In revealing for the first time the demographic breakdown of its workforce, Apple reported that 18 percent of its employees are black and Hispanic, which compares to 5 percent for Google and Twitter and 6 percent for Facebook and Yahoo. The release of the report, following similar actions by major Silicon Valley companies, comes amid a heightened focus on the nature of the people who power the valley.
Apple was one of the last major tech companies to respond to advocates' calls for information as debate rages in Silicon Valley and beyond about the diversity of the tech workforce. The Mercury News began pushing for such information from major tech companies in 2008, but most resisted disclosure. Rev. Jesse Jackson, whose Rainbow PUSH Coalition began prodding tech companies to open up about their ranks earlier this year, gave Apple above-average marks for diversity, though he sees ample room for improvement.
In a letter accompanying the report, Apple CEO Tim Cook agreed that the company must do better.
“Let me say up front: As CEO, I'm not satisfied with the numbers on this page,” he wrote. “We're making progress, and we are committed to being as innovative in advancing diversity as we are in developing our products.”
Jackson, while praising Apple, said disclosure is just the first step.
“The issue now is let's get beyond the fear of embarrassment, and let's find out where things are and then have some plans or direction,” he said. “We're not interested in hurting the companies. We want to expand the marketplace of opportunity.”
Some observers think Apple's diversity score may have been boosted by its many retail stores, which distinguish it from much of the tech sector. More than half of Apple's full-time employees work in retail, according to a company filing last year with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
“Their numbers are possibly higher because of those retail positions,” said Freada Kapor Klein, co-founder of the Kapor Center for Social Impact. “But Apple has also added women to senior positions, as well as women of color, which is highly unusual. And that's absolutely terrific.”
In keeping with other tech companies, Apple broke down its employees into those holding “tech” and “non-tech” jobs. U.S. Apple workers in non-tech roles, such as human resources and public relations, are 56 percent white, 14 percent Hispanic, 9 percent Asian and 9 percent black. Nine percent of Apple employees declined to share their backgrounds.
Apple's U.S. employees in the tech category, which includes engineers and Genius Bar staffers, are 54 percent white, 23 percent Asian, 7 percent Hispanic and 6 percent black. Those statistics measure up well next to Google, Yahoo, Twitter and Facebook — companies where just 1 percent of tech jobs are held by black employees and 2-to-3 percent are held by Hispanic employees.
Apple's gender score, which is for its global workforce, was more in line with the rest of the Valley, with men holding 80 percent of tech jobs and 65 percent of non-tech roles. Apple, like many other tech companies, did not provide a gender breakdown for its U.S. workforce.
Cook cited several recent diversity hires and promotions in his letter, including Eddy Cue, senior vice president of Internet Software and Services, who is Latino, as well as Angela Ahrendts, senior vice president of retail and online stores, the former Burberry CEO who joined Apple this year. The company also added another woman to its board in July, tapping Sue Wagner, founding partner and director of BlackRock.
Analyst Van Baker with Gartner Research had high praise for Cook's track record on bringing more diversity to the company, and not just in terms of women and ethnic minorities.
“You've got to argue that more than any other CEO in the country, Tim Cook has been a champion of acceptance of sexual orientation and a big supporter of human rights campaigns,” said Baker. Noting that Cook recently joined more than 4,000 of his fellow Apple employees marching in the San Francisco Gay Pride Parade, the analyst pointed out that “few CEOs would take positions on these things. So it's clear that he's willing to put his principles out there, regardless of what people think.'
Jackson's group now hopes that tech companies will disclose the diversity information annually. That could be a valuable incentive for companies to keep up the push for diversity, said Kapor Klein.
“Apple's numbers may be better than the others that have shared their information publicly so far,” she said. “But other companies may look at this and say, ‘If Apple can do this, so can we.' And each time another company reaches a relatively high number that'll raise the bar again for everyone else.”
By the numbers
Eighty percent of tech employees worldwide are male
Sixty-five percent of non-tech employees worldwide are male
Twenty-eight percent company leaders worldwide are women
Fifty-five percent of U.S. employees are white
Sixty-four percent of U.S. company leaders are white
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