Apple pushes diversity, but progress is slow

Apple pushes diversity, but progress is slow

Apple has stressed that improving diversity will take time.

James Martin/CNET

Apple CEO Tim Cook has repeatedly stressed the importance of workplace diversity over the past year. While that sounds nice, new numbers on the tech giant’s workforce show change is slow.

Apple made small gains over the past year in the percentage of its US employees that are Hispanic, Asian and black, according to an annual report to the US government. Apple’s US workforce also includes a larger percentage of women, 30 percent in 2015 compared with 27.7 percent in 2014. Despite the minor improvements, the Cupertino, California-based company remains overwhelmingly white and male.

Apple’s numbers are similar to those from other large tech companies, such as Facebook and Google, and highlight that the industry’s diversity problem won’t easily be fixed. Tech companies are still dominated by men, with women filling about 15 percent of tech jobs on average. Some Silicon Valley giants have come under increasing scrutiny over the treatment of women and minorities, with some companies facing high-profile lawsuits and charges of discrimination.

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The report, which reflects Apple’s US workforce as of August 1, 2015, shows that 8.7 percent of employees are black while 11.8 percent are Hispanic, small gains from 8 percent and 11.5 percent, respectively, in 2014. Asian employees saw the biggest gain, from 16.3 percent in 2014 to 17.4 percent in 2015.

Women made up a larger percentage of Apple US workforce overall, but the share of women among the company’s top ranks, some 7,356 managers and senior executives, fell from to 27.1 percent from 27.7 percent a year earlier. Apple has 72,494 US employees as of August.

In July, Apple’s head of human resources stressed that improving diversity will take time. The “diversity challenge…didn’t happen overnight so it’s not going to be changed overnight,” Denise Young Smith, Apple’s vice president of worldwide human resources, said during a conference.

Apple said in a note on its diversity website that the EEO-1 form is not the best measure of its progress. The company declined to comment further on the filing.

“The EEO-1 has not kept pace with changes in industry or the American workforce over the past half century,” reads the note. “We believe the information we report elsewhere on this site is a far more accurate reflection of our progress toward diversity.”