed similar trends for racial and ethnic diversity, too. Of the company’s black employees, 2.7% are managers, while 4.9% are non-management workers. Hispanic managers vs. Hispanic workers: 5% compared to 6.5%. Among Asian employees, 28.6% compared to 33.9%. “While we have been making progress in manager representation for all demographics, it is our aspiration to close the distance for independent contributor and management representation,” McIntyre says.

In addition to the new categories, Microsoft’s diversity report showed some progress from last year. Representation of women company-wide went up to 27.6% female from 26.6% female in 2018.

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