|Photo: Cale Guthrie Weissman|
|Photo: Flickr user Jenna|
Over the past few years, leading technology organizations—like Microsoft—have begun releasing internal numbers, which divulge the demographics of the companies as a whole, as well as the diversity breakdown of talent and information about the outreach programs the companies participate in. It’s become a trend, almost—companies admitting that they need to focus on diversity and then releasing statistics to highlight their commitment to the issue. Other companies, including Slack and Pinterest, have hired positions with titles like "Head of Diversity" to more directly combat this issue. And while strides are undoubtedly being made, perhaps a full story isn’t always told.
Leigh Honeywell, an engineer at Slack, addressed this in a personal blog post. In it, she responded to Microsoft's post and noted that a few data points were absent from the report: Namely relative promotion velocity and retention data. That is, the company didn't disclose the rate at which minorities receive promotions and how long non-white and female employees last. Without these numbers, writes Honeywell, "it’s only half the story."
With companies beginning to post their diversity numbers, it logically leads to the question: What narrative are they trying to tell and are they doing it accurately? In Honeywell’s view, the companies owe their current and future employees a more complete snapshot of the organization. She views these reports as important signals.
In an email conversation with Fast Company, Honeywell talked about what these reports really do. First, they "put pressure on the companies to do better." Second, they "enable individuals to make decisions about the environments they want to go work in."
It’s a way of indicating to the world—as well as those already on the inside—that the organization is cognizant of its internal makeup and what it should be focusing on. So when companies ignore important equity and diversity stats, it sends another signal. "Big companies do have this data," Honeywell wrote. "I can only assume that it's really, really, really ugly, as otherwise they'd be shouting it from the rooftops."
Beyond these statistical flaws, there’s another nuance to this equation. While there are glaring data points like retention and promotion rates that should be disclosed when talking about diversity, others say the issue should also be reframed. McKinsey and Company, for example, tasked a team over the last three years to analyze what sort of external effects occur when executive teams have diverse backgrounds. The findings were clear: Hiring people from different walks of life led to better performance.
Source: Fast Company