Tech Industry

Microsoft's female workforce shrank 2 percent last year

The company's diversity efforts suffer a setback due to cuts at overseas factories where a high percentage of women held jobs.

Women make up a smaller percentage of Microsoft's workforce than they did a year ago.

Microsoft

Despite Microsoft's efforts to increase employee diversity, women make up a smaller percentage of the company's workforce than they did a year ago.

Women made up 26.8 percent of the company's global workforce at the end of September, a drop from 29 percent a year earlier, Microsoft said in a diversity report released Monday.

The decline was due to layoffs from the restructuring of the phone businesses Microsoft acquired from Nokia last year, Gwen Houston, Microsoft's general manager of global diversity and inclusion, wrote in the report. As part of the restructuring, the company eliminated many manufacturing jobs at factories outside the US. Those jobs were held by a high percentage of women, she said.

"We are not satisfied with where we are today regarding the percentage of women in our workforce," she wrote. "Our senior leaders continue to be deeply committed to doing everything possible to improve these numbers."

Like most large tech companies, Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft continues to grapple with how to increase diversity in its workforce. From Facebook to Google to Twitter, some of the largest technology companies in the world have confronted the problem by starting programs aimed at increasing the number of women and minorities in the workplace.

On average, 30 percent of the tech industry workforce is female, even though women make up 59 percent of the total workforce and 51 percent of the population, according to US Census Bureau data. Microsoft is among a handful of major tech companies participating in initiatives unveiled in August by President Barack Obama to close that gap.

In a new company mission statement released in June, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella noted the company's ongoing diversity initiatives, a topic that made headlines last year when the CEO implied female employees shouldn't ask for raises but should instead trust karma.

"We will be open to learning our own biases and changing our behaviors so we can tap into the collective power of everyone at Microsoft," Nadella wrote in the new mission statement. "We don't just value differences, we seek them out, we invite them in. And as a result, our ideas are better, our products are better and our customers are better served."

Despite the decline in the percentage of women employed at Microsoft, there are signs the company's diversity efforts are paying off. Microsoft said that women now make up 27.2 percent of senior leadership team, the highest it's ever been. The company also said that 30.6 percent of hires from universities are women, up from 27.7 percent the previous year.

"While certain leading indicators are trending up and we are starting to see signs of progress, systemic challenges remain when it comes to increasing the presence of women and minorities at all levels of the workforce," Houston wrote.

Minorities also saw modest increases in the company's makeup. Of the 115,905 people employed by Microsoft worldwide, blacks made up 3.5 percent of the workforce compared with 3.4 percent a year ago. Latino employees increased to 5.4 percent from 5.1 percent a year earlier, while Asians made up 29.3 percent of the company, up from 28.8 percent.