Diversity in Tech: Why Haven't Amazon & Dropbox Released 2015 Transparency Reports Yet?
It's not every day that you see news about something that hasn't happened, but in the case of diversity in Silicon Valley, the fact that Amazon and Dropbox have not issued diversity reports for 2015 is beginning to garner attention.
Amazon and Dropbox both issued workplace diversity reports in 2014, joining a host of Silicon Valley giants in a wave of transparency that year, which led to the technology industry, by and large, admitting it had a problem with diversity.
This year, those companies released updates to their diversity reports, with most showing halting signs of slow progress in increasing the number of underrepresented minorities and women in their workforces. But as IBTimes' Salvador Rodriguez noticed on Tuesday, Amazon and Dropbox are two big names that haven't followed up with a year-on report. Contacted by Rodriguez, both companies said they planned to issue diversity reports for 2015, but both have also shown signs of delaying those releases.
Getting the Full Picture
The deluge of diversity reports issued by Silicon Valley firms in 2014 didn't happen spontaneously. The first spark came from Rev. Jesse Jackson, Jr., who appeared at Hewlett-Packard's shareholder's meeting in May, using it as a platform to call on the entire technology industry to be transparent about diversity, or the lack thereof, in their workplaces.
Days later, Google came clean on the lack of diversity in its workforce, which helped catalyze other Silicon Valley firms, large and small, to do the same. Apple, Facebook, Intel, eBay, Pinterest, and dozens of others would add their own reports in the following months.
The full spectrum of transparency from the technology industry was important for the cause of diversity, for the first time giving the public a clear, in-depth picture of how few Blacks, Latinos, and women were employed in Silicon Valley, and how even fewer minorities were represented in decision making positions within those companies.
While the majority of tech companies volunteered their diversity information, some companies did so rather reluctantly.
Amazon was one of the companies that released a diversity report, but only after Jackson and his advocacy organization, the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, publically threatened to file a freedom of information act (FOIA) request if the company didn't take action, itself.
When Amazon did release its report in early November of last year, as Latin Post previously noted, there were some important omissions amid lots of extraneous materials on just about every socially-conscious initiative or charity Amazon was tangentially involved with -- Amazon product presentation exploited to an almost comic degree -- seemingly meant to soften the blow of its actual diversity statistics.
Not that Amazon was an outlier in its lack of diversity in 2014. Its global workforce, like that of many Silicon Valley companies, was overwhelmingly male, at 63 percent, while its managers were even more likely to be men, at 75 percent. Overall, Latinos made up nine percent of Amazon's workforce, Blacks were at 15 percent, while 60 percent of Amazon were white. Those figures were only more exaggerated towards less diversity when it came to managerial positions.
The overall workforce statistics Amazon reported included employees at lower-skilled positions in its fulfillment warehouses. In fact, nearly 36 percent of labor-related jobs were held by Black and Latino employees, according to a report from The Seattle Times.
Meanwhile, in 2014 Amazon deigned not to include any demographic statistics about the high-skill, higher paying tech jobs at Amazon. But according to figures unearthed by the newspaper from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, only about 13 percent of Amazon's non-laborer workforce was Black, Latino, or another underrepresented ethnicity.
In 2014, Dropbox's diversity report, also released in early November, revealed its workforce was one of those with the fewest women, along with just four percent Latinos and one percent Black representation.
Why the Wait?
The year is now coming to a close. Amazon and Dropbox have delayed the release of their 2015 statistics over a month beyond the timeframe in which they released last year's reports.
Do these companies fear disclosing an unusual lack of progress? It's hard to imagine what could be in those reports that would be noticeably more disappointing than what became the norm this year.
Technology companies that did release the 2015 update to their diversity reports, as a matter of course, reported little progress over the year. Microsoft even took a step back in the overall representation of women at the company. But Microsoft was still transparent about it.
Now Jackson is pushing, again, for transparency. Speaking to IBTimes, Jackson stated, "Dropbox took a step forward last year in releasing their workforce data and should do so again this year."
He later added, "They announced many 'initiatives' to improve diversity and inclusion this year, and if they are working they should be bold in reporting their progress and holding nothing back."
Perhaps they aren't working. In any case, the first step is to see the problem clearly, not to conceal it from the public -- a step most tech companies, including Dropbox and Amazon, took last year, if in varying degrees.
But for now, the two companies appear to be back at step one again. Nevertheless, it's an important move to keep making, because as Jackson put it, "Without transparency there can be no accountability."
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