A cynic’s take on Apple’s diversity numbers

Apple’s new diversity statistics show the company’s making slow but steady progress towards full parity.

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Credit: Macworld UK

Apple yesterday released updated diversity statistics that show how the company's faring against its commitment to increase diversity and inclusion. As a cynic, I'll grudgingly admit that the company's making slow and steady progress; over the past three years, global new hires of female employees rose from 31 percent in 2014 to 35 percent in 2015 and 37 percent this year, according to Apple. But there's still a long way to go.

Among underrepresented minorities -- which Apple calls URMs and defines as Black, Hispanic, Native American, Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander -- the numbers have increased from 21 percent of new hires in 2014 to 24 percent in 2015 to 27 percent this year.

It doesn't seem like a lot of movement, does it? I didn't think so, either. Hey, I told you I was jaded. But overall, it's a major show of commitment to diversity and inclusion, especially considering some other Silicon Valley firms aren't seeing these kinds of improvements at all. And, hey, Apple's even released a commercial celebrating diversity in time for the Olympics.

This is all well and good, but I'd love to see more progress made toward getting women in leadership positions at Apple and in IT in general. In a statement about the numbers, Anita Borg Institute senior vice president of marketing, alliances and programs Elizabeth Ames sums up my thoughts on why addressing the shortage of women on the executive track and in visible leadership positions is just as important as hiring a diverse workforce:

"Apple's latest diversity numbers reported a 1 percent increase in the number of women in technical roles. While many may consider this minor, it should be seen as good news, considering that Apple is on the high side of the industry average at 23 percent in female representation. Overall, their improvement is a step in the right direction as change takes persistence and doesn't happen overnight. However, we are disappointed in the lack of improvement in the number of women in leadership roles. We've found that having more women in senior leadership positions attracts more women overall, and therefore encourage Apple to take a closer look at the processes they have in place for hiring and advancing women as diversity of thought and perspective is what drives innovation and business success."

Apple also claims it achieved equal pay across the board, after CEO Tim Cook noted in February 2016 that white males at the company were making more than women and URMs; now that gap is gone. Apple worked pretty quickly to fix it, but it probably wasn't all that difficult to remedy, considering salaries were already damn close to equal.

Apple's investigation showed that women earned 99.6 cents for every dollar a white male earned and URMs earned 99.7 cents for every white male dollar. The company says it analyzed salaries, bonuses and stock options to make sure that everyone was being compensated equally for comparable work.

While Apple's updated numbers do represent significant progress, there's still a long way to go.

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