Microsoft's diversity efforts slow after promise to double Black workforce

Black and Hispanic representation at the company rose 0.3 percentage points in 2020

Microsoft Corp., which in June pledged to double the number of Black managers and leaders at the company, released data on Wednesday that showed lackluster increases of Black and Latino representation in its workforce.

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Both Black and Hispanic representation at the company rose 0.3 percentage points in 2020 over 2019, to 4.9 percent of the workforce for African Americans and 6.6 percent for Latinos, according to Microsoft.

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Black employees in the U.S. workforce make up less than 3% of managers, directors, partners and executives, according to data released Wednesday.

Representation of women grew 1.0% to 28.6% of the global workforce and Asian employment grew 1.6% to make up 34.7% of the company. Women represent 42% of the company’s leadership.

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In the past year, two Black vice presidents, Marc Brown and Kevin Dallas, have left the company.

In the wake of racial injustice protests, Microsoft announced $150 million in additional funding for diversity initiatives to double the number of Black managers and senior leaders by 2025.

The company has said it would expand its leadership development program to reach out to Black lower-level employees to prepare them for advancement. But, that plan has raised eyebrows at the U.S. Labor Department.

Both Microsoft and Wells Fargo & Co., which has also pledged to double its ranks of Black leaders, received letters from the department asking how their diversity efforts would comply with laws limiting the consideration of diversity in its employment.

Microsoft’s contract with government entities subjects it to certain rules. But the company said Tuesday it is confident its diversity pledges are legal.

The government’s questions for Microsoft focus on whether its program “could constitute unlawful discrimination on the basis of race, which would violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act,” Microsoft General Counsel Dev Stahlkopf wrote in a blog post.

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“We have every confidence that Microsoft’s diversity initiative complies fully with all U.S. employment laws. We look forward to providing the OFCCP with this information and, if necessary, defending our approach,” Stahlkopf continued.