Last week, Twitter did something that surprisingly few companies dare to do: they released a diversity report, the first ever for the company. The contents were disappointingly familiar: a huge under representation of women and minority ethnic groups. This is a particularly troubling issue for the social media giant because they announced to the world that despite their global reach, their employees are not representative of the world they are trying to connect.
I don’t want to spend time beating up Twitter for the lack of diversity of their employees, lots of people have been using Twitter for that purpose! Instead I want to celebrate the fact that they are sharing this data in the first place.
Is this part of a trend?
Twitter isn’t the first company to provide this type of demographic information or to be criticised for the lack of women and minority ethnic groups the employ. Facebook and Google have shared their employment profiles and received similar criticisms. Google even acknowledged that they were reluctant to publish these figures and acknowledged that this was wrong. At the time of writing, Apple is yet to release this data but in this matter they are certainly a follower instead of being a leader.
This isn’t just about US technology companies. Last week the UK Tax Office Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) were revealed in Economia magazine via data obtained via the Freedom of Information Act. According to the data only one in 16 HMRC employees was from a black, Asian or minority ethnic background (BAME). This a government organisation and in 2014 there were four times as many people whose ethnicity they didn’t know as people who were recorded from BAME backgrounds. This isn’t great news but it’s worth noting that despite the incredibly small numbers, BAME representation in HMRC increased year on year for since 2010 despite the entire workforce decreasing by 11%. My opinion is that this is way ahead of the Accountancy profession in general.
Unfortunately no one knows for sure because very few organisations share their data.
A Transparent Future
In the future, not sharing this kind of information will be as damaging as not having a website. In 1999 it was only the most forward thinking companies that had websites. In 2014 not having a website means that you are not serious about doing business.
The decision to keep information about a workforce a closely guarded secret says a lot about the values of an organisation when it comes to promoting diversity and inclusion. Consumers and stakeholders may eventually start to ask what else these companies have to hide. Smart companies are starting to realise this and want to stay on the right side of progress.
I believe that companies are going to come under increasing pressure to share this information. David Cameron has urged companies to be more ethnically diverse but the government has stopped short of demanding it. It’s only a matter of time with pressure groups like Race for Opportunity in the UK and Color of Change in the US placing increasing pressure on organisations to be more transparent.
“What Gets Measured Gets Managed” Peter Drucker
Organisations are used to managing performance indicators that are important to them. As soon as they publish their demographic data there will be an expectation for this to be proactively managed like everything else. This is great for promoting diversity but some organisations may resist this for as long as possible because they don’t see the business case. Few companies want to shout out that they are pale, male and stale but even if they are, they should because it may be an opportunity to build trust and credibility. In the 21st there’s always a business case for that.
A few weeks after this post was originally published Apple released their demographic data , while mirroring other tech companies they appeared to be slightly more diverse.
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